Nonna's Favorite Quotes:

Nonna's Favorite Quotes: "The best way to make children good is to make them happy." — Oscar Wilde, author and poet

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Mean Girls...in Preschool?

“If only you knew how mean she really is... You'd know that I'm not allowed to wear hoop earrings, right? Yeah! Two years ago she told me hoop earrings were *her* thing and I wasn't allowed to wear them anymore. And then for Hannakuh my parents got this pair of really expensive white gold hoops and I had to pretend like I didn't even like them and... it was so sad.”     From the 2004 movie “Mean Girls.”

Bullying:  Using superior strength or influence to intimidate someone, typically to force him or her to do what you want.
You wouldn’t think that preschool parents would have to worry about their children being bullied in school, right? Wrong. I’ve heard from the parents of a 5-year old about how their daughter (let’s call her Annie) is being bullied by another 5-year old (let’s call her Sara) at their preschool. And what makes it worse is that these two little girls used to be best friends.

This year Annie and Sara are in different classes. Annie expected to continue their friendship, but apparently Sara has moved on to a new set of friends and has set new “rules” for Annie. Annie is told not to speak to certain people, not to follow her or any of her new friends, not to use certain playground equipment, etc. Sara tells Annie that the other kids don’t like her and don’t want to talk to her. The results have been devastating. Not only is Annie now acting the same way to her siblings…telling them what they can and can’t do or say... she’s no longer excited about going to school. Annie is very confused about what is happening and doesn’t understand what has made her unlikeable.

What Annie has been experiencing is the type of bullying that’s referred to as “social exclusion,” a powerful tactic used to isolate and control another person. Social exclusion doesn’t usually involve the violence that you associate with bullying. Instead, the victims of social exclusion are shunned or ignored.

“Treated as if they don’t exist, or as if their very existence is the problem, victims of social exclusion are singled out by whispering campaigns, gossip and mocking laughter. Isolated from a group, alone at lunch, on the playground and on the bus, the isolation is real and painful. Social Exclusion is difficult to spot, hard to stop and leaves lasting, sometimes fatal, damage to the self-image and self-esteem of the victim.”    The New Bullying
 
But in preschool…really!

Where does a 5-year old learn this type of behavior? My suggestion would be to take a good look at what these children are watching on TV. Even children’s programming can contain examples of bad behavior towards others. And kids soak up this stuff like a sponge. Careful pre-screening of television programs and movies is a must.

 
So what do you do now?
First, parents need to inform their child’s teacher that this is happening. Then teachers must get involved quickly. An important goal is to strengthen the child’s standing with their classmates. If a child has at least one good friend at school they are less likely to be bullied.
Here are a few ideas:
  • Simple lessons, songs and role play are an effective way to introduce the topic of bullying to little ones
  • Teach children how to invite another child to play with them or how to join in with others at play.
  • Pair students together for activities throughout the day so they can get to know each other.
  • Be vigilant on the playground, encouraging organized play and making sure non-social children are not excluded.  
Parents and teachers must encourage all children (those who are being bullied and those who witness it) to report any bullying to an adult. Students deserve to feel safe and happy at school. But when they experience bullying of any type, effects like depression, low self-esteem, health problems, poor grades, bad behavior, and suicidal thoughts can last long into their future.

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