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Identifying Preschool Bullying

Bullying Girl

Bullying. The word alone sounds ugly and twisted. It’s a scary topic that needs to be addressed, loudly and clearly, not just by parents or teachers, but by all human beings. Sadly, bullying exists everywhere around us and, believe it or not, is common at the preschool and daycare level. What can we, as guardians of our future generations, do to help prevent bullying and quash it before it grows into something big and out of hand? People, let’s talk.

Bullying in Preschool? That’s Got to Be a Misprint!

According to the Government of Canada website, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research compiled recent Canadian Bullying Statistics and the results are shocking. Furthermore, in a Canadian research article entitled Bully/Victim Problems Among Preschool Children it explains that “preschool may be the first context beyond the home environment where children’s difficulties in social interactions with peers can be primarily detected and assessed by adults and professionals.” If you’re up for an informative read on this subject, the paper reviews recent empirical evidence on the nature of bullying among preschool children and its different aspects.

Addressing the Big Picture: What is Bullying?

What’s the first step to addressing preschool bullying? It’s to understand what it is exactly and be able to quickly identify it. At the preschool level, it seems almost superficial, like teasing. We’ve all been teased at some point in our lives and can surely attest to the negative feelings it carries. What we need to look out for are the kids that repeatedly tease others. Repeated teasing quickly turns into bullying. Bullying is beyond any child-initiated conflict resolution situation.

Keep these things in mind when assessing a situation with preschoolers:

When a child does or says something UNINTENTIONALLY hurtful, and they do it ONCE, that’s considered RUDE.

When a child does or says something INTENTIONALLY hurtful, and they do it ONCE, that’s considered MEAN.

When a child does or says something INTENTIONALLY hurtful, and they STILL KEEP DOING IT- even when they are told to stop or can see that who they are saying this to is upset- that’s BULLYING. Period.

How to Spot the Signs of Bullying in Children Under Five:

There is no single way to tell if a child is being bullied. In fact, at the preschool level, it’s a lot harder to detect with children under five since it’s often quite subtle. The way a child reacts will depend on how bad the bullying is, as well as the child’s personality. Here are some red flags to look out for:

1) Physical signs: cuts, bruises, scratches. A change in sleeping habits and/or bedwetting.

2) Signs of not wanting to go to preschool or daycare. This may manifest as verbally refusing to go, or increased anxiety or fights getting out the door in the morning.

3) Parents and teachers may notice a child being “needy” or “clingy” or clearly scared. They may seem withdrawn and refuse to participate in activities and prefer to sit alone.

4) Some emotional clues may be notable anxiety, unhappiness, distress, depression or tears. The child may seem to have become withdrawn or become secretive. Sudden changes in a child’s behavior, such as being quick to anger or becoming worried at the end of weekends, are also red flags.

In some other cases, a child may simply bring up what’s going on at preschool. They may talk about how they’re being made fun of by someone, laughed at, teased, taunted or threatened. Bullying can also manifest as being purposely excluded when it comes to playing or activities.

My Child is Being Bullied! What Should I Do???

If you suspect your child is being bullied at preschool, bring it up with their teacher IMMEDIATELY. This is a serious problem, so consider requesting a private talk with them. A definite plan of action needs to be set in motion in order to eliminate the issue. What else can you do? You can also request that the other child (or children’s) parent(s) be present during the meeting. It’s a lot easier to tackle the issue when all parties are involved in the solution.