How 'Please,' 'Thank you,' and 'Yes, ma'am' may build confidence in your ADHD child. Some call it manners; I call is beautiful, predictable structure.
by Bill Mehlman
Every now and then I take pleasure in slipping into my curmudgeon outfit (itchy, three-piece wool suit, starchy shirt with collar stays that are too long, a narrow tie in a single Windsor and shoes with laces) and rail about today's youth. C'mon, now, I deserve an easy target sometimes, no? And what could be easier than the death of etiquette?
I'm not talking about prissy, Mrs. Grumblebottom's Guide to Behaviour for Young Men and Women of Quality. We're never going back there. No one has the time, no one cares. And how many of you own, let along know how to use, a fish fork, or know the difference between spoons for clear soups and thick soups? Basically, that Victorian bushwah can be condensed into a few simple concepts: watch your hostess and do what she does, use your silverware in the order it's been laid in, from the inside out, don't eat with your butter knife, and, no matter what you do at home, no icecubes in the Haut-Brion, you yahoo.
The rules of etiquette that concerns me are the guidelines that grease the interactions between people. Again, I don't mean removing your hat in the elevator when a woman enters, although that's not a bad idea. It's stuff like holding the door—not just for a woman or an older man, but for anyone who might happen to be walking behind you. It's helping your neighbor when he's overloaded with packages. And most of all, it's "Please," "Thank you," "You're welcome" and "Excuse me."
Try to instill this mindset in your kids. All your kids, but especially those who are ADHDans. Why? All goes back to what I'm always harping on: try to remove from their daily lives as much doubt, confusion, ambivalence — anything that distracts them — as you can. They shouldn't have to worry, when they're introduced to their best friends' mothers, what to say or do. No rocket science, no Lord Fauntleroy folderol. How about, "OK, so when you go to Bobbie's house, and you meet his mother, offer to shake hands, and say, "It's nice to meet you, Mrs. Cramden." And if the adult who reacts scornfully or incredulously to this — and trust me, those clowns are out there—your kid probably shouldn't be hanging out in that house anyway.
Security and self-confidence are excellent antidotes to anxiety and doubt. Keep it simple, keep it meaningful. I'm trying not to mention the Golden Rule here, but in the long run isn't that what it's all about?
Can you see a downside to any of this? I can't.
Thank you very much. It's been a pleasure to talk to you.