Bullying or is it just a fight?
Preschool going children are energetic and impulsive. They have spur-of-the-moment friendship squabbles during a sand play or kitchen play. Something like “That’s mine!”, “I saw it first!”, “I win, you lose.” during play that occasionally gets out of hand. Such play-related conflict is not dangerous. It is through these experiences, kids become stronger to stand in a group, accept defeat and learn to forgive.
Bullying, on the other hand, does the exact opposite. It uses verbal and physical attack as fun. A bully might snatch the toy away and tell the other child that she'll beat him/her if he/she tries to take it back The red flag is when the bully child seems to enjoy threatening, insulting, embarrassing or attacking other kids.
Being put-down, name-calling, pushed around, and shunned is not acceptable at any age. It steadily weakens kids' self-esteem; whether it's physical or emotional, it can cause hurt feelings, fear, and anxiety.
The reasons kids bully vary
• Often kids imitate behavior learned from experiences in the home; from a parent, sibling or peer.
• Some kids do it to get attention, either from adults or peers.
• Bad behavior can spark from the "good" kid, too. As my friend was telling me, her 3-year-old girl, Annie, was teased by a boy in her nursery class. The boy recruited a few more girls and boys to collectively chant “Annie Nannie, Annie Nannie, Annie Nannie” until Annie got angry and hit the boy and got caught by her teacher.
• Sometimes it can be for more complex reasons. When a child bullies because it makes him feel good to see signs of injury, fear or misery in his victim, the issue is much more concerning. That type of bullying needs a serious call to action.
Bullies come in all sizes. Sometimes they are merely 2 feet tall and have a few teeth missing.
When a child says, “nobody plays with me” you as a parent would think of tens of reasons in a jiffy. But the one thing we rarely consider is group-ism or bullying at even preschool level.
“We don’t want to play with you!”
Ouch! The feeling of being left out or being pushed-around can be just as painful for kids as in adulthood.
While most parents are aware of school bullying being rampant in late elementary schools, but, believe it or not, bullying among pre-schoolers is more common than you think. We think these kids are too young for the kind of tormenting we associate with bullying. Our youngest and most vulnerable age group, the toddler and preschool crowd are also victim to little-kid bullying.
When Ayaan, brought home his class picture. He pointed from one smiling child to the next, naming them, "that's Rhea, that's Thavish, that's Reyan, that's…a bad boy”. He opened up to his mother slowly, about how his classmate never allowed Ayaan on the trampoline; snatched his cookies during snack-time and occupied his place during circle time.
Gosh! Before an enlightening episode with his school picture, Ayaan refused to go to fellow birthday parties and his parents thought it must be overwhelming and loud. He refused to get in the carpool and we assumed he wanted mommy to drive him to school. Time and time again he gave subtle hints that his adults failed to notice.
Children at such tender age very rarely articulate their precise trouble. It is extremely important that we as adults read between the lines (without jumping to quick conclusions / making hasty decisions) and keenly observe any persistent unusual behavior.