Last year was my four-year-old’s first year of school. New experiences and adjustments are part of fresh beginnings, but the first time Sam (finally) told me about a boy that had been hitting him on the head, pinching him (hard) and pushing him down, I was not willing to chalk it up to experience. My mama bear instincts wanted to rush to the school and start yelling, but knowing that was not the behavior I wanted to model for Sam, the better me prevailed! I had heard about kids bullying other kids…but in kindergarten? Was that what this was? Or was it only immature judgment? Because I believe one of my most important roles as Sam’s mom is to be his advocate, I immediately went to talk with his teachers.
Sam did not tell his teacher what was happening. Even after he confided in me, Sam didn’t want me to tell anyone because he thought he would get in trouble. However, when I spoke with Sam‘s teachers, they were wonderful. Together we put an action plan in place to help teach Sam to have a voice. We spoke to the other child’s parents so he could also learn to use his voice and not resort to negative behavior.
I’m happy to report that our story had a happy ending. In our situation, Sam and his classmate are friends and they often play together. Subsequently, I’ve also witnessed Sam standing up for himself. A much bigger boy was trying to pick Sam up. Sam said, “No thank you. I don’t want to be picked up. Now please keep your hands to yourself.” It worked.
In our situation, negative behavior led to unpleasantness but I don’t think the other little boy was a true bully. However, the concern I initially felt opened my eyes to the real bullying problem kids can face. Because of our experience, I’ve read about aggressive behavior and what to do about it if we actually encounter bullies in the future.
Although parents do need to advocate for their children, teachers are great allies in a troubling situation. Teachers can openly discuss bullying in class to help their students understand the importance of respect and caring about the feelings of others. This can help improve peer relations between classmates. A school environment that is safe and positive makes a difference for everyone. Bullies need as much intervention as their victims; early intervention is more likely to produce positive behavior changes.
Before the new school year begins, I think it’s important for parents and kids to talk about bullying. The victim is not the cause of the bullying; a child who is on the receiving end of the negative attention should not be ashamed and he should immediately talk with a teacher and parents. Informing a teacher of a situation where harm is being done is not the same as tattling. Helping kids become emotionally intelligent…sensitive to others’ feelings…goes a long way in combating bully attacks.
Sam is comfortable and confident about returning to school this year. My hope is that will become true for students everywhere.
For additional information on this subject, you can go to Canada’s Public Safety website
Stephanie Keeping is a mom of boys, a blogger, and an Etsy-preneur. She celebrates boyish charm at Spaceships and Laser Beams, where she talks about all things boy and birthday party. You can connect with her on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest,Twitter and on Etsy.