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Preschool Bullying

It May Come as a Shock to Many Parents to Learn that Bullying Happens in Preschool


ByKaren Kondor

If you and your child are lucky enough to have avoided bullying to date, you may be thinking, "What? Bullying exists at the Preschool level?" However, if your child has experienced bullying in a preschool setting (daycare, preschool, play group, and so on), you know that unfortunately, the answer is "Yes." In some cases, the behavior is a precursor to more serious forms of bullying that crop up during the school-aged year, but other times, it is full-blown verbal, psychological or physical bullying. Remember that there is a difference between play, which builds imagination, develops coordination, and teaches children about rules and responsibility, and bullying, which is chronic, frequent behavior that has, at its core, the intention to harm and intimidate.

So, what do you do if your preschool aged child is being bullied? Here are a few tips:

  1. Talk with your child. Let them know that you can't help them unless you know about the situation. Listen to their stories and feelings, while being non-judgemental and calm. Remember that there are always two sides to every story.

  2. Approach a caregiver at your child's preschool setting. Ask her if she noticed any inappropriate interactions between your child and the bully. Tell her your side of the story, and confirm the facts. Ask for her advice, and request that they communicate your concerns with all caregivers in the program. Follow up with any of the caregivers a few days later to see if any conflicts occurred, and ask them how they handled it.

  3. Work with the caregivers to put an action plan into place. It may take anywhere from several days to several weeks to determine if there is a problem, and how severe the problem is. When it becomes clear that a problem exists, make an appointment to sit down with your child's caregivers and develop a plan to resolve the conflicts. The plan should include appropriate consequences, notification of all parties involved (including the bully's parents), and ways to encourage appropriate behavior.

  4. Help your child develop friendships. Find a child in the preschool setting that your child is friendly with. Invite him and his parent(s) to your home for a play date. Encouraging friendships will prevent your child from becoming withdrawn, which may result in increased instances of bullying, since bullies like to bother children who are solitary. - Preschool Bullying
Anissa Thompson

And what if your child is identified as the bully? Here are some things you can do:

  1. Don't deny that there is a problem. Ignoring a problem rarely makes it go away, and often exacerbates it. Your child may not be entirely to blame; but he or she is definitely part of the equation, and problems can't be solved without all parts of the equation being satisfied. Minimizing the importance of the issue sends a message to your child that being inconsiderate of other people's feelings is acceptable.

  2. Look for the source. Have your child's speech and hearing checked to ensure that he is not frustrated by not being able to communicate easily. Give plenty of attention for good behavior so that he doesn't feel as though he needs to act out to get your attention. Ensure there is routine in your child's day, and that he doesn't experience too many changes in residence, routines and authority figures. Reduce the number of aggressive examples in your child's life -- violent examples in today's society can only be blamed for our children's poor behavior if parents let those examples be their children's babysitters.

  3. Talk with your child. Listen to their stories and feelings. Remember that there are always two sides to every story. Document specific aspects of the behaviour so that you have the necessary information to help you and your child to work towards a solution.

  4. Encourage and model empathy. Bullies often lack the feeling of empathy. When discussing specific incidents, ask your child to put themselves in the other child's shoes. Use short, clear sentences to describe how other children feel. For example, "When you hit Billy, it hurts him." Or, "How would you feel if Joey called you names?"

  5. Brainstorm reparations and focus on accountability. Ask your child to help you understand what they did that caused harm to another, and why they behaved in that manner. Then, work with your child to develop meaningful ways to show he or she is sorry for what they did. Simply saying sorry is not enough; they must state what they are sorry for, and what they are going to do in the future to make amends.

Whether your child is a bully or a target of bullying, the way you handle the incidents will have a long term effect on all of the parties involved. It may take a great deal of time and effort on your part to prevent preschool children from growing into school-aged bullies, but it is worth it. You have the ability to reduce the negative long-term effects of bullying which include, but are not limited to depression, suicide, eating disorders, substance abuse and school shootings. At the same time, you can encourage an increase in the incidence of respectful, caring and appropriate behavior, which allows children to focus on the art of play in their preschool years.

Karen Kondor is a Certified Olweus Trainer with Find Your Voice, a bullying prevention and intervention consulting provider.


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