Ask the Experts

Q: How Can I Help My Son Discern ‘Ribbing’ from ‘Bullying?’

Boys, especially, sometimes tease them or mimic their friends as a sign of affection. This is not bullying, but it may feel like it to a child with ADHD and weak social skills. Here, learn how to help your son recognize what is playful vs. what is hurtful, and how to react more constructively.

Q: “How do we tell the difference between bullying and ‘ribbing?’ Our 5th grade son is very sensitive and emotional. He complains about being bullied and has few friends. But we’re seeing a different pattern. It seems like other boys take digs at him, possibly in that shared male language of ribbing each other. Our son then blows up, screaming and crying, identifying himself as the ‘weird’ kid — after which, the bullying begins in earnest. How can we — parents, teachers, AND our son — get better at figuring out when other boys are teasing to connect vs. teasing to hurt?”

A: “There are two things you need to do to help your son discern the difference between friendly ribbing and bullying. First, we need to teach him context of relationships… The other thing we need to help him understand is his social history with individuals. This can be difficult for kids with ADHD due to poor episodic memory…”


ADHD and Bullying: Next Steps

1. Read This: How to Stop the Cycle of Bullying
2. Take Action: What To Do If Your Child Is Being Bullied
3. Address Behaviors: 5 Things To Do If Your Child Is the Bully
4. Download This: Free Guide to Improving Your Child’s Social Skills

Ryan Wexelblatt, LCSW is the facilitator of the ADHD Dude Facebook Group and YouTube channel.

Submit your questions about ADHD in boys here!

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