We all know that kids often pick on other children. But many of us are surprised that even preschoolers can be bullies. So what can we do about it? Linda Morgan, editor of ParentMap and author of the book, Beyond Smart, shares some ideas.
Why do children this young pick on other kids?
Some of these kids haven’t developed empathy yet and are just starting to understand cause and effect. This is the child who grabs your child’s toy and pushes him to the ground. Others are physically aggressive and some don’t let other kids play or are verbally aggressive - name calling and teasing.
How can we make sure our own kids don’t become bullies?
Talk to them about their feelings and the feelings of other kids; this helps instill empathy in them. Say, would you like someone to act this way toward you?
Create a home environment of tolerance, where differences are celebrated and everyone feels valued. And help them build confidence and develop self-esteem by talking with them, listening to them and giving them positive feedback. You want them to develop a strong sense of themselves.
How do we help our kids if they are the target?
We need to teach them that it’s important to know they can stand up for themselves and that it’s OK to do that. The way kids react to these other aggressive kids can set the tone for future episodes like this. When bullying starts early and if kids don’t stand up for themselves and develop good skills, it becomes likely they will continue to be bullied.
Kids who are being picked on can use strong words, such as “Please stop,” or they can walk away and find their friends; and, if the bullying continues, they should get help from an adult.
What are some tools we can teach our kids to help them stand up to bullies?
Play “what if.” Treat it like a game. Bring up different examples, asking what they would do in certain situations and then talk about it and offer ideas. For example, what would they do if someone took their toy? If someone hit them?
Use strong words. Teach kids to use strong, confident words, such as “Please stop.” Or “I don’t like that.” Or “go away.”
Walk away. Tell your kids to find other kids who are friendly and other places to play. The latest thinking is that ignoring the bully – which we used to tell our kids – doesn’t always work.
Get help. Let them know that if the teasing continues, they should find the teacher or another adult to help them solve the problem.
For more information, go to ParentMap.com.