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The Misinterpretation of ADHD: Being “Rude”


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Hyperactivity, forgetfulness, distraction, abrupt or excessively frequent input into conversations, irritability, and difficulty waiting have been colloquially identified as rude behaviors in many settings. Although these behaviors indeed appear rude, ADHD affects executive function skills, self-stimulating behaviors and self-control, which occasionally manifest in similar behavioral patterns. It’s important to acknowledge that the portrayal of these behaviors is not an intentional choice, but rather a product of the challenges associated with ADHD. Professionals suggest that a vast majority of people with ADHD struggle with executive function, though the skills can be taught and learned if addressed appropriately. Below are some important points of advice for parents or authority figures when considering this behavior from their student:

  • Remember that the student likely has no intention of exhibiting inappropriate social behaviors. It can be easy to feel irritated with such behaviors, but recognizing them for what they are can ease this frustration and allow an opportunity for you to help your student improve their behavior without discouraging them.
  • Make sure to celebrate the strengths that these same behaviors provide. Perceived weaknesses can, in a different context, be one of the greatest strengths. (For example: impatience may appear rude in a conversation, but could also manifest as persistence that leads to goal achievement). Recognizing that the child can sustain the positive aspects of their behavior while improving upon the negative parts lets them understand how their habits and tendencies can be an asset to their character, not just a detriment. Once this realization occurs, they can find ways to improve upon their behavior or use their strengths to do so.
  • Avoid scolding or directly addressing the behavior in a negative context. A report from an educational professional suggests that addressing behavior that may appear disrespectful serves only to impede the progress of behavioral correction in children with ADHD.1 Asking the student questions (“Did you think that was the right decision?”) allows them room to reflect on something they may not have considered before, and prevents them from feeling frustrated at the perceived lack of understanding from a scolding message.1
  • Make sure that you sustain a favorable balance between positive and negative feedback. Some people tend to develop stronger emotions towards negative feedback, which can make it seem as though it’s being given in excess compared to positive feedback. Balance is important to reinforce change. A good adage to remember: If you have the right to criticize someone, you have the responsibility to compliment them!

Above all else, it’s important to ensure that the student feels their behavioral tendencies (including the ones that can be perceived as rude in certain contexts) are appreciated and understood. When feeling understood, it’s easier to use and reflect upon the advice one is given to create a change. Students often respond well to advice that comes from authority figures outside their family unit, such as trusted teachers, athletic coaches, ADHD coaches, or mentors. This also builds rapport between the authority figure and student that allows them to collaboratively find solutions to the problematic behavior without discouragement.

Resources:

  1. My Child Is Rude
  2. What Adults Who Don’t Have ADHD Should Know About Adults Who Do
  3. ADHD and Disrespectful Behavior

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