What is the problem?
How do you gather evidence that a three and a half year old is being bullied at pre-school? It’s not like his memories are clear. Getting accurate information from one that age is difficult. Any reference on any particular day could be a reference to an event that actually happened that day, or the kid could be reliving the same event over and over again in his mind. He threw a rock in the lake and it made a big splash on one day, and when you ask him six months later what he did today, he threw a rock in the lake and it made a big splash.
But after this past New Year’s, when Boy returned to school from winter break on a Monday just fine, yet on Tuesday was so upset his mom had to take him home, I started to get concerned again. A three and a half year old should not be afraid to go to school, but was he afraid? Maybe he just had a great time at home on vacation. Heck, it’s not like I was chomping at the bit to get back to work. When mom picked him up on Wednesday, she found out Boy had nearly pulled a bookcase over on top of himself (where was the teacher, and what was Boy doing yanking on a bookcase), and then on Thursday it all hit the wall. The ouch report indicated the kids were walking down the hall, holding on to their loops and O___ bit Boy on the hand. There were no toys involved, so it was not a sharing issue. Admittedly, Boy has the power to annoy, but the kid bit him hard enough for me to see it six hours later when I got home from work.
Some folks we spoke with said, “Get him outta there.” But why should my kid be the one who has to leave? I want him to be able to learn how to deal with these kinds of problems. I want him to be able to assert himself. I also don’t want him to bite, punch, kick or “hurt him’s bones.” At the same time, no child should be afraid to go to school. If at three a child no longer wants to go to school, that’s an ugly looking 15 years on the educational road ahead.
Is there a solution?
The next day my wife talked to the director of the preschool center. They offered to move Boy to another class away from Biter. He was in the 3-4 group, and they could move him to the 2-3. Well, that’s something, I thought. The director also indicated she’d meet with the other child’s parents. Again. Last time it seems there was a discussion about violent video games.
The father said to the director, “Oh, you’re one of those people.”
My wife got the impression that they would probably expel the other child. What do those 15 years on the educational road ahead look like for a kid who gets expelled from pre-school?
What are you prepared to do?
When m – - – - r f – - – - r is spewed from the mouth of a child in a 3-4 year old classroom, there’s a problem. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve said those words, and I’ve said them in front of my kids, but not as a part of my everyday vocabulary. We have no video games at home. But is that the solution? Yeah, there aren’t any video games, but the kids have way more time in front of the television than I did as a kid. I guess the point I’m trying to make here is that I admit I’m not a perfect parent, and I don’t want to tell another parent how to raise their kid, and I don’t think the schools, county, state or feds should raise their kid either, but when your kid bites my kid and there’s clearly a problem, I want you to be willing to find a solution beyond criticizing the director of the center for hating on you because your kid at three or four enjoys shoot ‘em up video games.
Were I the parent of a biter, and evidently an habitual one, I know I’d want to find out what’s going on. In fact, that’s what I’m trying to do, and I’m taking steps to make the situation a little better for my kid. What are you doing?
It’s not like there aren’t options, though in early education some of those options are limited. Look at it this way, if the other kid is at preschool as long as my kid, there’s 2 and a half hours of contact time for the teacher to have with the kid. That’s not a long time to observe what’s going on. Plus, when you’re lead teacher for 3-4 year olds, how do you watch a single kid for suspected behavioral issues when you’ve got 5-10 other kids working with permanent colors, glue and simultaneously wetting their pants.
The reason I ask is this:
MSNBC did a story yesterday morning showing correlations between bullies, victims and ADHD. As an adult who didn’t know anybody with ADHD growing up, but as a teacher after the diagnostic boom in the early 1990’s I’ve been suspect of some diagnoses in the past, but I must say it’s an issue that holds more water for me. Regardless, early behavior problems need to be monitored by the school and the parents because the earlier you can catch a problem a kid’s dealing with, the earlier you can help that kid and maybe make her life a little easier.
See, according to the article, kids with ADHD symptoms are “four times as likely as others to be bullies.” But it gets worse. “[C]hildren with ADHD symptoms were almost 10 times as likely as others to have been regular targets of bullies prior to the onset of those symptoms, according to the report in the February issue of the journal Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology.” These aren’t American kids they studied either. The study was done in Sweden, and I’ve got a hunch the problem is bigger in America than in Sweden.
What does the study mean? There’re a couple possibilities: The ADHD kid may just be a jerk, or “it might turn out that the attention problems they’re exhibiting could be related to the stress of being bullied.”
Linda Carroll interviewed Harvard professor William Pollack for the story, and while he doesn’t necessarily contribute anything a rational adult couldn’t figure out for him or herself, he does point to the urgency of the problem. First, you have a hard time learning when you’re afraid. I tell you, after some creep spit on me in middle school it got real hard for a long time for me to want to go to school. Second, Pollack reminds us that bullied kids often turn into bullies.
So what do we do? Medication for ADHD, the story reminds us, doesn’t treat aggression. It helps a person focus, it doesn’t deal with depression or anger.
What am I prepared to do?
More than anything, the story starts to look like every other piece of parenting advice out there. You’ve got to look for signs. You have to communicate with your kid (and at three that’s a tall order). You’ve got to look to the school for help and advice when they let you know your child is a problem, and if they won’t help you, maybe you need to find a new setting for your child.