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Bullying, Anger, and Other Social Issues for Children with ADHD

Social Issue

Bullying 101: Signs and What You Can Do About It

Bullying is defined as repeated,
aggressive behavior by one child to another. There are three types of bullying:

  • verbal
    name calling, teasing,
  • physical
    pushing, hitting, shoving,
    kicking, taking personal property
  • relational/social
    spreading rumors about
    someone, excluding a person from an activity, convincing others to not be
    friends with someone

Risk Factors for Being Bullied

According to the National Center for
Education Statistics, 64 percent of children ages 12 through 18 have been
bullied at school (Institute of Education Sciences, 2011). Bullying happens because of an imbalance of mental,
social, or physical power. Bullies usually target children who are perceived as
weak, different, or less popular.

Risk factors for being bullied include:

  • having low self-esteem
  • poor peer relations or weak social networks
  • being learning disabled or physically handicapped
  • being perceived as annoying or attention-seeking
  • having anxiety or depression
  • being perceived as different (for example: underweight,
    overweight, wearing different clothes)

Bullying and ADHD

Children with ADHD are often perceived
as “different” because of their impulsivity. They also have trouble developing
social skills, which places them at further risk for being bullied. One study
conducted in Australia found that girls with ADHD were more likely to be
victims of bullying than girls without ADHD (Sciberras, 2012). 

There is also some evidence that
children with ADHD and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) are more likely to
bully others. ODD is characterized by a lack of respect for authority and
disruptive behavior. Children with ADHD and ODD who have difficulty following
rules, are aggressive, have low self-esteem, or were previously bullied are at
risk for becoming bullies themselves (Frankel & Feinberg, 2002).

Signs that Your Child Is Being Bullied

There are many warning signs that can
indicate a child is experiencing bullying. Because children don’t always ask for
help, it’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms. A child being bullied

  • display a noticeable change in everyday behavior, such
    as eating less or more than usual, have nightmares, or have trouble sleeping
  • seem to have few friends or want to avoid social
  • seem sad, anxious, or feel sick more than usual
  • lose personal items and not be able to explain how
    these items were lost
  • have physical injuries
  • have low grades
    or little interest in school

What You Can Do About Bullying

Bullying is serious and can have lasting
consequences. If you suspect that your child is being bullied at school, talk
to your child immediately about the situation. If you child is reluctant to
talk about it, which is common, contact your child’s teacher, school counselor,
or administrator to address and correct the problem. If the situation still isn’t rectified or
you feel that your child is in danger of being hurt physically, contact the
police. Counseling and therapy are also recommended for anyone experiencing

Anger and ADHD

Some experts
call ADHD a “disorder of anger and aggression.” Children with ADHD have trouble
following directions, listening well, and maintaining conversations. Their
symptoms are often mistaken for laziness or a lack of self-control or
motivation and can frustrate those around them.

Teachers and
parents who aren’t equipped to deal with the symptoms or don’t understand ADHD are
more likely to react to this behavior in a negative way. They may yell,
threaten, belittle, or even use physical violence. In addition, children who
have trouble controlling their impulses may be egged on by their peers to react
aggressively. This can lead to further pent-up anger because the child knows that
they’re being manipulated and will feel helpless to stop aggressive behavior or
curb reactions.

ADHD, ODD, Bipolar Disorder, and Anger

disorders that are sometimes present with ADHD can further exacerbate anger. For
instance, children with bipolar disorder and ADHD display more verbally
aggressive behavior than children with only ADHD. Children with ODD are more
physically and verbally aggressive than children who only have ADHD.

Anger in Boys and Girls with ADHD

Both boys and
girls with ADHD can have anger management problems. Boys are more likely to express
anger through physical aggression. Girls are more likely to be socially or
verbally aggressive by taunting, name-calling, or excluding others from

Helping Your Child Cope with Anger

Anger is the
result of frustration and negativity, so make sure that you create a warm,
supportive, and positive home environment. Affection, especially maternal
affection, can be a buffer against bullying and anger in children with ADHD.

You can help
your child build self-esteem and social skills by teaching strategies for dealing
with anger such as breathing exercises or counting to 10 when they feel angry. Ask
your child’s mental health professional to incorporate more anger management
techniques if necessary. 

One of the
best ways to manage anger and ADHD is to educate teachers and school counselors
about the condition and its symptoms. Stress the importance of using positive
reinforcement in the classroom. If you have an IEP or Section 504 plan, make
sure to incorporate strategies for dealing with anger and discipline.

Cultivating Healthy Social Skills

Friendships can help relieve stress and
build self-esteem. However, children with ADHD are often isolated by their
behavior, and they miss out on the benefits of friendship. Students with ADHD
have trouble reading social cues and resolving conflicts, which makes forming
and maintaining friendships difficult. A lack of friendship means a weaker
social network and fewer opportunities to practice social skills, which can
lead to further negative behavior. Luckily, there are several ways to help
reverse this trend and strengthen your child’s social relationships.

Modeling Appropriate Social Behavior

Practice appropriate social behavior at
home so that your child can follow a good example. Take time to discuss which
behaviors are appropriate and why. For example, discuss why it is rude to
interrupt conversations or cut in line. Tell your child when you’re following
appropriate social cues, so that they can witness it first hand and learn from
the experience.

Parental Training

Studies show that parental training and
education can also help children improve their social skills. Because ADHD runs
in families, it is likely that at least one parent also has ADHD. If this is
the case, get the help you need. If you don’t have ADHD, a parental support
group can teach you ways to manage your child’s inappropriate social behavior.

Set Rules and Follow Them

Have clear rules for behavior in your
home and enforce them. Make sure the rules are simple and positive (for example,
say: “Wait your turn” instead of “No interrupting”). Then, use positive
reinforcement and rewards 

One effective way to reward your child
is to give them a token or poker chip every they follow the rules. When your
child has earned a certain amount of tokens, they can “buy” a reward, such as a
new toy or fun outing. 

Support Positive Behavior at School

Chances are, your child’s classroom has
a list of rules governing behavior. Know what those rules are and support them
at home. Some parents find that a daily behavior chart passed between the
teacher and parent works well. This way, you can reward your child at home for
good behavior in school.

Practice Reading Social Cues

Children with ADHD have trouble
identifying what others expect of them and knowing how to act in social
situations. Try playing games with your child that build awareness. For
example, spend time people watching at a park or other public place. Ask your
child to identify the emotions they see. For children who need help with
conflict resolution, try role playing or discussing hypothetical situations in
which a problem needs to be resolved.

Provide Opportunities for Making Friends

Arrange play dates and give your child opportunities to interact with
other children. Don’t sequester your child just because they have trouble
behaving appropriately or because you fear bullying. If your child is older,
encourage them to join a team sport or after school club where they can meet
other children and get experience working with peers outside of the classroom.

Posted by: Dr.Health

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