Helping young children understand bullying can be difficult at times. It’s easy to classify any mean act in this category, but there are a few things we can do to help children assimilate this concept. Preschool age children are fast learners and easily adapt to new situations with proper guidance and care.
Listed below are eight suggestions to help preschoolers develop a solid understanding of bullying:
- Focus on teaching the concept of what a good friend is. Talk with young children about sharing toys, including others, and showing empathy. Encourage them to reflect on a time their feelings were hurt by teasing, or being excluded from play, and when someone is aggressive toward them. Instructing children about what it means to be a friend will help halt bullying behaviors.
- Practice positive techniques for your preschooler to make friends. Teach them how to ask others to play, focus on taking turns, and model friendly behaviors.
- Explain consequences of aggressive or unfriendly behaviors in ways they can comprehend. A good example of this method is to share how some children may not want to play with them if they are mean, unwilling to share, or are bossy.
- Create simple, clear rules for a preschooler’s behavior. Simple phrases like, “hands are for helping, not hitting” and other phrases will help a child know what is expected. Supervise group situations carefully and reiterate the rules as needed.
- Look for age-appropriate consequences for bullying behaviors. Teach children to say “I’m sorry” and look for ways to mend the situation. An example is if a child accidentally smashes a sand castle at the park- have them apologize and help rebuild.
- Use “two stars and a wish”. To prevent a child from constantly hearing the word “no” or having only negative interactions, try to notice two or more things a child is doing correctly and include one thing they can work on.
- Avoid labeling a child as a “bully”. Bullying is a set of behavior problems that need addressed. When we give a label to a child it has a tendency to follow the child or encourage him or her to meet those expectations.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics suggest preschoolers limit their daily screen time between one and two hours. If you allow your child access to television, Internet, apps, and games make sure you know what topics are being exposed and that it is displaying healthy friendships and peer interactions. Monitor a preschoolers internet and cell phone activity regularly.
Playing Today, Preparing For Tomorrow
There is a reason educators, doctors, and researchers stress taking advantage of the rapid brain development to learn new skills and functions. What a child learns today will help them become successful adults later. Inevitably, children will encounter “mean kids” or bullies at some point in their lives. Whether it is on the playground, in class, or at work they will need the necessary skills to handle these type of scenarios.
As parents, we need to take the time to instill good friendship qualities and help them understand inappropriate behaviors, like bullying, early in life.