Small children don’t always have the skills yet to communicate their frustrations, and can sometimes take these out in acts of violence. However, there’s a big difference between this and true bullying.
“Conflict takes place when small children disagree about something – an object, a thought or a feeling – and they express themselves verbally or physically,” says David Abrahamson, a clinical psychologist who specialises in children’s problems.
“Bullying is systematic and ongoing, with the intention of making the other child feel afraid or affecting their self-esteem.” He adds that the severity of the incident also needs to be taken into account, for instance, pushing a child away compared to throwing a rock at a child. However, he stresses that whether a situation is an example of true bullying or just conflict, authority figures should always address the issue.
David Abrahamson suggests the following approach to tackle bullying at nursery school:
Empower your little one
Affirm and reward them for telling you, and then engage with them to work out what action should be taken. Help them to come up with the idea of walking away from the incident, expressing their hurt or sadness, and getting help from a teacher. They need to understand that authority will protect them.
Approach the teacher
This can be done in conjunction with the first point. Don’t approach the parents of the bullying child first, as this will undermine the school’s role in the process. Discuss how the parents and the school can work together to fix the situation.
Approach the parents
If the school doesn’t appear to be addressing the issue, you can then approach the other parents. However, if there isn’t a conflict resolution framework at your child’s school, it might be time to consider finding a new one.
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