Making Friends

Is Your Child a Target for Bullies?

Worried your child might be the target of bullies? Children with ADHD don’t always know how to handle confrontation and may even think it’s their fault. Learn how to uncover the truth and prevent further bullying.

Teen girl with ADHD being bullied by group of high school kids
Teen girl with ADHD being bullied by group of high school kids

It is heartbreaking to learn that your child with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) has become the victim of a bully. And unfortunately, some children are at greater risk of being bullied because of their ADHD. An inappropriate, or impulsive remark blurted out for the entire class to hear can attract the attention of a bully. And an impulsive retort by the student with ADHD to a bully’s provocation may escalate the situation.

No child should have to spend a day of school feeling afraid, ashamed, or embarrassed. Fortunately, there are ways you can protect your child against bullying.

Is Your Child Being Bullied at School?

Children with ADHD may believe they bring bullying on themselves with their inappropriate behavior, or that there is nothing they — or their parents — can do about it. Even if your child knows that she can safely confide in you and her teachers, she may be hesitant to do so.

[Free Guide: Help Your Child Make Friends]

Kids with ADHD have an “out of sight, out of mind” approach to solving problems, so it may help to gently question your child about the social scene at school. Casually ask her who she is friendly with — and who she’s not — and if she’s happy with her social life at school. Your child may not even be aware that she is being targeted until you ask the questions that reveal it.

If you suspect that your child is the target of bullying, ask her teachers whether your child’s social skills are contributing to any difficulties she may be having.

If They Are Being Bullied, Explain How Bullies Work

It is possible for your child to reduce his risk of being bullied — he just needs to understand what made him a target in the first place. ADHD can inhibit a child’s understanding of social cues, so there’s a good chance he doesn’t even realize that his classmates may find his actions annoying or inappropriate.

Without excusing the bully’s behavior, identify some of your child’s actions-talking too much, clowning around at inopportune times, blurting out ill-chosen remarks — that might draw negative attention.

[“When My Daughter Told Me She Was Being Bullied, I Didn’t Believe Her”]

Explain that he can avoid problems with “low profile” behavior, such as using a quieter voice, keeping his comments brief, and staying attuned to whether others are interested in what he has to say. Teach her the importance of maintaining a balance between observing and talking, and give her a signal when she’s talking too much. Jot down these strategies on an index card she can keep in her backpack and review on her way to school.

Report the Bully: Talk to School Officials

If your child is being bullied at school, alert the teacher and school principal, providing as much detail as possible, as well as the names of any witnesses. If you believe your child’s ADHD is related to the incident, make sure those in charge understand that. Request that your child not be questioned in the presence of the bully, as this can be intimidating.

Ask the principal to call the bully’s parents, and be prepared to follow-up with a call of your own. Let the parents know that you are calling as a gesture of good will, since you would want to be similarly informed if they were complaining to the school about your child.

Parents of bullies are in the best position to stop bullying behavior, but only if we stand up and let them know about it.

A Bully by Any Other Name

Not all bullies fit the stereotypical profile of the unhappy, isolated kid with low self-esteem. Often, bullies come across as friendly, popular, and studious. They’re skilled at concealing their bullying behavior — so much so that teachers perceive them as the “nice kids.”

This may confuse your child and further contribute to his difficulties.

[Read: What Kids Need When Classmates Reject Them]

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