Understanding and Managing Risky Behavior in Kids with ADHD

Kids With ADHD: At Risk for Risky Behavior?

The teacher calls you at home to tell you about a playground injury involving your child and another classmate. Or, maybe she doesn’t quite believe your child’s story about what happened to his classmate’s toy. Maybe you notice that some loose change is missing from a jar on the dresser. If you’re the parent of a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you’ve probably heard these scenarios before.

Doctors aren’t sure what causes ADHD. But they do know that kids who have it find it hard to control their impulses. And, they may often engage in risky behaviors like aggressive play, ignoring rules, running off, lying, and stealing.

ADHD and Risky Behavior in Adults

If someone you care about has ADHD, you might have noticed her acting in certain ways that upset you, other people, or even herself. Her actions could be linked to ADHD. Not every adult with ADHD has risky behavior, but many do.
Why? Research shows that people with ADHD often have lower levels of certain brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Dopamine is one of those.
“Risky behaviors can increase dopamine levels, which may be part of the reason some individuals with ADHD are drawn to them,”…

Read the ADHD and Risky Behavior in Adults article

If you’re a parent, it’s important that you manage your kid’s risk-taking behavior. These strategies could help.

Get Assessed

You might be surprised, but kids who fidget in class, lie about their homework, and climb to the highest peak on the jungle gym might not have ADHD.

“These are all normal childhood behaviors,” says James McGough, MD, professor of clinical psychiatry at UCLA. “If your child is active or impulsive to a degree that is out of line with their same-age, same-sex classmates, you should get an assessment.”

Kids with ADHD have a hard time controlling their actions, McGough says. Sometimes, they take risks without thinking. But, he adds, most of the time, they’re not trying to hurt anyone.

This disorder can be linked to a mental disorder that causes children to disobey or rebel. It’s also tied to conduct disorder, which often shows up as lying and stealing.

An assessment will help you understand why your child acts the way he does. It’ll also allow you and your doctor to create a plan to manage negative behaviors.

Provide Healthy Outlets

Children with ADHD are hardwired to take risks. Don’t try to stop them. Instead, try to help them learn the difference between negative and positive ones. For example, learning a sparring routine in martial arts class is a positive risk that you should encourage. That’s much different than starting fights on the playground.

“These are active kids; that’s their temperament from an early age,” says Marco Grados, MD,  associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “It’s important to provide structured outlets for [their] high energy.”

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