Recently, I’ve done a bit of research on preschool bullying. A few years ago when I first began looking into it, I found little to support this idea. However, now the preschool years are considered to be a place where the first warning signs may be seen.
I would be hard-pressed to call some aggressive impulsive behaviors true bullying. Bullies must have some level of social perception, an ability to predict a victim’s reaction and make adjustments to see if they can be overpowered.
I do agree it is possible to see some of the early signs of future bullying such as intentional harm to others, lack of empathy, and striking on weaker individuals. However, it’s important to remember that preschoolers in general are starting to understand empathy and the bigger social picture.
As a parent, you may have had concerns about a child in your son or daughter’s preschool or day care class. Or possibly someone has told you that your young child has been bullying others. While this is obviously concerning, it’s important to remember that kids’ minds are still quite flexible at this stage of development. They are learning and absorbing so much, and as adults we must really try not to label them too strongly.
Preschoolers who show bullying behaviors can benefit from many of the methods used with older children – taking them away from the situation, telling them clearly what they did wrong, keeping close supervision, etc. And consequences can be useful at this age, too.
However, preschoolers cannot be expected to understand as much about social self-management as a nine-year-old would or a twelve-year-old would. They still need to be taught and redirected on a regular basis, even those who aren’t showing bullying behaviors.
Readers, have you seen bullying behaviors in your children at a preschool age? Has another child shown these behaviors towards one of your children at that age? What did you do?
<UPDATE> Thank you so much to everyone who has written in so far. There’s already been a huge response and I thank you for sharing your stories and thoughts!
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Last reviewed: 1 Feb 2012