By Raising Children Network
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Bullying is something that grown-ups need to treat very seriously. Rather than leaving it up to a child to sort out, preschools, parents and community groups can work together to fight bullying.
Two toddlers together

Bullying can be devastating for children’s confidence and self-esteem, especially in the preschool years. Children need lots of love and support, both at home and wherever the bullying is happening. They also need to know that you will take action to prevent any further bullying.

If you suspect your child is being bullied, you could start with our overview of bullying and how to spot it. Or your child might be the one doing the bullying. Read our article on what to do if your child is bullying others.

Talking to your child’s preschool

If your child is being bullied, get help as quickly as you can. Your child’s teachers will be trained in spotting and handling bullying. They will work with you to try to prevent further bullying.

How to involve the preschool teacher

  • Tell your child you will talk to the teacher about the problem.
  • Discuss the problem with the teacher. Ask for the teacher’s views.
  • Be assertive, not angry or accusatory.
  • End the meeting with a plan for how the situation will be managed.
  • Keep in touch with the teacher.
Contacting the bully or the bully’s parents directly is likely to make the situation worse. It is always safer to work with your child’s teacher rather than to try to solve bullying on your own.

If the bullying doesn’t stop

  • Remember that it is still safer to work through your preschool than to take matters into your own hands.
  • Inform the teacher of any further bullying. Keep a record of what happens and when.
  • Write a note to the teacher. Ask for your concern to be addressed in writing.
  • If the problem doesn’t seem to be getting better over time, speak to the preschool director or someone from the preschool management committee. If you’re not satisfied with the results, ask to make a formal complaint. Most preschools have a procedure for handling grievances.
  • Perhaps seek further advice from your local goverment office or legal advice about your options.

It takes time to change behaviour, so you might not see overnight results. If your child is still being bullied and you don’t think the preschool is doing enough to stop it, you might consider looking for another preschool with a better record of addressing bullying.

Supporting your child at home

Give your child as much support and love as you can at home. Continue to offer support at home while you, the teacher and your child come up with a plan for fixing the bullying. Let your child know that the situation is not his fault, and it can be fixed.

You can give support by listening and talking. You can also give your child ideas for coping with the bullying.

If your child is being bullied, you should always step in. But it can also be helpful to give your child some skills to handle any future bullying or negative social behaviour to stop it getting worse. These skills can help your child’s social development.

Ideas for coping with preschool bullying

Talk to your child about some of the different ways of dealing with bullying behaviour and why these work. This will help your child feel more confident and less powerless about being bullied.

Here are some ideas.

Idea How it works
Ignore it, and move away. You physically remove yourself from children who are teasing or bullying. The bully can’t pick on you if you’re not there.
Tell the bully to stop. Standing up to bullies in a calm way lets them know that what they are trying to do is not working.
Avoid high-risk places. By keeping away from situations where bullying occurs, you can avoid the attention of bullies – as long as you are not missing out on activities because of this.
Stay around other people. If you play with your best friends, the bully probably won’t bother you.
Ask other children for support. Other children probably understand what you are going through and are likely to help you if needed. Bullies are less likely to strike if they can see that you have backup.
Tell the teacher. Your teacher will be able to help you deal with the problem, and will come up with a plan. The bully might not even know that the teacher is helping you.

It might also help your child to know why some children bully. The following suggestions for things to tell your child come from research on why children bully:

  • ‘They are copying other people, and don’t know it’s wrong.’
  • ‘They don’t know how to be nice to other people.’
  • ‘They have a problem, and they think that making other people feel bad will make them feel better.’
  • ‘They never learned how to say please or talk about problems.’
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  • Last Updated 29-10-2009
  • Last Reviewed 06-08-2009
  • Rigby, K. (2002). A meta-evaluation of methods and approaches to reducing bullying in pre-schools and early primary school in Australia. Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department, Canberra.

    Roberts, W.B. (2000). The bully as victim: Understanding bully behaviors to increase the effectiveness of interventions in the bully-victim dyad. Professional school counseling, 4(2), 148-155.

    Smith, J., Schneider, B., Smith, K. & Ananiadu, K. (2004). The effectiveness of whole-school antibullying programs: A synthesis of evaluation research. School psychology review, 33(4), 547-560.

    Stassen Berger, K.(2007). Update on bullying at school: Science forgotten?, Developmental Review 27, 90–126

    Veenstra, R., Lindenberg, S., Winter, A., Oldehinkel, A., Verhulst, F. and Ormel, J. (2005). Bullying and victimization in elementary schools: A comparison of bullies, victims, bully/victims, and uninvolved preadolescents. Developmental psychology, 41(4), 672-682.