Kick Bullying to the Curb
How to prevent bullying in the Pre-K through 3rd Grade Classroom.
When thinking about bullying, I find many parents and teachers immediately gravitate to the image of a middle or high school student showing cruelty to their classmates. In reality, bullying starts much younger than this (as early as Pre-K!). Often, by the time
young children hit their pre-teens their ‘bully’ personalities have already begun to make mischief. This is why it’s so important to teach fairness, sharing, and compassion from an early age.
My experiences with parents and teachers who deal with a bully and bullied children led to the creation of Stanley the Snack Snatcher. This short, compelling story provides teachers and parents with a tool to begin conversations about bullying. In addition, there are a number of strategies teachers can use to prevent bullying in the classroom, including creating a classroom community, involving parents, and keeping an
Create a Classroom Community.
Bullying often stems from kids who are isolated: isolated from their peers, their families, or their communities. One way to prevent bullying is to make sure every student in your classroom feels like a valued member of the classroom community.
There are many ways to do this, but one that many teachers use is a daily circle time with an activity called “Give, Get, Pass.” Each student gets a turn in the circle, and when it is
their turn, they can choose to give a compliment to the classmate of their choice, get a compliment from a classmate of their choice, or simply pass. At first, this activity is very surface level- “I like your clothes. I like your hair,” but with time, grows much more meaningful and really makes each student feel valued. Another circle time activity is a daily share, where one or two students share anything they want- something they did at home, something they’re excited about, something that happened at lunch. Other students actively listen and ask questions about the sharing
The activity itself isn’t as important as the intention behind it; encouraging compassion, understanding, and a safe place to share. Outside of circle time, this community can be emphasized by promoting collaboration and discussion. Showing each child that their opinion is valued, not just by the teacher, but also by their peers, is crucial to building empathy.
No parent wants to hear that their child is bullying or being bullied, but the sooner parents are involved, the better. Teachers should immediately communicate any concerns about bullying to the parents of the bully and the bullied. This can help in two main ways.
First, parents will be able to speak with their children at home. In some cases, this may be all the redirection they need. In doing this, parents have the opportunity to help their child learn empathy and sharing.
Second, parents can often shed light on why bullying might be happening. Perhaps there are changes at home- a new baby, a new job, a new routine. Even small changes can seem drastic to young children, so making sure that teachers and parents are partners with open communication is key.
Keep an open dialogue about bullying. Each child arrives with different experiences, backgrounds, and ideas about their world.
As you guide them through the school year, it’s important to embrace and value these differences. Even more important is maintaining a dialogue around these difference as well as behavioral red flags. Young children often know right from wrong, but it is a lesson that needs to be reinforced. Talk to your class about bully behavior and why it is wrong. Use a book about bullying, like Stanley the Snack Snatcher, to guide your conversation, allowing children to openly share their experiences.
Bullying stops when we begin to value one another’s differences
At the end of the day, I believe it is vital for young children to learn how to value the differences among their peers, maintain a sense of community, and deal with conflict in an empathetic manner.
We all want what is best for our child, and part of this is providing a safe, healthy learning environment filled with mutual respect and trust. By approaching the issue of bullying from an early age, we can cultivate this environment.