There’s a lot of discussion around bullying right now, and some research even suggests that bullying is more prevalent among young children than school aged children.
In the early years bullying is not considered the typical rough and tumble play of kids learning independence and boundaries, but rather sustained, intentional acts designed to assert power over another child. The good news is that more and more emphasis is being placed on being empathetic than ever before. As parents we want our children to have friends, be fair and be kind to others.
The earlier that we can start to help our children understand their emotions, the better the outcome in raising kind, empathetic children. Brain scientists, educators, economists and public health experts all agree that building a good foundation for healthy relationships begins at birth. The earlier that your child can adapt and develop key social-emotional skills—like attentiveness, persistence and impulse control—the sooner he can begin engaging in healthy social interactions with peers.
Young children aren’t necessarily born with the skills to engage in healthy relationships; they are born with the potential to develop them. So how do we teach our children to be empathetic and attentive to the feelings of others, while maintaining healthy boundaries about what actions are acceptable from others?
- Explore your child’s emotions together and engage them in imaginative play to learn how to express those feelings so that they can better manage their emotions before starting preschool.
- Teach your child that it’s okay to have whatever feeling they are having: anger, frustration, embarrassment, fear, even rage, but that it is not acceptable for their actions to cross over and affect someone else negatively.
- Teach your child that it’s good to try to understand why someone else is having negative feelings. There may be a very good reason for their friend or acquaintance to be feeling angry.
- Teach your child that it’s never okay for them or anyone else to use their feelings as an excuse to verbally attack someone. And that when someone does this, it is time to get an adult into the situation.
- And most importantly, teach them that if they are being bullied, getting parents and adults involved will not make it worse. It will help to fix the problem.
You as a parent play an important role along with your child’s teachers in laying a strong foundation for social-emotional skills that will help your child to form healthy relationships. It is important for the adults in your child’s life to model positive behaviors, set clear rules and monitor for any warning signs of bullying. By taking these steps, it’s possible to prevent bullying from the outset.