Bullying at Kindergarten
Bullying is something all of us remember from primary school and high school, but should we be worried about bullying at Kindergarten? And what can we do about it?
What is bullying?
The Ministry of Education states that children are being bullied when they are being repeatedly and intentionally harmed or excluded by an indivual or group. It can be obvious, such as hitting an name calling, or hidden, such as excluding and manipulating.
Single acts of aggression or harm are not concidered bullying. They are a normal part of learning and development. Bullying is not.
How do I know if my child is being bullied?
Most young children will tell their parents and teachers if they are feeling hurt or threatened, but even young children can hide the fact that they are being bullied from their parents.
They probably feel hurt and ashamed, and might not want to talk about it. NAEYC's article on Bullying in Early Childood suggests that you might notice a change in your childs behavior, such as becoming more withdrawn and less happy, or they may be more resistent to going to Kindy in the morning.
If you notice changes such as these, it might be bullying.
What should I do if my child is being bullied?
Talk to your child. Wait for a time when you are connecting well. Make sure you’ve got plenty of time and space to talk, and then gently raise your concerns. You could try telling them a story about when you or someone else felt bullied, so they know they are not alone.
Ministry of Education guidelines recommend you talk to the Kindergarten. Most early childhood teachers are excelent at picking up on bullying behaviors, and they may already have an idea of whats going on for your child. You can let them know your concerns, and talk through how the Kindergarten responds to these things.
Finally, we think it’s helpful and fun to practice setting healthy boundaries with your child, so they don’t feel as helpless. A firm ‘stop!, I don’t like that’, for example, can empower your child to stand-up to bullies in a constructive way. We did this with our son when we were concerned about him being bullied, and he really got in to it.
What if my child is being the bully?
Some children are more likely to be bullies at pre-school, and, according to NAEYC's article, the research suggests bullies in early childhood are generally the more popular kids with a strong friend group. Experts suggest the best way to stamp out bullying behavior is to teach emotional regulation and pro-social skills. This can be done through:
- Modelling: By far the most effective way to teach your children respectful communication is to practice it at home. If mum and dad are respectful and caring with each other, and with the kids, then they will model this.
- Talk and Listen: If you see your child acting out a bullying behavior, then get curious about what is going on for them at the time, while making it clear it is not acceptable. Avoid shaming, and remember the best time to let them know you are concerned is when they are calm and feeling connected.
- Reward good behavior: Every time you see your child being friendly, inclusive, sharing, or other prosocial behavior, let them know you’re proud of them.
If the behavior persists or worsens, talk to the Kindergarten. They may recommend that your child be assessed by a psychologist, to see what may be causing them to act out.
Author: Parent Village aims to provide useful research based information to parents and caregivers.
Ministry of Education (n.d). Bullying. Retrieved from https://parents.education.govt.nz/secondary-school/wellbeing/bullying/
Katz, B. (n.d). My Child is a Bully, What Should I Do?. Retrieved from https://childmind.org/article/what-to-do-if-your-child-is-bullying/
Snow, K. (2014). Bullying in Early Childhood. Retrieved from https://www.naeyc.org/resources/blog/bullying-early-childhood