Dear ADDitude

Dear ADDitude: Why Is My Child Being Punished for Retaliating Against Bullies?

“At lunch, my 8th grader sits alone and is bullied by boys who make racial comments. He is reluctant to say anything for fear of retaliation, but recently fought back with words and got two days of in-school suspension. What can we do?”

ADDitude Answers

The school needs to help with bullying. They should have a policy on how to report it and even allow for anonymous reporting. Take a look at the school’s website, as many of ours have a form you can use to report electronically.

I get that he wants to fit in, and my son does too, but continuing to be around these kids is not helping him. If something doesn’t change soon, take it to the principal.

Posted by Penny
community moderator, author on ADHD parenting, mom to teen boy with ADHD, LDs, and autism

A Reader Answers

He sounds just like my son, and I feel for you! My son gets picked on in the morning when they hang out in the gym before classes, at lunchtime, and at PE. Fortunately for us, we DID move to a smaller charter school this year for the start of middle school, and the teachers respond and take action when they see or hear of anyone getting picked on. I keep reminding my son to try to handle it, but to go ahead and tell the appropriate teacher or admin person if the kids won’t stop.

I can tell you that it is MUCH better being in a smaller school where the teachers are more involved and the kids get to know each other a bit more. You still have some kids who are jerks, but it IS better.

Do the teachers there help if you tell them what’s going on? Does your son have any friends he can sit with so he’s not alone? Has he tried using humor to outwit the nitwits? There are ways to knock the bullies off their feet (figuratively) so they will stop, so maybe some anti-bullying tactics would help.

Other than that, I’d say try to enlist the help of the school, have him try to sit with another kid so he’s not such an easy target, and just keep reminding him that the end is in sight! It’s great that you already have a plan for next year and that you will be moving away from this place, so focus on that. Focus on the positives in your/his life and try not to let it get you down. The end is so close!

Posted by JAMurphy

A Reader Answers

One of our counselors taught the kids in the group this weekend about how to respond to sarcasm or this type of verbal bullying. She said that the anti-bullying campaigns stress reporting things to teachers, but that does no favors socially for the kids. Instead, having a verbal response (not aggressive, not negative) will disarm the teasing. For example, “I guess you’re trying to be funny?” or “Whatever,” or “That’s interesting…”

I feel for you and am trying to give my son a similar defense for himself.

Perhaps you can find a kid he likes at school and plan something over the weekend to encourage that friendship, and perhaps that will help with the loneliness at lunch.

Posted by K44

A Reader Answers

I feel your anguish as it is something that my son has encountered. We live in California, and so there are approximately 1200 kids in his middle school, but since he is in seventh grade, he only eats lunch with the seventh or eighth graders.

My son also has impulsivity issues and has not learned to walk away or say nothing. Instead, he will argue back which leads to bigger issues. He will not say anything to a teacher as this leads to further issues with kids. His school is very good at bullying issues but they can’t help what isn’t reported.

Middle school is tough, and through counseling we are trying to convey to him the proper techniques, but it is a losing battle. Recently, he posted something on Instagram (a response) that I felt was inappropriate and he has lost his cell phone until I feel he can be mature enough to get it back.

Although he says he has friends at school, there are none that come over. I have been told by kids that they don’t like his attitude and a parent actually told me that they have been told by other parents not to hang out with him. That hurt!

There are so many times that I have said, ”I thought this year would be better,” or “Have you not learned anything with counseling?” I know that he is a good kid with a good heart but his actions don’t always display it.

He is also in Honors and currently making A’s and B’s but not putting in the work that he should be.

He hasn’t been on medication since fifth grade and recently was tested again. The test showed that he did worse on meds (I still think he flunked the test deliberately to avoid meds).

I just wanted to let you know that you are not in this alone.

Posted by knrdodd

A Reader Answers

When my son was in fourth grade (and first grade) he had a lot of trouble with bullies … he was “that” kid in the class that it seemed everyone accepted that it was OK to harass him. It was even expected. Another parent stopped me in the store while I was shopping and shared with me what their child had said…that there were a couple of “leaders” in the class and they set the tone: harass and pick on my son and get a reaction out of him, or risk being picked on yourself. It was a gang mentality. My son knew what was happening but was helpless to change it. He even told me that he knew some kids wanted to be friends with him but they wouldn’t cross that line. He cried himself to sleep every night and begged to stay home from school. It was heartbreaking. He also didn’t want to report them for fear of things getting even worse.

We worked with the guidance counselor and she helped him confront the boys in a controlled environment with her present…he picked the 4 worst offenders, the ones he perceived as the leaders, and confronted them. Every single one of them admitted that my son was telling the truth about the bullying. Because it was through guidance, the children were not disciplined because even the bullies have a right to privacy there. But it did get better after that. The guidance counselor worked with all of them and also had my son in a “lunch bunch” where he connected with other children who were in his lunch/recess so he would not be alone. I then requested that none of these children be in his classes the following year. They resisted committing to that at first but I told them I will officially file a HIB (Harassment, Intimidation & Bullying) report if they do not protect my son from his bullies. The following year he had a fresh start and almost instantly made friends and kept them. He will always struggle but he felt so empowered after he had the courage to confront his bullies. I hope your son finds that same peace. Good luck.

Posted by Peacfldove

A Reader Answers

You can pull him out and homeschool him, or even finish his classes online. I would also report the school to the police for allowing your son to be harassed. Not only is your son being harassed, but the kids around him are watching it and afraid to be friends with him. I am not sure what state you live in so homeschooling can have different rules, but here in Washington State we have great homeschool laws.

I pulled my son out of school in second grade because of severe bullying – and I later found out three other kids were bring bullied too. The school gets funding for having your child in school. I bet they would start jumping through hoops if you go in to take him out. They should have an alternative to help. Most school districts have a homeschool option. Another option is to go to the school counselor or nurse and get their help.

Just go to school Monday and tell them your son is under so much anxiety and stress from the school allowing these bullies to harass him and the other children are afraid to sit with him at lunch. The stress is causing his grades to drop. Tell them you don’t believe they are creating a good learning environment. Tell them to get you his schoolwork for the rest of the school year. He can take tests in the principal’s office on the weekend when you can be there.

And if they refuse to do that or come up with a plan then have him start online classes to finish the school year. Let him take a week or two off before starting online or before moving him to a new school early.

Also at the new school, the counselor can get some nice kids to sit with him at lunch. Also at the next school, before it starts, have his counselor show him around the school.

Also another option would be to have the school bus him to his new school.

Your state might have an advocacy group like ARC of King County. Please call them and ask if they know if there is a group like theirs in your state. Or any advice for how to deal with the school and how to do online classes etc. Actually some kids with ADHD do better online.

Also go above your school principal if they refuse to help – or if they already have – and talk to the superintendent in your school district or his/her secretary/admin tell them your story.

But please, take your son out of the situation. There have been kids who hurt themselves – or worse.

Posted by Nite Owl Mama