Children need direct teaching and lots of practice when learning new skills.  Caregivers can model the behaviors that are expected, but sometimes they need to specifically talk about or demonstrate the new skill they want their children to learn.  There are many great books that help caregivers talk with children about feelings and behaviors that are hurtful to others.  Start simple and use activities/expectations that are age appropriate. 

  • Start with validating the child’s feelings.  Children need to know it is okay to have strong feelings such as anger, frustration or fear but it is never acceptable to hurt someone or act in a violent manner.  Teach them how to express their feelings in a non-hurtful way.  One way of teaching self-control is to use simple relaxation and self-calming techniques such as deep breathing, counting to 10, thinking of something happy etc.
  • Make it real. Find concrete ways to teach your children the abstract concepts they need to solve problems. Children more easily understand abstract concepts (like sharing) when they are presented through puppets, role playing or illustrated stories.  It is also important to talk through the situation with the child, prompting them to discover and talk about their feelings and the feelings of others.
  • Teach and practice active listening skills.  Children need to listen attentively to understand what others are wanting so that they can respond appropriately.  “Listening” also includes understand or reading body language.  Children need to have practice identifying how feelings can be reflected through body language.
  • Practice polite manners.  Children are more likely to develop friendships, and get their needs met, if they are polite in their interaction with others.  Good feelings build upon other good feelings, leaving no room for bully-type behaviors.
  • Focus on developing one skill at a time.  Problem-solving social issues uses many skills – identifying the problem, analyzing feelings, generating solutions.  Caregivers can help children through the process by asking questions, encouraging children to “use their words” to talk about the situation.  Caregivers can also provide possible solutions and ask “what would happen if….” to help children process different scenarios.

Teaching and using positive social skills is the best antidote for bullying behaviors.  Help the children in your care stop bullying in its tracks!
 
Resources
Preschool Programs Best Way to Curb Bullying. Preschool Matters, NIEER Oct/Nov 2003
Available online: http://nieer.org and http://www.excellence-earlychildhood.ca
 
Preschool Bullying – It may come as a shock to many parents to learn that bullying happens in preschool.  Karen Kondor.
Available online: http://www.overcomebullying.org/preschool-bullying.html