How to Reduce Bullying in Preschool

As much as we try to protect our children, studies show that more than half will experience bullying at some point in their lives. Bullying can take place as early as preschool and as a teacher or director, it is important that you take actions early on in order to prevent bullying. In this post, we’ll discuss bullying: how to recognize it, prevent it, and what to do if bullying does occur at your preschool.

What is bullying?

Unlike occasional pushing or hitting, bullying is repeated hitting, chasing, threatening, name-calling, teasing, and excluding, as well as taking another child’s belongings. Although play can sometimes get rough, bullying is done with the intention of deliberately hurting someone, or to gain more power and control.

What can I do to prevent it?

  • Create an environment where it is safe to have feelings. Teach children the words for different emotions and help them understand that feeling angry or disappointed is acceptable, but hitting or hurting another person is not. Teach children to express their feeling using words rather than hitting.
  • Allow children to solve some of their problems themselves to develop their social problem solving skills, but keep a reasonable standard of behavior in mind. If a child takes toys away from others, intervene.
  • Discuss differences and build empathy. Discuss how children who are bullied might feel. Explain that despite our differences, everyone experiences certain basic feelings.
  • Keep boredom at bay by keeping kids busy with activities. If you see an empty-handed child, get them involved since busy kids have more interesting things to do than fight with each other.
  • Provide an outlet for getting children’s energy out. Set a time for running, jumping, yelling, climbing, throwing and kicking to blow off some steam.
  • Teach children to assert themselves. Set limits beyond those required for safety and teach children to say “stop” in friendly situations. That will prepare them to say “stop” when play gets out of hand or when they are confronted by a bully.
  • Offer choices. If you give children the opportunity to choose and respect the decisions they make, they will gain confidence in their own decision-making ability.
  • Reinforce positive behavior. Show children the behavior you want them to imitate. Point out children who are playing well together or who are taking turns.

What to do if bullying occurs?

  • Intervene at the first sign of bullying. Explain that harmful behavior is never acceptable. Offer support to the victim and help the aggressive child develop socials skills.
  • Meet separately with the parents of both children to discuss things they can do at home. Address concerns in writing. End the meeting with a plan for how to manage the situation.
  • Address the underlying cause for bullying. Children who express themselves by being repeatedly hurtful, are crying out for adults to investigate their underlying needs and challenges.
  • Examine adult behaviors by both teachers and parents for the use of yelling, shaming, threatening, and/or punishing in interactions with children and eliminate bullying by adults.
  • Teach children empathy, how to get along well with others and how to respect each other.

Have you had issues with bullying behavior in the classroom? How did you remedy the situation? Do you have any of your own tips on how to best prevent bullying?

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References:
Donato, Ingrid and Ron Slaby. “Teaching Social Skills to Prevent Bullying in Young Children.” (Jan 3, 2013).  Stopbullying.gov. Link.
Evans, Betsy.  “Bullying: Can It Begin in Preschool?”  High Scope Extensions Newsletter. Vol. 25, No. 3 Link.
“Responding to Bullying.”  A Place of Our Own. Link.
Schroeder, Janice.  (2000) Preschool bullying: What you can do about it: A guide for parents and caregivers. Revised 2006 by The Society for Safe and Caring Schools and Communities. Link.

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