We have a family friend stay with us. She has 4 kids. Two teenage boys (17 and 14) and two younger kids (8 yo boy and 6 yo girls). All kids except the 17 year old has been diagnosed with ADHD. The 14 year old regularly displays bullying behavior (physical and psychological) towards the two younger kids. He would laugh when he would get a reaction from the younger kids (most of the time they end up crying bc they would be physically hurt). We all went to the beach together and my daughter had build some sand structures and when the younger girl started to destroy it, my daughter cried and asked her to stop. She stopped but the 14 yo came over and stomped all over the structure. My daughter was beside herself and really started to cry.

I basically saw the whole thing unfold and told the 14 yo that he should have chosen better actions bc he was older than the kids he was upsetting.

Is there an ADHD factor here that is behind the bullying behavior or behind how the bullying behavior makes him feel? He seems be be getting some sort of ‘satisfaction’ from pushing the younger kids’ buttons.

Only the mom was with us and she would talk to him about his behavior and would ask him to stop.

He somehow knows boundaries bc he doesn’t do that with the adults and generally not with his older brother.

How should I have handled the situation at the beach? How should I handle the future incidents? The mom is a good family friend and we want to spend time with them, but there is just toxic energy there.

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    probably not a popular opinion, but don't appease kids completely just because they have something like ADHD. I have a cousin with something like that... at her home she walks all over her 3 younger siblings and the mother because she gets the special treatment due to her ADHD... i don't do that and while babysitting her she always listens and plays nice with her siblings. Kids are smarter then you think, if you give them to much of a special treatment they will use it to manipulate you. If talking to them doesn't work, punish them... otherwise they will never change...
    – A.bakker
    Commented Aug 16, 2021 at 7:45
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    It’s tricky bc the parent is always present so I feel like I can’t really overstep their authority.
    – milesmeow
    Commented Aug 16, 2021 at 21:27

1 Answer 1


The usual rule for dealing with someone elses kids applies here as well:

ask the parents what you can do to help raising their kids.

It highly depends on your relationship with the parents and what they expect/need. With 3 hyperactive kids it is pretty safe to assume that the mother is tired of always dealing with those troublemakers and could use some help. By asking her first you can make sure that you get on the same page about what to do in most situations, and in the best case the mother can actually tell the children that they have to listen to you too.

The mother can probably also tell you which kinds of punishments/rewards will and wont work for her children, and probably which kinds would work if done consistently but she gave up because it is just too draining to keep doing it correctly.

Is there an ADHD factor here that is behind the bullying behavior or behind how the bullying behavior makes him feel?

Having ADHD is no excuse to behave badly. It does make it more difficult for the child to think before acting, so they will have to put in more effort than the neurotipical kids.

A little anecdote my friend told me about their 5yo with ADHD. Their child was climbing on a chair and at one point you could tell she was thinking "what would happen if instead of feet first I go down the chair with my head first?". So the mother calmly tried to warn said child to be careful getting down the chair or you'll fall on your head which is going to hurt. The child however seemed to somehow be compelled to actually try for herself what would happen despite the warning and went down head first ... obviously ending in a crying child (potentially with a bloody nose, our friend spared us the details of the aftermath).

Most other (non ADHD) children would still try to go down head first but take a lot more precautions while doing it, like going really slow, placing hands beforehand, ...

Stories like that (there are more) show that this child with ADHD often knows what she is about to do is wrong, but can't stop herself from still trying. She did learn not to do specific things eventually (like don't bite someone) but it took more effort to teach her those things than you would expect of a typical child.

My advice on how to deal with children with ADHD is to expect that it'll take you more effort to teach them how to behave but that they are fully capable of doing so in the end. Be sure to not see it as something wrong with them, only a little different needing an aproach tailered to them. Just like how some children are bad at math and others have trouble pronouncing words correctly. They all are capable of growing up to be examplary adults, but their needs as a child are vastly different.

  • You have some good points here. I think patience is a big one. I have to tell my kids 100 times before it even makes an impression so I can imagine that it will take more for kids with different levels of ADHD.
    – milesmeow
    Commented Aug 18, 2021 at 7:08

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