ADHD and Minding Your Manners

When we think of exercise and practicing, we think of athletics, maybe tennis players practicing their serve or basketball players shooting hoops.  Those are exercises that we do to develop a skill. As an attention coach, I see that those with ADHD need to develop self-regulation skills, and exercise is one way to do that.

The other day as I was holding the door for a woman who was moving rather slowly, I started to feel anxious waiting for her. It occurred to me that I needed to exhibit a level of self-regulation or self-control and suddenly realized how this is largely missing from our society.

As I reflected back on what I had learned growing up, and even as an adult, I realized those manners are self-regulation exercises. Practicing good manners is all about waiting, holding your needs in the moment and being mindful of other people or being aware of the social situation. It’s about some sort of delay of gratification.  In a way it’s all about not doing that first thing you really want to do in that moment.

Of course, what we know about ADHD is that it’s not really about attention, and it’s not really about hyperactivity. It’s actually about self-regulation, holding and not just reacting in the moment to that external stimulus or that internal thought or feeling.

Teaching manners is just like exercise we do with our kids, and sometimes adults, to help them develop positive social habits. That practice on a regular basis is just like the practice an athlete needs to develop a skill. I think a lot of this is lost in today’s society. I also believe things we see online are part of the problem. There’s not much there to stop people from just responding in the moment with no self-restraint.

Knowing the basic social rules is pretty easy. The challenge, of course, is the doing of it, especially for ADHD kids. It takes a certain amount of self-regulation on the part of the parent not to overreact. There’s no shortcut to teaching your kids manners. You just have to do it. It’s a process. Some of it is brain development, but certainly as kids mature, they will have more of that pause before they respond. Dealing with their challenges is not merely academic; it’s also about having the right expectations. If you can’t get them to do the right thing the first time, the thing to do is to pause and pause them to give their brain a chance to engage so they can do the right thing at least the second time.

If this topic resonates with you, please listen to my interview, “ADHD and Minding Your Manners,” on Attention Talk Radio with Dr. Ari Tuckman for more insight and strategies for dealing with these challenges. Here’s the link:

2 thoughts on “ADHD and Minding Your Manners

  1. Hi Jeff,
    Great topic, bringing up “manners” — since we tend to forget to teach that there are “rules” for a reason: we don’t have to figure out in the moment how to conduct ourselves with others!
    But following the rules can also be hard! So I also love your point about parents as teachers of a process – – as differentiated from telling what to do, “just do it” – since in reality, we know things don’t “just happen”!
    When we see self-regulation as learning and practicing over time, we have more patience and creativity to work with ourselves as well!

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