Five Things You Didn’t Know Were ADHD
3. We Dominate Conversations
Every night in our house we sit down together, as a family, and eat dinner. And every night as we’re talking about our day our lovably oblivious 6-year-old will cut off someone midsentence and talk about something completely unrelated. If we’re lucky. If we’re not so lucky it will just be some loud, intrusive noise while he finger paints in his spaghetti sauce. But that’s for another blog post.
Our son’s impulsivity shows very clearly in these conversations no matter how many times we’ve tried to correct the behavior, he sill needs reminding daily. This is partly just his age but blurting out is also very much a feature of ADHD. One of the more obvious symptoms. As an adult, many of us will continue to suffer from this kind of impulsivity.
I am not one of those people. I’m reserved. Introverted. I don’t tend to blurt. So, imagine my surprise when I find out that I’m equally difficult to talk to.
What I had never realized but has been brought to my attention – thanks to my darling wife – is that I have some tendencies that make me equally nightmarish to converse with. These tendencies are also ADHD-related.
So, what’s my problem? The monologue.
With ADHD we have two very distinct modes: utterly obsessed and completely disinterested. No middle ground. Either something reliably captures our attention, or our body fights our every attempt to focus on it.
Holding my attention while disinterested is its own challenge. But more of an issue is when the conversation hits upon one of my “specialist subjects.” At that point it becomes less of a conversation and more of a data dump as I verbally download all the related materials I have acquired on the subject. It’s like they accidentally clicked on a pop-up ad and before they know it their hard drive is being filled up with terabytes of 1980s professional wrestling tapings, and they can’t close the window. Not what they had expected after casually exclaiming “Did you know Mr. T used to wrestle and is in the wrestling Hall of Fame?”
Like many people with ADHD, I’m a hoarder. But for me it’s not material possessions. I hoard information. Everything from books, to interesting datasets, to podcasts, to online courses. I’m curious and want to know all that I can. This can be as destructive as any other form of hoarding, if it’s not kept in check.
This compounds when the “utterly obsessed” switch gets flipped and turns a casual conversation into a 20-minute recounting of an information rabbit hole I fell down.
How does this relate to parenting?
From the parenting stand point there are a few things to keep in mind. It’s important to keep reinforcing the message that we don’t interrupt people. It will eventually stick… mostly. But also, as parents, we must lead by example. It’s important to be conscious that much of what our children learn is picked up by mimicking us. It’s one thing to say, “don’t interrupt.” It’s another to demonstrate the courtesy to others.
For monologuing, again, it’s important to lead by example and make sure that we’re paying attention to the reactions of the other person as we’re speaking. Making sure the other person is actually engaged in the conversation and not just being ‘talked at.’ And when we’re talking to kids, who inherently have short attention spans, we’re not overloading them with more information then can handle.
Our ADHD 6-year old can handle an information dump of about 10 seconds. If I’ve been talking longer than that then it’s a waste of my breath and, frankly, overwhelming. I’m often guilty of this most when giving him instructions.
Instead, try breaking instructions apart into smaller chunks – have them go away and do something, then come back for the next step. It’s easier on everyone involved.
If you’re on the receiving end of a monologue from your child, it’s a little trickier. You want to instill some social graces to help them get by, but at the same time you will want to encourage the things that they are passionate about.
What do you think? If you have an opinion on how to handle it, please send us a comment or respond to this article on Facebook.