Posted by: cornvillenutmeg | June 1, 2012

Preventing Bullying in Pre-school


When Public Education gets its hands on something, in this instance, bullying,  here is what happens.  I give you the U.S. Department of Education definition for bullying:  Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.  Do you wonder – I hope – how this longer washed out by phrases like “power imbalance” and “aggressive behavior” is an improvement over the dictionary’s  “1. To treat in an overbearing or intimidating manner;  2. To force one’s way aggressively or by intimidation”?

What the U.S. Department of Education focuses on, state departments of education will focus on if they want those Federal dollars to keep on coming.  And the U. S. Department of Education which never met a public teacher union it didn’t like a lot, has what public education likes to call a holistic view.  (First check out the definition of holism, then go her – http://www.infed.org/biblio/holisticeducation.htm –  to see what the Education establishment has done with that.)  Thus, in its Struggle with Bullying, why let any opportunity go by.

You can find the following for yourself at stopbullying.gov, but let me give you the flavor.

Early Childhood

Early childhood often marks the first opportunity for young children to interact with each other. Between the ages of 3 and 5, kids are learning how to get along with each other, cooperate, share, and understand their feelings. Young children may be aggressive and act out when they are angry or don’t get what they want, but this is not bullying. Still, there are ways to help children.

(Just for the sake of contrast, consider the Piagetian view of the development of a five year-old:  “Perceptions dominate judgment. In moral-ethical realm, the child is not able to show principles underlying best behavior. Rules of a game not developed, only uses simple do’s and don’ts imposed by authority.”)

Helping Young Children Get Along with Others

Parents, school staff, and other adults can help young children develop skills for getting along with others in age-appropriate ways.

  • Model positive ways for young children to make friends. For example, practice pleasant ways that children can ask to join others in play and take turns in games. Coach older children to help reinforce these behaviors as well. Praise children for appropriate behavior. Help young children understand what behaviors are friendly.
  • Help young children learn the consequences of certain actions in terms they can understand. For example, say “if you don’t share, other children may not want to play with you.” Encourage young children to tell an adult if they are treated in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable, upset or unhappy, or if they witness other children being harmed.
  • Set clear rules for behavior and monitor children’s interactions carefully. Step in quickly to stop aggressive behavior or redirect it before it occurs.
  • Use age-appropriate consequences for aggressive behavior. Young children should be encouraged to say “I’m sorry” whenever they hurt a peer, even accidentally. The apology should also be paired with an action. For example, young children could help rebuild a knocked over block structure or replace a torn paper or crayons with new ones. 

Think about what you just read.  Now, imagine a pre-school teacher, or two or three in those handful of school districts that can afford to put that many unionized teachers and/or paraprofessionals and/or aids into one classroom with twenty to thirty pre-schoolers.  (And how about that for an official designation of the school year before kindergarten:  pre-school.  When I was young, pre-school meant staying home with my mother.)

There they are, the cadre of adults, monitoring the developing skills of their charges.  “Oh, look, Billy just knocked over Betty’s stack of blocks.”  Billy is looking pleased.  The tumbling of the blocks was satisfying.  Betty is crying.  That may be a bit satisfying to Billy, too.  Billy would like to knock over another set of blocks, but Betty is monopolizing the block set.  Now Betty, through her tears, is considering picking up one of the blocks and smacking Billy upside his head.

Ms. Talbot and Ms. Bean come over.  “What happened children?”

Billy is incredulous.  Had he the vocabulary, he would be saying to himself, “What?  Are you stupid?  She was piling up blocks.  I wanted to knock over blocks.  I thought we were playing.  You know, cooperating and collaborating in a friendly way.  You know, the way you and Ms. Bean showed us when you held up the paper and she taped it to the wall?  Betty piles up the blocks;  I knock them down.    It was cool.  Then she started crying.”  Instead, he senses his teachers are not likely to champion his position.  Billy says nothing, or perhaps he says, “I didn’t do anything,” or the all purpose, “I don’t know.”

Betty has stopped crying, sensing that the teachers are on her side in this.   Works every time, the crying thing.

“Billy,” Ms. Talbot says, “can you tell Betty you’re sorry?”

Billy resists.  First off, he’s not sorry except in the sense that Betty’s crying has gotten him some unwelcome attention.  Second, he’s got his pride.  He’s not going to cave in right away.  He’s going to make his teachers work for it.

“Billy,” Ms. Bean begins, “how do you think Betty feels?”

More incredulity.  Betty’s checks are still wet from the tears.  Her eyes are red.  Snot is running over her lips.  “I don’t know.”

“Betty?  Can you tell Billy how you feel?”

Sniffle, snuffle.  Shake of head.

“Shall I help you?”

Nod.

“Billy, Betty’s feeling are hurt.  She was proud of the castle she was building out of the blocks…”

“It was a doll house,” Betty says.

‘Oh, was it?” Ms. Talbot joins in.  She’s a little disappointed.  She’s been striving to diversify her charges’ interests.  Truth be told, she would have preferred it if Betty had knocked over Billy’s doll house, but you take your opportunities to fight bullying where you find them.

In the end, of course, Billy says the magic words.  A brief attempt to get Billy to help Betty rebuild her doll house fails when Betty begins to tear up again.  Billy is guided over to the finger painting table where, after an initial resistance, he begins to express himself with abstractions in deep reds and angry purples that, frankly, Ms. Talbot finds disturbing.  She’s not convinced she has helped Billy understand the consequences for aggressive behavior.

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Responses

  1. I think it’s ironic that teachers seem to be trying to eradicate “boys being boys.” Which will win out? Nature or nurture? I reckon this domination will ultimately result in rebellion and confusion.

    • The Education establishment is invested in “non-sexist” child rearing, by which it means non-masculine child rearing, so the way that gets translated is trying to prevent boys being boys. Not to worry. God or Nature mostly has that covered. Give a young boy and a young girl a block of wood to play with and the results are so predictable, you could double your take home pay betting on them. The boy will either aim the block at something and pull the trigger, or run it across the floor making race-car noises. The girl will cradle the block and rock it to sleep.

  2. I think I’d like an opportunity to get to know Billy later on – he seems to know how to have a good time. Seriously, though, the gender thing is fascinating. A friend was shocked when her young son, who, as far as she knew, had never been exposed to firearms, went tearing around the back yard bang, bang, banging with a stick. Where did it come from? The danger, it seems to me, comes from extending acceptance of gender behaviors to an unacceptable ‘boys will be boys’ laissez-faire later in life. But maybe you’ll write about that in another post?!

    • If you get to Sir Galahad and Witless Weeble, it may enlighten you a little if I leak only to you the information that M’s real name is Billy!


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