A bully update

It’s a bad weather day.  No school for Boy, Big Sister, or me. 

I do, however, have an update on Boy’s plight.  He’s in a new classroom, with a new teacher, and he’s making new friends.  Same school though, so that means Boy and O (his friend that bites and hits even though “friends don’t hit”) have lunch together.  I figure there can be safety at lunch, because all the adults are present watching over the little table. 

Then again, just last week, according to my wife (who I trust not to fabricate stories of this nature), O grabbed a beater from the counter (yes, the kind you would find attached to a mixer) and hit a younger kid’s arm with it as she and Boy were hanging up his coat.  O is evidently still not suspended or expelled.  But if he is, what happens to him? 

Some folks probably wonder why I should care.  A lot of folks have wondered what the deal is with the preschool itself, but I keep coming back to this other kid’s parents. 

I recognize that one solution is communication.  But for a lot of preschoolers I keep hearing parents and teachers demanding that these children – bully and victim — “use their words.”  Clearly they don’t have these words that we want them to use.  And have you tried holding a conversation with one of these kids?  Do you recognize how easily persuaded they are?  How easily you can get them to say what you want, or how easily an idea can be put into their heads?

Until the kids are old enough, you’ve got to work on educating the parents and continue teaching the kids as best you can until they’ve reached the developmental milestone that helps them control their own behavior. 

There have to be programs out there, and I imagine there’s funding through grants that would support bringing programs in, but how do you make parents attend?

Though how hard would it be, really?  If you’re a private school, make it a condition of enrollment.  If you want your kid to go to our preschool, you — the parent — have to participate in our sessions.  At http://amy34.livejournal.com, there’s the tale of a co-op preschool that requires its participating parents to attend various seminars.  One such seminar she attended was on anger and bullies, I’d love to have all parents where Boy goes attend that one.  But the ultimate solution the seminar had for bullies saddens me as much as it does the author.  Sometimes you just have to hit back.  Amy’s not the only one to make such a suggestion either — not that she makes the suggestion as it came from the presenter of the seminar.  A famous children’s book author’s suggested the same, and at one time I was appalled, but I’m not as strong in that conviction anymore.               

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3 Responses to “A bully update”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Hi! I’m far from an expert; all I’ve done is go to that talk. But I feel for your son. I’ve worked at my kids’ co-op preschools for 6 years. One reason I chose the co-op is that there’s almost no bullying. With 5-9 parents present at the school every day, plus the teacher, nothing goes unnoticed, and any trouble is dealt with immediately. My kids are physically small and emotionally sensitive, and the greater supervision of a co-op preschool is a major reason I chose it. But that option’s not available to everyone.

    I think preschool is kind of a special case, because kids in preschool are still at that age where they’re learning to “use their words” and not hit. We still have a couple kids in our 4’s class who need that reminder every so often. They’re not bullies, but their social skills have been slow to develop.

    This kid you talk about may have more serious problems–if he’s using the word “m—-f—-“, then clearly he’s been hearing that word at home. That suggests a highly dysfunctional home life! Really, I think the preschool ought to be supervising this kid MUCH more closely. I find it sad that the teachers are not doing more to stop this, but then maybe they have their hands too full. Still, they ought to make it a priority.

    I don’t think I’d teach a preschooler to hit back. I don’t think they have the judgment to know when it’s okay and when it’s not. I’d save that for school-age kids.

    That said, my older son DID hit back once, in a preschool bullying situation, and didn’t get into trouble. He was playing tag with a bunch of other kids. There was a sullen, antisocial kid in the class named Jacob who wasn’t playing. One of the kids who was playing, Nathan, ran up and innocently tagged him. Jacob yelled, “I’M NOT PLAYING!” and jumped on Nathan and started pounding on him. My son Sean jumped into the fray to pull him off Nathan. Then parents intervened. Sean at the time was 5 1/2 and it’s the only fight he’s ever been in. He was extremely distressed by it, and cried for a long time afterwards. I thought he showed good judgment for his age, and I’m not surprised that through his school years, he’s never been bullied, even though he is physically small. I’m more worried about my younger son, who is more passive, less assertive.

    Have you considered taking your boy to a martial arts class? In those classes, they have very strict rules on when you can and can’t use violence as a solution. I think kids who’ve been through those classes feel a lot more confident both about their ability to fight back if they need to, and in knowing when it’s justified and when it isn’t.

    No easy answers on this stuff :(. It’s very sad that some parents let their kids act this way.

  2. kathleen61 Says:

    In my twenty years as an Occupational Therapist for preschool children with special needs, the children “Anonymous” describes as “sullen” and “antisocial” are often the ones who come from horrible ‘home’ lives of verbal abuse, physical violence and outright neglect. The DNA-donors (some might call these people ‘parents’) program their offspring in those critical 0-3 years to be the future wolves of society. Is this because of a lack of ‘education’ in a social sense, i.e. do these people simply not have the social networks of family, friends and neighbors who can be good role models and sources of information on parenting strategies? What can our culture do to intercede before these wolves are released as adults? Cutting public education funding certainly isn’t the solution; for many of these little ones, a kind teacher or a fair school prinicipal are the only adults who give them any kind of positive guidance.

    Then, there are also the “anti-social” kids who may be somewhere on the autism spectrum; these kids may seem “sullen” but lack the sensory processing skills to know how to interact appropriately with their peers. These kiddos don’t have the innate ability to “read” social situations and have to be taught these skills via concrete methods.

    Furthermore, kids with sensory processing disorders often cannot process sensory information like their peers; a light touch or innocent ‘tap’ in a game of Tag may send their central nervous system into a ‘flight or fight’ mode. Sounds such as a fire drill or loud motorcycle may send them into high alert because their central nervous system can’t filter out or ‘dampen’ auditory input. Punching the kid who sent him over the edge may be his response; getting to the bottom of why he has that response is the key.

    These kids, and believe me, there’s more of them now than we’ve ever seen before (what the heck is in our water?) need help so they can learn to modulate their central nervous systems in response to sensory input. So next time you hear your local, state or federal representatives threaten to cut funding in education, please consider the bigger picture that includes all these little ones who will eventually be adults in our society.

  3. ECMH Consultant Says:

    Good input. Thanks for sharing. There is a program that offers assistance to parents and child care providers when children display challenging behaviors. It is free, not mandatory. Child Care Expulsion Prevention works! As an Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant for the PEACE Program in Berrien County, I provide a variety of services to help children with challenging behavior. It is free to all participants. However, there are parents and/or providers who choose not to use the service. That is most unfortunately, because the services help all the children in a child care program, as well as the child care providers!
    Reseach has shown that early intervention with children who have challenging behavior is the key that helps improve their social and emotional capacities and prepares them for further educational and life experiences. Positive, nurturing, supportive, consistent relationships are the keys to healthy brain development and social relationships. Teaching that to parents who have never had positive health social and emotional relationships, who do not have the capacity to engage in loving and nurturing relationships with thier children, is difficult.
    Solution: Support funding for medical and mental health services for all children! See web site below to find out what Michigan is doing to serve our youngest citizens!


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