ADHD: Does My Child Lack Self Control?

Imagine a child, aged between 10 to 16. Prone to outbursts and quick to throw tantrums, the child might demonstrate what some might label as unruly or aggressive behaviour. Before we jump to conclusions and deem him or her as a problem child, the underlying cause of these acts might actually be ADHD-related.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD for short, is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood. Usually presenting in childhood and lasting into adulthood, children with ADHD struggle to pay attention and control their impulsive behaviours.

What is self control?

One facet of behaviour that children with ADHD wrestle with is the issue of self control. Experts describe this symptom as one of the toughest to modify, taking years of patience and persistence to turn around. The importance of self control cannot be understated. In daily life, self control functions as part of a group of skills allowing children and adults to moderate their thoughts and actions in order to get things done. These skills, termed Executive Functions by experts, are key for acculturating and developing socialised behaviours.

Self control in executive functions can be seen in three particular aspects: movement, impulse, and emotional control. Movement control has to do with the ‘hyperactivity’ portion of ADHD, where a child is able to restrict his or her needs to constantly move around in inappropriate settings. Impulse control serves as a system of judgement, so that the child takes a moment to consider and assess the outcomes before doing or saying anything. Emotional control pertains to the regulation of emotions, which facilitates the ability to continue operating despite being upset or feeling affected negatively.

Symptoms of lack of self control

The symptoms of lack of self control can appear in a variety of ways, from throwing tantrums, to talking constantly and interrupting conversation. It is crucial that we understand the signs of ADHD as they present themselves through the ages. From ages 8 to 12, ADHD symptoms are more acute and task-related – such as consistently putting off tasks and getting distracted, having trouble following directions with more than one step, and getting restless and disrupting class time, are all clear indications that a child might have ADHD.

Later in life during their teenage years to early adulthood, ADHD symptoms pertain to more broad stroke issues – teens facing ADHD might have a hard time making friends and socialising, face difficulties with setting priorities and keeping track of deadlines, and take unhealthy risks without considering consequences.

What happens if a lack of self control is not addressed?

The consequences that stem from the lack of self control vary on multiple levels, from self-efficacy issues, to academic struggles, and even potentially lifelong habits that can be extremely tough to modify. In the formative stages of a child’s life, the lack of self control resulting from ADHD might interfere with self-efficacy when he or she is unaware of the root cause behind such behaviour.

Teachers, parents, and caregivers might chalk up ADHD-related behaviours as part of the child’s personality which results in a negative self-image. Unbeknownst to them and those around them, such behaviour is influenced by neurodevelopmental disorders that they have no control or influence over. They are constantly blamed, instead of learning how to cope with a lack of self control. On a long term basis, this translates towards unhealthy behaviour and extreme risk-taking habits.

How to help your child gain self control

Working with your child to gain self control depends on the particular age group he or she is in; the behavioural symptoms of ADHD shift based on the age of the individual. To help a child between the ages of 10 to 14, parents should work on teaching them to acknowledge their feelings and gain emotional control over themselves

Done right, children will better recognise their feelings before acting on them, and this forethought helps build a foundation for emotional self control. Following that, parents can also act as models of self control and commit to showing their children how to manage impulses and reactions.

Slightly older teenagers from the ages of 16 and up might benefit more from goal-setting and expectations management. Parents can help build self control by working with these teens to plan ahead and understanding the steps they need to take in order to achieve their goals. Similarly, acknowledging and learning about their own feelings are important milestones for teenagers working towards better self control.

Engage FamilyTutor for your child

To overcome the challenges posed by ADHD, and the ensuing lack of self control, requires tremendous effort both on the part of parents and child alike. Measured progress is key, and the crux of improvement comes from quantifiable progress. As a parent who might be concerned about your child’s academic progress, sign up online today with FamilyTutor to find the best suited tutor for your child. For tutors who feel committed to making a positive impact on students, sign up online today and join the FamilyTutor team.



Carelle is a teacher who has been through the ups and downs of the teacher and learner life. She wishes for every learner to gain educational satisfaction that will help embody the people they want to be in the future.

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