What I teach kids who are tall for their age about perspective-taking skills - ADHD Dude - Ryan Wexelblatt


"When I was in 7th grade the assistant principal was accusing me of stuff I didn't do and yelled at me, so I yelled back at him and then he backed down because he was scared of me."

[I wanted to share this story as a follow up from my conversation with Dr. Natterson last Friday which you can watch at the ADHD Dude YouTube channel.]
"Matthew's" mother and I had a nice phone conversation about her fifteen-year-old, 10th grade son. When Matthew and his mother first walked in for their appointment I was confused because she had who I assumed it was a college-age student with her. I figured that maybe she was bringing her older son to me but accidentally mentioned her fifteen-year-old son, Matthew on the phone.
As I'm sure any of the educators here will attest, when you've been working with kids for a long time you become an excellent judge of accurately guessing kids' ages. This time I was wrong. The boy who Matthew's mother brought was Matthew. He is 6'4 and could easily pass for being 20 or 21.
Matthew is very handsome and he also appears as if he has somewhat of an angry affect. His affect is intensified by the fact that he makes excellent eye contact and will keep his eyes focused on you when he talks. When we began talking I was I surprised at how emotionally articulate and open he was. Matthew did indeed carry around a lot of anger as a result of some family dynamics which he described as coming out as having a "short fuse".
He explained how he could sometimes become irritated at kids over small things at school and wished he wouldn't do that.
As for the quote above, Matthew explained to me that by 7th grade (age 12-13) he was already 6 feet tall. From what he shared it sounded like he was often treated as being older because of his height/appearance.
I have and continue to work with a number of guys who are 6 feet tall or more by age 14. I always teach these guys a few things:
  • In our society, people perceive tall guys as being more "take charge". Men who are tall are more likely to be hired because of this fact.
  • Adults are going to base their expectations of you based on how old they think you are. Adults often treat kids as if they're older than they actually are if they are tall or look older.
  • Other kids are naturally going to notice you more because of your height. Even if you're not doing anything to call attention to yourself they're still going to notice you more. You really have to practice use your brain coach to think about other kids' thoughts about how you're coming across and if you do get made/yell you need to clean it up so other kids don't feel scared of you.
Matthew has a summer job where he comes in contact with many teenagers and college-age young adults. I imagined that many older girls had shown an interest in him (because of his appearance and because he's somewhat socially sophisticated) they probably thought he was much older. We discussed how he handles it when young women show an interest in him and he explained that he is always honest when they ask him his age. ( I got the sense that Matthew has always received a lot of attention from girls so it was not a novelty to him at this point.)
If your son is tall or looks older for his age it's important to teach him perspective-taking skills around how our society will view him as well as his same-age peers. Feel free to use the guidelines above.
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