Bullying and ADHD: A Common and Unfortunate Combination

Bullying and ADHD:  A Common and Unfortunate Combination  

By Mandy Zhang

According to a study from the Journal of Attention Disorders, children with ADHD experience a significant risk of being a victim of bullying, being a bully, or both. In this blog we explore some symptoms of ADHD as well as the common relationship it has with bullying. 

ADHD is short for Attention Deficit Hyper-Activity Disorder, a mental disorder characterized by developmentally inappropriate levels of inattention and/or hyperactive-impulsive behavior.

To be diagnosed, the condition must cause significant impairment in at least two settings, usually at home and at school. Here are some common signs and symptoms of ADHD:


  • Struggles with attention to details or making mistakes in schoolwork or other activities.
  • Difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities.
  • Appearing not to listen when addressed.
  • Failing to follow instructions and to finish schoolwork, chores, etc.
  • Avoiding or reluctantly engaging in tasks that require sustained mental effort.
  • Often loses items necessary for tasks or activities such as books, tools, keys, etc.
  • Often forgetful in daily activities.

Hyperactive and Impulsive behavior:

  • Excessive fidgeting with hands or feet or squirming in seats.
  • Leaving seat often at inappropriate times.
  • Running or climbing at inappropriate times.
  • Often unable to play or engage in leisure activities quietly.
  • Often talks excessively
  • Answering a question before the speaker has finished.
  • Difficulty waiting for their turn.
  • Interrupting or intruding on others at inappropriate times.

Bullying is not just kids being kids. Bullying can be physical, verbal, and social, and often results in emotional damage.

We all have intuitions about bullying, but you might not know all the characteristics and assessment criteria of bullying.

Here are three ways to assess behavior for bullying:

  1. There is an imbalance of power. Bullies often use their power to control or harm others, and those being bullied may have a hard time defending themselves.
  2. There is intent to cause harm. Actions by bullies are meant to hurt others, either physically or mentally.
  3. There is a repetition of the behavior. Often, bullying is aimed at the same person over and over again by the same bullies.

Unfortunately, it is common for children with ADHD to experience bullying. It is vital to know tips to help your child with ADHD due to their increased risk of being bullied or bullying others. A lack of proper social skills in children with ADHD is often at the heart of unwanted attention from bullies. Helping your child avoid bullies through improved social skills can be just as effective as teaching them strategies to address bullying. Below are 6 tips to help your child improve social interactions and avoid bullies (ADDitude Magazine):

  1. If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD, explain it to them in a child-friendly manner, and tell them that it is okay, and there’s nothing “wrong” with them. Then evaluate how aware your child is of their social behaviors including their words and actions.
  2. Encourage your child to recall what was happening right before the bullying started. Doing this will help your child recognize behaviors that may have triggered the bully. Then, ask your child what they might do differently next time to avoid it. By becoming more aware of the trigger, children will find it easier to change their behavior and develop proper social skills.
  3. Equip your child with language tools to defuse the bully. Bullies love arguments, so deflating the argument can take the wind out of their sails. For example, your child might say with a smile, “Okay, you’re the winner. I lose, you win.” However, if your child is struggling with feelings of “being a loser” or letting other people win, more education or conversation might be needed.
  4. Take a video of your child during play dates and then play the recording back for them. You can collaborate with your child to see what social behaviors they may need to change and why. A little role-play could be helpful here!
  5. Because bullying often occurs during sports activities, especially team sports, it may be helpful for a child with ADHD to start with individual sports first, such as skiing, bike riding, skateboarding, etc. One of the biggest components of brain development is body coordination. Sports can help your child build strength and confidence.
  6. Patience, patience, patience. Many children with ADHD have unusual talents, so let’s be patient parents to help our children explore and develop these gifts. We need to trust our children and provide them with our patience and support, so that they can have a nurturing space to develop their skills.

We hope these tips are helpful to parenting your child with ADHD combat bullying. If you find you need extra support, we are always here to provide assistance to you and your children. It is never too late to ask for help!