Socially Inappropriate Behavior in Kids With ADHD

Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder often have a hard time making and keeping friends. Often, they lack the ability or the attention span to carry on a conversation of more than one or two exchanges or they exhibit socially inappropriate behavior that sets them apart from their peers. However, parents who watch their children closely and then explicitly teach social skills to their children can help them improve social behavior and make friends.


Children with ADHD often have social skill deficits that contribute to difficulties in relationships with their peers. These children lack the ability to identify, imitate and copy appropriate social behavior. For example, they may be immature, verbally aggressive or rudely interrupt other children's conversations. They may also stand too physically close to other children. Children who seem to make friends easily are able to make and maintain eye contact, regulate the volume of their voice and keep an appropriate distance from others. Children who are inattentive do not interact long enough to notice or interpret facial expressions or understand nuances in language. The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) reports that approximately 50 to 60 percent of children with ADHD are rejected by their peers.


Children who have poor social skills often suffer from low self-esteem. Children with ADHD are not only socially isolated, but often criticized by parents or teachers for inappropriate behaviors. They may start to feel as if they can not do anything right or that no one will ever like them. According to the NCBI, two-thirds of children with ADHD have an additional psychiatric disorder, such as mood disorder, anxiety problems or conduct disorder. Additionally, children with both ADHD and a learning disability often have greater difficulties making friends than children with only a learning disability.

Making Your Child Aware

Before parents can begin to help their child improve her social skills, they need to make the child aware of how her behavior is affecting how others perceive her. To start, discuss one or two behaviors you'd like to see your child improve -- for example, taking turns or interrupting others. Write the targeted behaviors on a chart and post it where she can see them. Give rewards, such as stickers or points towards a bigger reward for positive social interactions. When you are with your child in a social situation, privately remind her of the skills you are working on that week. Several times a week, set aside time to review your child's progress with her.

Social Skill Groups

If your child has not responded to your attempts to help him make friends, you may want to try a more formalized setting. Formal social skills training can help your child develop strategies for regulating his emotions, making friends and solving social problems. This therapy is often done in a group setting where children can try out their new skills with peers, as well as meet other children with similar difficulties. Social skills groups are sometimes offered within the school, but may also be available through a local therapist or mental health clinic.