Kindergarten Bullies

A Bully Free Zone sign - School in Berea, OhioImage via Wikipedia

The last thing I thought I would be writing about today is bullies at school in kindergarten.  But, that was before I read a post by my daughter on how my granddaughter didn't want to go to school for fear someone would make fun of her.  This is not an isolated incident.  She had stopped wearing a shirt because someone started teasing her when she wore it.

My mother cat spirit immediately shows her hackles when things like this happen.  It makes me so sad to hear stories of children being abused by their peers.  Immediately, my mind starts looking for a way to end this problem.  Wisdom tells me, though, that we must find a reason why the problem begins in the first place.

Great minds in child development feel that bullying stems from insecurity and the need to feel powerful.  I understand this, but why do kindergartners need to feel powerful?  What is it in their environment that causes them to need to hurt others verbally, emotionally and/or physically?

Perhaps, we need to go back to the daily lives of children.  If you look critically at what children from the age of infancy to six experience daily, you will see that there is an overabundance of the word, "No," in their lives.  

As adults, when we are told, "no," we feel powerless, right?  Why wouldn't children feel likewise?

I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, condoning the absence of discipline.  Children need boundaries to be safe.  They also need consequences when they do not heed those boundaries.  What I am advocating is that the use of the word "no" be minimized.  

How can this be done, you might ask?

First, react to issues by explaining why something should not be done.  Remember Pa on Little House on the Prairie?  He always explained to Laura and her siblings why something might not be a good idea. 

For instance, instead of immediately saying to your toddler, "No, don't touch that!"  Pick the child up, sit with them, allow them to see what it is that is so tempting to touch and explain that it is fragile.  Explain that if it gets knocked over it can break.  Explain that they can look with their eyes, but not touch.

Second, if you have set boundaries, do not suddenly lift them, unless there is good reason.  Consistency is important.  

Finally, build self-esteem by positive reinforcement.  Telling a child that they have done a good job, takes as much energy as telling them that they are "bad."  However, the later does damage that lasts a lifetime, while praise builds an adult who has strength of character.

I think that if we cut down on the constant "no's" our children hear, they may be less likely to feel powerless, thereby being less likely to bully. 

That said, parents need to take an active role in nipping bullies at school in the bud.  Do not wait for an incident to incite everyone's passion.  Request programming on bullying prior to anything happening.  Support programs within the community to stop bullying.

With the recent rash of suicides by students as young as middle school linked to bullying, teaching our children how to express themselves, and how to respect differences is one of the most valuable lessons we can give.
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