Children without ADHD may in fact give compliments freely and easily, but children with ADHD typically do not. They do not realize and understand why it is important to give compliments to peers, and so they do not do so. Even though their parents and siblings give compliments and they seemingly observe them doing so, they do not internalize that social skill.
When I explain to children with ADHD with whom I work why it is important to give their peers compliments and teach them how to do so, I explain that giving compliments is all about being nice to someone. When a child is nice to another person, it makes him feel good. It may also be an indication to the other child that he is making an effort to make friends. Trying to teach a child with ADHD to behave nicely toward another child can be a challenge, however.
For example, I am having a difficult time trying to explain and convince a five-year-old whom I am teaching social skills to agree with me that even though someone may have annoyed him, he still should be nice to that person. He says that he cannot be nice to another child because this child does not listen to his teacher. He told me that the other child’s teacher gives him “strikes” every time he does not listen. When I asked him why it is his business if the teacher manages the other child’s behavior in this way, he laughed! He clearly only wants to be friends with children who behave; that is so interesting in consideration of the fact that he himself, a child with ADHD, as well as other children with ADHD, often has difficulty exhibiting socially appropriate behavior!
A child with ADHD has to be able to understand other people’s actions before he is able to give another person a compliment. How would he do so? The teacher can coach the child to follow these steps:
- Watch the person, carefully
- Does the person have a new outfit on?
- Does the person have a new haircut?
- Has the person helped out a peer?
- Has the person helped out an adult?
- Has the person performed a task well, such as getting a hit in softball at recess or making delicious cookies for the class?