Monday, November 5

Excuse me, are you a BULLY? - Preschool Years

I'm sure this topic is known far & wide throughout the world. Anyone of you reading this could have been a victim before, a victim now, or even the bully (slap-slap)! 

Bullying doesn't start in elementary (primary) years or middle/high (secondary) years. It can start as early as preschool years! I don't remember whether I was ever bullied in preschool, given the fact I was the tallest and the "leader" in class (for some dumb reason).. so far, my mom never mentioned anything I did wrong in preschool, so perhaps I was the good one. (LOL!)

In Singapore, you may not have frequently heard about bullying issues, compared to the horrific news from the USA, UK/Europe and occasionally Australia. But it doesn't mean it doesn't happen in our country. It's either reported way too late (like maybe a year later) or it's not reported to the authorities at all! 

Now that the media is reporting on "bullying" cases from all over the world, parents are fully aware of the effects of it but some are not "prepared" to come forward with the truth. They are worried how others will look at them after that. Don't ever be afraid to stand for the truth. Would you like to stand tall and proud or hide like a hermit?

Parents often dismiss kids' misbehaviour with the mentality of "kids being kids". When I say misbehaviour, it's not the usual temper tantrums, but purposeful and premeditated aggression. At this age, it's the "monkey see, monkey do" theory. Kids replicate what they see from home and school, sometimes from TV shows. A quote from the web sources by Mr Henry D. Schlinger, Ph.D, Director of Applied Behaviour Analysis Program at California State University at Los Angeles, ".. little-kid bullying is so surprising to many parents [so] it's not noticed as readily in older kids." 

Often kids at this age, they tend to imitate what they have seen, or seen often and they have the perception that it is an acceptable behaviour. Others will "bully" to get the attention from adults or peers. They want to be "existent" to everyone around them, therefore they pull all the wrong stunts and hurt another kid/kids. Mr Schlinger also quoted that, "... it's much more concerning when a child bullies because it makes him feel good to see signs of injury, fear, or misery in his victim," [and] "that type of bully can be hard to stop."

Some teachers and parents, as I've heard or seen personally tend to take the 'let's-wait-and-see' approach with the preschoolers and THAT mentality has to stop because it is not helping anyone, the bullied kid or the bully. Ignoring small incidents can lead to a crisis, if an intervention is not applied from the beginning. Don't dismiss your child's "allegations" if he/she tells you that XX is not being "nice" to them. They may be the victim, they may even be the bully.

Experts define bullying as an "intentional aggressive behaviour, usually involving an imbalance of power and repeated over time". This includes :

- verbal (put-downs, taunt, name-calling, extreme profanities)

- physical (pushing, punching, kicking, slapping, pinching)

- relational (rumours, social rejection, exclusion)

Of course, not all confrontational behaviour can be bullying, per se. It may be just that "moment" when play time gets a little out of control or the child is a little moody and whatnots. Everyday play-related "moments" can make them stronger as they learn through experience how to compromise, negotiate, and forgive.  But bullying on the other hand, is different. It compromises with the child's physical or emotional self-esteem as it can cause fear, anxiety and hurt feelings over time. Being pushed around, picked on and shunned is not acceptable at any age, be it young or old. 

One classic way to tell the difference between a conflict and bullying is to look at the intention. If it's the usual moment of "No, I saw that first.."& "No, that's mine..!" and they eventually sort it out on their own, it's seen as a conflict. Bullying on the other hand will be like two kids snatching a book from each other and the bully grabs the book, bash right into the other child's face and grins when the other cries, that's a bully. Again, not all behaviours mentioned are classified as bullying but if it happens far too often, then the parent and teacher have to step in to stop the unacceptable behaviour. Such behaviours that are condone will have a negative impact on the child's growing years. Counselling, anger management, therapy, etc are few options to look into once such behaviour is being addressed.Bullying not necessarily spark off from the bad kid. It can also start from the good one! As the saying goes "Looks can be deceiving" stays true. 

HOW TO PROTECT YOUR CHILD?

- Be patiently concern.
Ask your child if someone has deliberately hurt her or what did that boy/girl did to trigger such a reaction. Don't ask your child in a harsh manner. Don't say, "Are you going to tell me what happen? If you don't wanna say, don't tell me if anything bad happens." That statement is not going to help the situation. If your child finds it hard to be expressive or has issues with verbal skills, monitor their feelings and if there's a need to talk to his/her teacher, don't wait, just do it. 

