SpEd teacher seeks help with bullying student

QUESTION: I’m a new SpEd teacher and I have a problem my 10-year-old student who is a bully. He has ADHD and he doesn’t treat his classmates right. He pushes them, he screams at them. We have tried to reprimand him but he still continues to bully. How can I handle this situation? Please help. — Teacher Kelly

Bullying has always been a problem in schools. Administrators, teachers and parents and the school community must work together to stop bullying and make the school child friendly.

Children with ADHD have often been associated with aggression, anxiety, depression, peer rejection, intrusiveness, inappropriateness, disorganization, compulsivity, uncooperativeness and being bossy in their peer relationships. There are several reasons why ADHD shows these behaviors but it must not be tolerated as like bullies in the regular school, their behavior can be modified, decreased and extinguished.

A material on resource for handling behavior at school and at home (the Master Teacher, Inc.) has been our guide in utilizing strategies on challenging behaviors. These include behavior modification, Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), positive behavior support, and functional analysis of the behavior.


As the behavior is analyzed, a clearer picture will surface of what is happening to the child’s emotional and social life. You may study and adopt these strategies and include it in the individualized educational program of the child.

Below is a guide on how behavior of children who tend to become a bully can be analyzed:

Behavior: List down the specific attitudes and actions of child at home and in school.

Effects: List down how behavior affects teachers, classmates, and parents in school and at home.

Action: Identify causes of misbehavior. Pinpoint student needs being revealed. Employ specific methods, procedures, and techniques at school and at home for getting the child to modify or change his/her behavior.


Attention - This student is an attention seeker and enjoys the attention he/she gets from peers and adults.

Power -This student demonstrates power by his/her ability to physically hurt others. Being physical gives him/her a feeling of being in control.

Self-Confidence -The bully usually knows that hurting is wrong, but being physically strong makes him/her somebody-it improves a poor self-concept.


1. Design a behavior modification plan. List down the challenging behavior of the child and in each behavior write down the alternative or the positive behavior that he should show. Example.” I shout when I want to get something” — the corresponding positive behavior is “When I want to get something, I will ask permission with a soft voice from my teacher”.

Include positive reinforcement for good behavior and negative reinforcement for unacceptable behavior. Discuss with the student what the specific consequences will it be.

2. Establish a one-to-one relationship with the child. Be gentle rather than tough. The child can’t fight gentleness, and this is what he/she really wants. Encourage him/her to say to others, “My teacher won’t let me fight.” Praise him/her for appropriate behavior continually.

3. Design activities which will bring out his/her leadership and strengths in a positive way. However, be sure to make success or failure “safe” when you do.

4. Show the student that you care about, respect, and trust him/her. All students need unconditional love. Let the student know that you like him/her, but that you dislike the behavior. A student of mine said, “I am a bad boy, but you still love me”. Assuring him that he is loved as a person but his challenging behavior is unacceptable, change happened.

5. Discuss the problem with parents. However, make sure the student attends any private conference. If you don’t, a credibility gap may develop between you and the student. If the case of the child’s behavior is severe, get a professional help.

6. Let the student know that bullying can’t be tolerated-no matter what you think of him/her. The child must be aware of your respect for people. Therefore, make sure you don’t do anything which could be considered “bullying,” or abusing power. Avoid labeling.

7. Athletics are a good outlet for this behavior. Let the P.E. teacher help you. Instill pride in a student; a teacher must give him/her personal success and meaningful accomplishments.COMMON MISTAKES

Common misjudgments and errors in managing the child which may perpetuate or intensify the problem:

1. Teachers or parents saying, “People on’t like you when you act that way.” This is exactly what the bully wants because it gives him/her the desired attention. We fail to recognize that this child will pay any price for attention.

2. Publicly putting down a bully or publicly showing pride or pleasure in his/her physical victories.

3. Treating the bully inconsistently.

4. Reacting personally and making threats in an attempt to change behavior.

5. Attacking the individual and not the behavior.

6. Failing to reinforce positive behavior of the bully.

7. Overlooking his/her potential.

8. Excluding the bully.

9. Protecting others, but never protecting the bully.

10. Getting into a value argument with parents over whether fighting is “right” or “wrong.”TEACHERS ACT

Teachers serve on the front line in the campaign against bullying. Here are some tips you can use to keep bullying at bay: (Dr. Mac’s self-help book The Behavior Survival Guide for Kids)

1. Discuss the rules with the students, or better yet, involve them in making the rules. Students are more likely to abide by and promote rules they helped to create.

2. The rules should be written in a positive manner. Instead of focusing on what the students should NOT do, give them rules that identify the desired behavior. Design with the student a behavior modification plan.

3. When making rules, it’s also a good idea to discuss the consequences for failing to follow them. Create consequences that will help the bully to learn pro-social skills. The consequences should be something functional. For example “When I’m angry, I will use I messages to express my feelings.” The bully should be taught to accept responsibility for his/her actions, and engage in more appropriate actions. Look into some of the Social Stories that can help the child manage his behavior.

4. Hold regular classroom meetings so that students and teachers can clarify or change bully-related rules if necessary. Sometimes rules also have to be modified because of that uniqueness.

5. Develop and/or use a curriculum and materials that actively promote positive assertiveness, communication, respect for others, camaraderie and friendship within the classroom.

6. Talk regularly with parents and inform them of how their child is behaving and performing school. Inform parents of any bullying occurring to or from their child, and discuss how actions taken to help their child are or are not working.


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