Preventing Preschool Bullying

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. While most of us assume bullying occurs with older children, the unfortunate truth is that it can happen as early as preschool or kindergarten. As someone who was on the receiving end of bullying as child, I know firsthand how terrifying and lonely it can feel. One of the most important things we can do to make sure our children are not being bullied is to stay involved.  Ask your child questions about school, communicate with the teachers and stay attuned to changes in your child’s behavior. Bullying can create a shift in attitude and if you are aware of changes you might be able to help solve the problem before bullying has long-term effects. This month, Roxanne Taylor, M.Ed. School Counseling, shares some more information on early childhood bullying and suggests some books to help younger children identify their feelings about being bullied.

Continue to stand up to bullying and shine your light –
Aaron Goldschmidt, founder & director

In the second week of the new school year, a teacher friend of mine called to tell me about a problem she was having with two of her students. She said that a boy went up to another boy who recently had his hair shaved very short and said, “Your haircut is f&$%ing ugly.” As a school counselor, I’ve heard kids use a lot of insults on one another, but what surprised me the most about this incident is that my friend teaches kindergarten.

So much of the news focuses on teen bullying (most often in the form of cyber bullying) and many parents don’t realize just how common bullying is among preschool and kindergarten aged children. But when bullying is detected, your child should know that they are loved and supported both at home and at school. As a parent, communicating with the teacher and the school as well as your child is of utmost importance. By understanding how your child feels when he is bullied, you can work together to come up with tools they can use to avoid bullying.

The way you as a parent deal with bullying incidents (whether your child is a bully or being bullied) can have long term effects. This is not meant to scare you, rather it is meant to stress the importance of dealing with bullying at a young age. Long-term effects of bullying can include depression, low self-esteem, an increased rate in school absences, eating disorders, substance abuse, and in extreme cases, even suicide. By focusing on respect, friendship, play, and the importance of community among our children during their preschool years, we can work toward ending bullying in our schools.

For more information about bullying, a useful website to visit is StopBullying.gov. There you can obtain information for kids, teens, and young adults as you learn to recognize the warning signs of bullying and things you can do to stop it. In addition, a few books that may be helpful for your preschool age children include:

Preventing Preschool Bullying

The Juice Box Bully: Empowering Kids to Stand Up for Others by Bob Sornson and Maria Dismondy

Pete was the new kid in school and didn’t think he would fit in and make new friends, so he decided to act out and misbehave instead – he became a bully. But his classmates stood up for what was right and taught him about respecting others and “The Promise”.

The Recess Queen by Alexis O’Neill

Mean Jean was the recess queen… until a new girl came to school. Told with fun rhymes and repetitive words, The Recess Queen offers a fresh take on bullying with a conflict that is resolved without adult intervention, through the power of friendship.

One by Kathryn Otoshi

One shares the story of the color blue and other colors who are intimidated by a bully – the color red – who constantly taunts them. Then One appears and stands up to red, inspiring the other colors to stand up too. One teaches that when it comes to dealing with bullies, “Sometimes it just takes One.”

The Anti-Bullying and Teasing Book: For Preschool Classrooms by Barbara Sprung, Merle Froschl, and Blythe Hinitz

Using activities, the classroom environment, and family involvement, this book aims to develop empathy in children and help foster a sense of respect in the classroom. Activities focus on managing teasing and bullying by promoting the importance of friendship, community, and positive feelings.

By Roxanne Taylor, M.Ed. School Counseling, Head Counselor, Diocese of Tucson Coordinated Health and San Miguel High School

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