Ask the Experts

Q: Should I Tell My Son That He Has A Motor Mouth?

Boys with ADHD don’t always have reliable social filters. If your son is prone to rambling with you, it’s likely he does the same thing with his peers. You can help him the most by telling him honestly when his tangents become boring.

Q: “My son is a complete motor mouth. I’m worried that he’s overwhelming his peers by flooding them with whatever thoughts come into his head. How do I help him realize that without hurting his feelings?”

Start by sharing your own internal dialogue. For instance, if your son is having a one-sided conversation with you about Pokémon or Fortnite, you have to say out loud, “You know, I’m feeling kind of bored with this conversation because you’re just talking at me about your interests, and we’re not really talking about things that we can both talk about, or that we both enjoy.”

When I tell this to parents, a lot of them respond, “Oh, I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to hurt his feelings.” If your main concern is protecting your son’s feelings, then you cannot teach him how to navigate socially in the most effective way. Either he can hear the truth from somebody who he knows loves him conditionally (and it might hurt his feelings), or he can be told by other boys to “shut up” or “you’re annoying.” It’s preferable that he learns from you because he knows that you have an emotional investment in him.

Try this: Instead of saying “You’re giving me too many details,” you could ask him, “If you were talking to one of your buddies right now, do you think he would be interested in this conversation?” This helps him develop self-directed talk around perspective taking, and allows you to reflect on his behavior without telling him directly that he’s talking too much.

Teaching social skills is teaching accountability. We have to learn how to be accountable to others in order to interact with them. So please do not worry about hurting your son’s feelings. And again, share your inner thought process with him so he understands your perspective. That’s how you’ll help him develop perspective-taking skills. 

[Help Your Child’s Peers ‘Get’ ADHD: A Free Guide for Parents]

This content came from the ADDitude webinar by Ryan Wexelblatt titled “The Social Lives of Boys with ADHD: Why Traditional Therapy and Social Skills Groups Rarely Work” That webinar is available for free replay here.

5 Comments & Reviews

  1. For me, this is one of those strategies that sounds so useful when I read it and then it crashes and burns when I use it. I can see how it would be useful if done correctly, so…. There are two things that come to mind. First, he doesn’t have any ‘buddies.’ He has school friends, but I don’t think asking him how his buddies would feel if he was talking at them would result in a genuine response. The response would be what he thinks “his buddy” should say, which, of course, would be favorable to my son. Second, I intend to try sharing my internal dialogue with him letting him know that I’m feeling kind of bored b/c you’re talking at me, but I guarantee you this will come back to bite me eventually. After some amount of time, he will begin to say the same thing to me when I’m trying to talk to him about cleaning up, doing homework, how I expect him to behave, etc. Argh. I do need to get better at using fewer words with him and I guess this is that opportunity, but ultimately, I’m skeptical this will work with him. That said, he will be going into 5th grade next year and, as I said, only has school friends and he most definitely talks at a person. Something needs to give.

  2. I occasionally substitute teach at a small, church-affiliated elementary school. We have a 4th grade boy that interrupts class discussions with material that is tangential at best. I gave him 4 tokens for the 20 minute class and told him that interruptions were permitted but at the cost of a time. Any unused tokens could be redeemed for reward tokens ( school has a system in place ). This worked somewhat. His remarks were not as frequent but I could sense the struggle he was having.

  3. Dude I’m as blunt as they get when it comes to my boy and tell him I have anxiety I’m trying to calm down and drive k so shhhhhhhh. 5 min later what’s up bud. Lol Have you thought about getting him in to acting. Like schools club

  4. What I often say to clients: “(name) – I would really like to have a conversation with you. I’m wondering if we can do that?” And then we talk about what a conversation is – a back and forth way of talking. I try and keep it impersonal also, such as “people sometimes get bored when we keep talking about something – it might be really interesting to us, but not to the other person.” I.e. I try not to make it personal, but more educational.

Leave a Reply