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Bullying and ADHD

As we escort our little ones to their first day in Kindergarten or first grade, we naturally worry about their behavior when we walk away. Will they fit in? Will they be bullied or, more worrisome, will they be bullies themselves? Aggression is often a symptom of ADHD but children who suffer from this condition can be helped before they form a pattern that follows them into adulthood.

There are tons of ways to help young ones with ADHD and the most important step is to identify the symptoms. Often caretakers and teachers are overwhelmed with an annual tidal wave of tiny tots who all demand attention. As a parent, it’s up to you to identify if your child may exhibit symptoms of ADHD:

• daydream a lot
• forget or lose things a lot
• squirm or fidget
• talk too much
• make careless mistakes or take unnecessary risks
• have a hard time resisting temptation
• have trouble taking turns
• have difficulty getting along with others

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) also outlines three basic types of ADHD which may help a parent to diagnose a problem:

• Predominantly Inattentive Presentation: It is hard for the individual to organize or finish a task, to pay attention to details, or to follow instructions or conversations. The person is easily distracted or forgets details of daily routines.
• Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation: The person fidgets and talks a lot. It is hard to sit still for long (e.g., for a meal or while doing homework). Smaller children may run, jump or climb constantly. The individual feels restless and has trouble with impulsivity. Someone who is impulsive may interrupt others a lot, grab things from people, or speak at inappropriate times. It is hard for the person to wait their turn or listen to directions. A person with impulsiveness may have more accidents and injuries than others.
• Combined Presentation: Symptoms of the above two types are equally present in the person.

According to a recent study, a child with ADHD is three times more likely to bully other kids than a child without the condition. According to Robert Sege, M.D., Ph.D., professor of pediatrics at Tufts University School of medicine, there are several ways to derail bullying before it becomes a personality trait:

Don’t accuse your child of bullying and don’t yell. Calmly ask for your child’s side of the story and don’t expect a confession. Remind them of how they felt when someone was cruel to them.

Give her something constructive to do. “Bullies are natural leaders” says Dr. Sege. He suggests asking the teacher to assign tasks such as starting a playground clean-up crew when a child acts up.

Prevent bullying before it starts. Find out where the bullying occurs and if you can separate your child from his target. If need be, make sure your child plays on in a well-supervised area.

Help your child control her emotions. Dr. Alan Kazdin, Ph.D., director of the Parenting Center and Child Conduct Clinic at Yale University, advises role playing. “Say: ‘I love you and think you’re wonderful, but I’m going to taunt you as part of a game. No matter what I say, ignore me and don’t get aggressive’” Praise them when they don’t rise to the bait.

Don’t ever feel like you’re a bad parent. Don’t take the defensive when a teacher calls about your child’s aggressive behavior. Instead, gather all the information you can about the incident so that you can deal with the situation realistically.

The cardinal rule to remember is that the more secure your child feels, the less likely he or she will bully others tomorrow on the playground or far into the future under less controlled circumstances.