In looking at the whole question about why kids with learning and attention issues take more risks, it is fascinating to learn about the UK government’s new national play strategy, entitled Fair Play. Its scope is summed up in ‘children need to take risks to learn how to manage risks…. an essential part of growing up’.
Obviously, the government’s intention is to create a more educational approach to play so that children can be happier at play without being over protected. At the same time, they should be educated about taking risks which will equip them to be fully self-reliant in adulthood. Many of the children surveyed complained that they were banned from climbing trees or playing simple hide and seek games!
So parents, carers, teachers and youth leaders all face the same challenge in trying to walk the tightrope between carelessness and overprotection. Nowhere is this more evident than in the case of children who have ADHD and learning disorders who are more prone to impulsive behavior which may be a threat to their health and safety. Here is your must know guide about the reasons for risky behavior and how we can make everything safer, yet still enjoyable.
“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”- Fred Rogers
Kids with learning and attention problems are wired differently.
Whether your child has ADHD, dyspraxia (problems with coordination) or dyslexia (problems with reading), this means that they are following a different path from A to B. Concentrating, listening carefully, and being organized are not stops along their learning path.
The end result is that their neural connections cause faulty logic and reasoning, difficulty in controlling their impulses and not being able to think things through. This is why risky behavior is so prevalent among these kids.
Kids with problems may have been misdiagnosed
Everyone wants a label for some type of behavior which does not fit in with the norm! But the sad fact is that many cases of learning problems and attention disorders such as ADHD have been misdiagnosed. In some cases, the cause is sleep deprivation or OSA (obstructive sleep apnea). If there is any doubt in your mind, get your child tested for a possible sleep disorder. It could make your child’s life much easier.
Teaching kids about peer pressure
Very often, risky behavior is carried out in a group. It is wise to talk to your older child or teen about how group decisions make everything seem easier. But the risk is still there and we should make every effort to talk to our kids about the following:-
- talk about consequences- for example risks of death from binge drinking, (neknomination) drugs and unprotected sex
- discuss being responsible for all our behavior- give examples of breaking the law and being punished by fines or detention.
- talk about escape strategies if the child is uneasy about a group decision and wants to get away
- discuss news stories and TV reality shows to illustrate that peer pressure is very strong.
- encourage your kids to forget about trying to impress the group by indulging in raids, shoplifting, lying and gambling.
- stimulate your child to take part in sports so that there is always supervision and this will be less worrying for you.
Talk about impulse control
Tell the child how you control your impulses when you have to deal with rude people and bad drivers. It is important to discuss what the consequences might be if you let your angry impulses take over. Talk about bad behavior such as hitting and lashing out at siblings.
When dealing with bad behavior, don’t delay punishment as the child may forget what it is all about. It is also useful to tell the child why he or she is being sent to his room. Just mention the bad behavior as the reason, without going on about how upset you are.
Exercise in the open air is the best strategy of all
Studies show, over and over again, that exercise in the open air can be one of the most effective ways of helping to lessen symptoms of ADHD, improve impulse control and behavior. It also helps kids to concentrate better when they get back indoors and have to do homework. If your kids are doing team sports, they are also getting as added bonuses:-
- training in turn taking
- learning social skills
- accepting defeat
- learning about rules and consequences
- building a team spirit
This seems like a no-brainer to me. After all, if your child is hanging out with a group of friends or attached to an electronic device alone in his or her room, she is missing out on all this and is in greater danger of taking risks or indulging in dubious behavior.
Read more about risky behavior
Robert Locke MBE is a health enthusiast specializing in children’s health and has written extensively on ADHD, parenting, mental health, anxiety and depression. You can discover more about why kids with learning and attention issues take more risks and other parenting problems by visiting the Problem Kids Blog.