Young boy sitting next to a wall with his head in his hands

Bullying is an ever-present problem in our schools, and includes physical threats, teasing, and harassment. Early childhood educators play a vital role in determining whether bullying develops and escalates, or whether it is stopped and prevented.

For educators, in particular, chances are one of your students is being bullied; and if you’re like most teachers, you’re either unaware of it or you don’t know how to address the problem.

This is why bullying has become an epidemic in the United States, Canada and even as far away as Japan.

In most cases, the teacher is the only one in a position to put a stop to it, and soon find themselves ill-equipped to do so.

If you want to be the kind of teacher that prevent bullying from happening in your classroom forever, then keep on reading.

Protect Your Students

What is bullying?

Simple question, right? Wrong. The reason why most bullies go unnoticed is due to the fact that teachers and other school officials have a hard time identifying them. Early childhood educators need to understand bullying within the context of their early childhood settings. Bullying is a form of emotional or physical abuse that has three defining characters:

  • Deliberate - A bully's intention to hurt someone.
  • Repeated - Bullying behaviours happen more than once or have the potential to happen again.
  • Power imbalanced - A bully chooses victims, he or she views as vulnerable or weak.

Generally speaking, there are three main types of bullying: (1) physical bullying, which includes hitting, pushing, and shoving. (2) verbal bullying, which includes yelling and name-calling. (3) Relationship bullying, such as excluding or getting others to hurt someone for you. Note: A fourth common type of bullying is cyber bullying. This involves using the internet, social media, cell phones, and other digital communication devices to post or send harmful text messages or images. The bad news is, once a child is a victim of cyberbullying, there’s nothing they can do to reverse the process. No antivirus, data recovery, or deactivated accounts can change what has already been done. On the other hand, although cyberbullying can become an issue for older children, it is not yet a concern for preschoolers. Nevertheless, if the problem continues to escalate, federal law enforcement agencies will be forced to investigate.

What early childhood behaviours should teachers pay attention to?

  • Usually shouting “Mine!” while reaching for something isn’t considered bullying. However, if educators don’t step in and intervene, it can lead to verbal and physical forms bullying.
  • When teachers see children whispering, they think nothing of it. Young children like to whisper and call one another silly names. But when whispering starts to spread rumours or private information, this is when it’s no longer petty and considered bullying.
  • Children who say, “You can’t play with us,” may not purposely be excluding certain classmate, but this can easily develop into relational bullying and escalate into more problems.

Create problem-solving activities.

Bullying is different to other social problems children may face. For instance, while conflicts may be solved through compromising, bullying cannot because it involves a hierarchy. In other words, the bully has more power than the victim. Solving a bully problem first requires an analysis of the problem by the target and/or witnesses, and at times intervention by the teacher.

So where do problem-solving skills come into play?

Teaching children problem-solving skills can help them analyse and solve conflict before it escalates. Early childhood educators, for example, can help young children understand the problem of bullying and show them how to apply problem-solving skills to the situation at hand. These skills include:

  • Defining the problem.
  • Coming up with a solution.
  • Choosing the most effective/reasonable response.
  • Anticipating the likely consequences.

Make the classroom environment remarkable.

As the teacher, when you create a classroom your students love being part of, they experience a sense of belonging and kinship. This is what spurs them to be both inclusive and protective of one another, regardless of their background, and disposition.

When all students are considered valuable members of the class, they stay engaged and focused during activates, and when they’re learning and contributing to a class they care about, bullying never enters their mind.

Create assertiveness activities.

Young children need to learn how to respond to bullies during an altercation. One way they can deal with bullying is by standing up for themselves and others in non-aggressive and respectful ways. Assertiveness represents the desirable middle ground between extremely aggressive and submission.

Learning these skills involves learning how to express one’s own feelings and defend your rights in ways that also respect the rights and feelings of others around you.

Assertiveness skills can help young children achieve their goals without bullying, avoid becoming a victim of bullying, respond immediately if they’re being bullied, and support other children who are targets of bullying. Bullying has no preference. Both boys and girls need to be taught assertiveness skills as an alternative to accepting aggressive, or outrageous behaviour in boys and submissive behaviour in girls.

Note: Educators should inform children that assertive behaviour can be appropriate and effective for children provoking them. However, children should consider safety first.

If children don’t feel safe, they never think twice to see help from an adult.

As a final point, if you don’t know that bullying happens among young children, you won’t be able to see it or stop it. If you don’t stop bullying, it will only grow and spread. But when concerned adults are prepared, they can put an end to it by nipping it in the bud.

Thanks for the read. Did I miss anything? What are some other things education officials should know about bullying? Feel free to comment below.