Friends at School

How to Bridle Bullies

Tried-and-true strategies for helping your child with ADHD respond to a school bully.

Sad ADHD boy at school being bullied by other kids.

The way you react the first time you meet a bully often determines how that person will treat you. Different strategies work better in different situations. I’ve had some success with all of the techniques below. Teachers, parents, and counselors recommended some of them, and I’ve added a few of my own.

1. Use humor.

A bully wants confrontation and to inflict pain. Laughing at yourself and your faults can neutralize his mission. The next time a bully says, “You’re stupid,” agree with him. You might say, “Yeah, I’m having a really rough day. The brain cells aren’t working.”

2. Answer back.

I have found that sarcasm can, at times, shock or silence a bully. Say to him or her, “Oh, really?” in an amazed, exasperated tone. Or say, “Who cares?” or “Thanks for noticing.” Realize, though, that your remarks can have the opposite effect and inflame the situation.

3. Avoid the bully altogether.

This strategy buys you a little time, but there is no way to avoid him forever. Avoidance is a good solution when you don’t have verbal comebacks prepared.

4. Call him on it.

Showing strength in the face of a bully can work. Stand up straight, hold up your head confidently, look the bully directly in the eye, and ask him, “Why did you say that? Are you trying to be sarcastic? Are you trying to say you don’t like me because I am tall/short/blue-eyed/black-eyed…?” He or she may just leave you alone because it’s not worth the effort. Fighting, of course, is not an option, because you will both get into trouble, and could be expelled from school.

5. Use positive self-talk.

When a bully’s comments cause you to doubt yourself, remind yourself of your accomplishments. Think to yourself: “I beat those guys during that tennis match.” Or, “I got an A on my math exam!” Or, “I have a friend who really likes me for who I am.” This positive self-talk boosts your self-esteem, thwarting a bully’s main goal: destroying your confidence.