- Suggest ways to respond to such bullies.
Don't teach your child to retaliate by doing the exact same thing as what the bully did. Kids at this age should not be expected to deal with bullies on their own, even though 3/4 of the time, bullies happen behind closed classroom doors. Role play with them the different scenarios. Again, patience. The child might find it difficult to respond due to the fact that they have been startled by the horrific behaviour. Few ways to respond;

*Stand tall and act brave, show the bully you're no pushover. Tell him/her to "Stop" in a loud voice if your child is "pissed off" but remind them not to push or any sort of physical force.

*Ignore the bully. Some experts believe over time if the bully is ignored, they will eventually stop or move on to the next "target".

*Stick with friends. Having more friends tells the bully you're not alone and he can move on with life.

*Tell an adult. Well, when all of the above fails. Make sure the adult listens. 

- Take action yourself, Moms & Dads.
If your child finds it difficult to relate his/her unhappiness to the teacher, U have to DIY. Maybe the way your child relates the problem in a wrong way and the teacher doesn't get it. Apply some sort of pressure to the school's management if all seems uninterested to find a solution. Even better, approach the parent if the need arises. If the bully's parents seem unconcerned and brush you off, it goes to show the child has imitated their behaviour. As the popular proverb says, "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree..." The right way (i believe) is to approach them nicely, instead of being all gangster and push the blame all to the bully. I know parents can be overly protective but pointing fingers doesn't solve the issue. Who knows the bully is actually the victim too? Talking nicely, phrasing your words and coming up with a solution together is a better route to move along. I'm not being naive, it can be done. I have to say, there is a percentage of parents in Singapore, who behave like as if only they are parents and others are not. I've seen some unreasonable parents who protects their kids at all costs and look like total fools. 

I'm a parent too, so is my mom. If Sophia makes a mistake, she has to know that she's in the wrong. I don't condone. My mom does the same too. I have made mistakes during my school years too and she doesn't condone my mistakes. Detention was an almost- weekly affair. Looking back, what my mom did was right. 

IS YOUR KID BEING BULLIED?
Here are some signs to watch out for..

1. Your kid loved school, but now he/she refuses to go, giving all sorts of excuse.

2. He/She complains of tummy aches, headaches right before reaching school

3. He/She no longers likes to play with his/her "best friend".

4. He/She tells you repeatedly that someone is "bothering" him/her, or being mean. 

5. Your independent child becomes clingy, depress, fearful or withdrawn.

6. Your child makes derogatory remarks on his/herself like "No one likes me.." or "Everyone hates me because I'm stupid.."

7. He/She has unexplainable injuries/bruises.  Occasional bruising can be common but if it's far too many times or more than normal, you might wanna start to look into the matter. 

IS YOUR CHILD THE BULLY?
Here are some signs to watch out for..

1. Is he/she aggressive towards adults?

2. Does he/she feels that they did nothing wrong all the time?

3. Does he/she feels little or no empathy towards others' feelings?

4. Does your child feel the need to be powerful or in control?

5. Is he/she hot-tempered or resort to violence/aggression easily?

If you answer a YES to one or more, relax. The world is not tumbling on you, and you're not the only parent feeling the same. Here are some ways you might wanna try and see if it works.

- Chat about the right attitude during playtime, using books or shows. Make him/her tell you what are the right attitude to exude during playtime.

- From that chat, discuss the different consequences if he/she doesn't portray the attitude. 

- Right the wrong. Give him a scenario and enact the wrong behaviour. Ask him/her the right way to deal with the situation.

- Praise his/her efforts if they tell you all the positive and proactive attitudes/solutions.

The red flag will be if your child seems to be enjoy insulting, shaming and attacking other kids. Inform your paediatrician and arrange to visit a therapist for early intervention. 

Don't presume toddlers/preschoolers are safe from bullying. They are infact the most vulnerable victims, be it being the bully or being the victim. Yes, the bullies themselves can be seen as a victim too, if you think about it. Be proactive, don't conform with others' behaviours. Your child's future is at stake if you don't step in early. 

Remember to like Mothers' Avenue on Facebook! Thank you so much for reading!

xox, A.

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