September 2022 Young Children Newsletter
What is bullying in preschool?
Preschool bullying is more than garden-variety childhood insensitivity, occasionally teasing or fighting. The American Academy of Pediatrics describes bullying as consistently picking on another child who’s usually smaller, weaker or shy, and who usually gets upset or gives in to the bully.
Most people think of the physical aggression and social sniping that characterizes bullying as starting around late elementary school and stretching through high school. But, believe it or not, bullying among preschoolers is more common than you think. Because the behavior is typically associated with older kids, it is often overlooked during the younger years, when it’s hard to tell the difference between normal social experimentation and emergent bullying behavior.
A young child may be being bullied if he:
- is suddenly scared to go to preschool
- complains of headaches or stomachaches for no reason
- is clingy and whiny
- comes home with unexplained injuries
- is withdrawn or depressed
- talks about one particular child doing mean things to him
- has trouble concentrating
- avoids eye contact when you ask him about school
What’s a parent to do if bullying may be at play in your child’s preschool? Here’s how concerned parents should handle the situation:
- Communication is Key. If you suspect your child is being bullied at preschool, let him know that you can help with the situation if he tells you what’s happening. If your youngster seems scared or embarrassed, use books as a nonthreatening way to open the lines of communication. Some children’s books that address the topic of bullying include “Shrinking Violet” by Cari Best (Melanie Kroupa Books, 2001), and “Myrtle” by Tracey Campbell Pearson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004). Once your child discloses all the details about being bullied, stay calm, avoid judging, and reassure him that you’ll help put a halt to the bullying.
- Talk to the Teacher. “Even though adults are always present in preschool and daycare settings, with so many kids running around, it’s not realistically possible for teachers to see everything.” says retired pre-kindergarten teacher Tricia Young. And since bullies prefer to strike when adults aren’t watching, it’s important to talk to your child’s teacher and make him/her aware of the situation so he/she can be more vigilant with supervision.
- Take Advantage of Open Doors. Most reputable daycare centers and preschools have an open door policy which allows parents to drop by anytime (as long as they’re not disruptive) during normal hours. So make periodic unannounced visits to your child’s classroom. These surprise visits will keep the preschool staff on their toes and reduce the likelihood of your child being tormented by a bully.
- Schedule a Parenting Conference. When young children bully, the behavior is often learned from experiences in the home such as domestic abuse, inappropriate television shows, hearing siblings ridicule others, or being victims of bullying themselves. So work with your child’s preschool administrators to set up a meeting with the bully’s parents to bring the behavior to their attention – but don’t be surprised if the parents are uncooperative, nonchalant, or in denial.
- Bully-Proof Your Child. Give your child the tools he/she needs to handle a bully. Teach him/her how to stand tall, look the bully in the eye, tell an adult, and avoid being alone. You can also empower your child by role-playing with him/her so he/she can practice what one is going to do next time one is approached by a bully. Confident children are less likely to be targeted by bullies, so find ways to build your child’s self-esteem. You can help your child develop friendships outside of preschool and get involved in confidence-boosting activities.
- Consider Changing Classrooms Sometimes bullying can be so aggressive that your efforts to stop it are unsuccessful. So if you’re getting nowhere, talk to the preschool director about having your child moved to another classroom. If this is not feasible, consider removing your youngster from the school.
WHAT CAN KIWANIS CLUBS DO TO HELP?
- Educate the public that preschool bullying is real.
- Have speakers present expertise and suggestions to assist your club in helping in your community.
- Work with the early childhood programs in your community to promote anti-bulling curriculum in their facilities.
For more information and resources:
Ava Adams, District Chair
Young Children Committee
New England and Bermuda District