Why Good Manners Matter to Your ADHD Teen

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Good manners and etiquette for the ADHD childLearning to be polite and consider the needs of others shouldn’t be a hardship – even for a 14- year-old teen diagnosed with ADHD-inattentive. Your teen may not clamor to learn about manners any more than she clamors to memorize algebraic formulas, but she stands to greatly benefit from both types of knowledge.

As a parent, you may find that you often return to the role of the take-no-prisoners manners police: “Don’t talk with your mouth full….Take your baseball cap off…Hold the door open,” etc., etc.

The good news is that most teens behave better for someone else – anyone else – other than parents. The bad news is you probably see the worst of your teen’s behavior. (e.g. “Tell me you didn’t just drink milk straight out of the carton. We have an entire shelf of clean glasses, you know.”)

Knowing the right thing to do helps every teen, but especially an ADHD-inattentive teen who may impulsively act without considering consequences. Having a foundation of good manners not only makes him more pleasant to be around, it also puts your teen at ease in a host of unfamiliar situations.

Seizing a Teachable Moment

Realize that teens are very practical, and don’t wear yourself out answering the snide “Why” questions. When certain situations present themselves, you may have an excellent launching pad for a manners lesson.

A good case in point is when Kayla’s Mike was asked to serve as escort for his aunt during a family funeral. To Mike, the perk was riding alongside his aunt in the limo. To Kayla, the bigger perk was the opportunity to talk about how 15-year-old Mike could be the perfect gentleman. He eagerly practiced opening doors, helping a lady into a car, seating a lady in a chair or pew and walking with someone on his arm.

For some teens, the thought of a formal dance at school motivates them to learn a few rules of etiquette. If you have friends or family members who are getting married soon, count that as a glimmering teachable moment.

Which One’s My Bread Plate?

Fine dining can be intimidating, but you don’t have to spend a fortune at an expensive restaurant coaching good manners. A few families in our community pooled their talents and resources and hosted a formal dinner for teens. Parents pitched in with either cooking or serving as “wait staff.”

The teens had a chance to dress up, eat well, giggle and learn a few things along the way. For example, everyone knew the bread plate was found on the left of the place setting by dinnertime.

Dip Your Partner and Other Tales of Serendipity

When Edison was 16 years old, he was signed up for ballroom dancing at his high school because he failed to choose an elective that semester. His advisor chose for him. His dancing partner was a buddy who suffered the same fate because he too had failed to choose an elective. (They took turns leading.) Ultimately, the two reluctant dancers learned a lot, the most important thing being that it’s important to make your own choices by the deadline or you end up dancing to someone else’s tune.

Both boys may have been embarrassed when the class started, but afterwards, they were well-prepared for the spring prom.

Do Drop Us a Line and Do Tell

If you’re a parent of teens, you have stories to tell. Would you share in the comment section below? As parents, we have more in common than we realize – and stories that make us snicker, sigh in commiseration, applaud, or even laugh out loud are always welcome. Kayla and I love to hear from you.

PS You can also share on our Facebook page!


  1. http://Leslie%20Beauregard says

    My 15 year old son, with ADHD is one of the most polite kids I know, and honestly…I am not sure why. That’s not to say that he is not argumentative or unreasonable at times…He is a teenager, after-all. But he still says “Thank you” all the time, to me, his dad and others.

    It’s funny to read this today, because yesterday he thanked me for picking him up from school. (He could take a bus home, I suppose…) I told him that he doesn’t have to thank me, ’cause he is my kid and I am glad to do it. Then…I said, but it makes me feel good when you say it, so “thank you for the thank you”. It was a good moment. Got to take them when they come.

  2. http://Kayla says

    Leslie, I answered this before, and I’m not sure where my comment went. Anyhow, it’s refreshing to hear not only of a polite kid, but also to read a mom who is complimenting her teen! So many times people just focus on the bad things they do.

    Kudos to both of you!