Every child has a right to feel safe and secure in preschool. It is therefore distressing for both children and parents when bullying happens. A study in 2015 listed Singapore as having the third-highest rate of bullying in the world.
Bullying behaviour can emerge from as early as three years old when children start to relate to each other in kindergarten. These behaviours include pushing, punching or hitting. Non- physical behaviours can include name-calling, making fun of people or making threats.
Bullying behaviour can also extend to how they relate to others like excluding someone on purpose or spreading rumours.
Why Do Some Children Bully Others
Children live what they learn. Bullying behaviour may be modelled after parents or caregivers who use aggression or intimidation at home to get their way. These family experiences can profoundly influence children as they copy this learned behaviour in their preschools.
Children from big families are also more likely to experience bullying within sibling ranks. If parents do not take corrective steps to address bullying at home, the child may view bullying as acceptable behaviour and act aggressively towards others.
In cases where children have developing language skills or a lack of emotional control, they may have difficulties expressing themselves in a socially acceptable manner. This could, in turn, lead to displaying bullying behaviour such as snatching or hitting.
Finally, if the child is frequently exposed to TV programmes or video games that promote violence, he is more likely to imitate similar behaviours to his peers in kindergarten.
How to Tell if My Child is Being Bullied in Kindergarten
According to the Singapore Children’s Society Bully-Free website, some common tell-tale signs of being bullied are:
1. Unexplainable injuries and bruises
2. Lost or destroyed clothing, books and stationeries
3. Changes in eating and sleeping habits
4. Frequent headaches, stomach aches and other physical complaints
5. Feeling sick or faking illness
6. Refusing to go to school
7. Sudden loss of friends or isolation
8. Stops talking about peers and everyday activities
My Child is Being Bullied in Preschool. What Should I Do?
1. Offer your child comfort and support
Sometimes children may feel ashamed and embarrassed and be unwilling to open up. Try to avoid asking your child questions that suggest he has done something to trigger the bullying behaviour. Instead, let your child talk and listen without judgement. Assure your child that you will work things out together with him.
2. Raise this to your child’s teacher
Fix a meeting and give details of the bullying incident. Find out about the kindergarten’s policy on how bully cases are handled. Work with the teacher to monitor the situation and prevent a recurrence.
3. Equip your child
Talk to your child on ways to keep himself safe from the bully. You can role play “what-ifs” situations and teach your child what to do when confronted by a bully.
Helpful Links and Resources from Singapore
If the bullying doesn’t stop, bring this up to the teachers instead of confronting the bully or the bully’s parents. Teach your child to get attention or help immediately the next time it happens.
If professional support is needed, below is a list of resources that you can reach out to for help:
Tinkle Friend Helpline at 1800 2744 788
Written by Susan Koh