|December 2009 Newsletter|
|Saturday, 09 January 2010 09:26|
Bullying in Preschool and Daycare Age Children
As I search the net for articles on Bullying in Preschool in preparation for an upcoming Keynote address I am giving for the “Children of the Heart” conference in February, I am struck by two things.
1. Bullying doesn’t change, no matter what the age
2. Developmental development SHOULD be a part of the conversation when talking about Bullying in Preschool and daycare age children, but our expectations should not change
Yes, 4 year old children can bully very successfully. Remember these facts about bullying:
* bullying is about power and control
* bullying can be physical, emotional, verbal or relational
* bullying is mean spirited, intentional and cruel
* bullying is meant to hurt, embarrass and/or exclude another person
Little children are very literal in their expressive emotions. Physical reactions that get the attention of others require no language for a child to express him or herself. The message sent is clear: if you mess with me I will hurt you. While it is most likely that this message is not premeditated, kids that hurt others physically are to be avoided. Some children choose to make friends with the bully because they believe that the friendship will keep them safe, and this rationalization sometimes pays off.
So given that young children react with actions first before they use their words, that young children enter preschool and daycare programs with language already in place that is meant to exclude, embarrass, hurt or humiliate others, and that young children who bully do not often have the developmental maturity to understand empathy for others. What do we do with young children who display bullying traits, knowing that, developmentally, they are not really capable of empathetic responses? We teach, re-teach, model and re-teach again. We give them examples, we talk about it, we read stories about appropriate reactions to common situations, we provide the youngsters with clear boundaries and expectations, and we give them the words and understanding they will need to begin to empathize with others. We never give up, and we always believe that they will get there. Here’s how to begin.
1. Begin to build a library of emotional literacy words and expressions for the children to use. To do this, you need to choose up to 9 emotion words that can be used to identify a range of emotions. Children’s books are a great way to introduce these words. Then ask the children to make their bodies (faces in particular) say what they are feeling. Start with extremes:
2. Gather children’s books that provide common examples of stories with a moral component where the characters make the right decision, even though other choices would be easier.
3. Retell stories of the classroom where the children have worked out a challenging situation.
4. Ask parents to use the same emotion words at home in order to reinforce the learning.
By using these visual, verbal and emotional strategies and keeping the expectations high and consistent, the children will feel safe and confident, which makes it easier for them to make the right decision, and more receptive to corrective actions.