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Helping Young Children Understand Bullying

Early childhood is a magical time for children. Our sons and daughters are mobile and exploring their world for the first time with a zeal for life that is often unmatched. This is also the stage of development where most young children are exposed to peers and encouraged to interact with each other on a more intimate level.

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Typically, between the ages of three and five children have to learn how engage with others, cooperate, communicate emotions, and share toys on a regular basis. Preschoolers are just like everyone else; and when learning new behaviors there will be hiccups along the way. This stage of learning social skills is often marked with aggression and acting out if a child doesn’t get what they desire.

There will be tantrums, arguments, and not-so-nice comments along this journey. Even though this behavior is easy to label as bullying, that is not always the case. Parents need to be aware of normal behaviors, aggressive behaviors, and ways to help children understand bullying at this young age.

How to Understand Preschool Bullies

Not all aggressive behaviors exhibited by our preschoolers are considered bullying. All children will struggle at some point with expressing their feelings, because they haven’t developed these skill sets in the self-awareness or conversation arenas yet. It is common for a wide variety of bullying behaviors to be exhibited in the preschool sect. However, it can be difficult for parents to discern the difference of bullying or immature communication skills.

It is important for parents to know that aggressive behaviors in preschoolers aren’t classified as traditional bullying. Bullying behaviors are easily redirected at this age, but if left uncorrected they can begin a pattern of future bullying. Only when the behaviors become deliberate and are consistently repeated to inflict harm or frighten a peer will they be considered true bullying.

Amy Kristine Williams

Amy Williams is a freelance journalist based in Southern California and mother of two. As a parent, she enjoys spreading the word on positive parenting techniques in the digital age and raising awareness on issues like cyberbullying and online safety.
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15 comments

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  • It’s so hard when the kids are bullied. My daughter went through it for awhile and it leaves you feeling so helpless.

  • our grand-daughter will be in first grade this year and we have struggled with bullies all ready in life but somehow we always make it through

  • Preschoolers definitely seem to have less of a filter. I guess they just haven’t learned that many ways of expressing themselves so tantrums and aggression can seem like bullying behavior.

  • It’s such a sad thing to know bullying is starting at such a young age. It truly needs to stop and parents need to teach their children that bullying is wrong.

  • I really really get upset about bullying and how times have changed. I am so glad to see folks like yourself blogging so parents know what to watch for.

  • It is so traumatic when a child gets bullied — both for the child and the parents. I’m so glad there is more awareness now and hopefully that will start to make a difference.

  • Bullying is such a huge issue. A few of my kiddos have been bullied and know what it’s like, so they don’t bully or be mean to anyone. Its a tough situation though because they won’t let their guards down now and makes it hard for everyone.

  • I agree, I hope mine are never on the either end of a bully, but I think like you said in the post, bullying at this age (preschool) is more of finding their voice, trying to convey what they want and don’t, and making others aware of them being upset. I worry about my youngest daughter. She has a speech delay, and she acts out by screaming and biting. I am hoping when she is ready for preschool, the phase will be over and she will be able to use her words instead.

  • I sure hope that my kids are never involved in a bullying incident. Thanks for the great tips for kids.



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