Ask Dr. Jean: Bullying in the Early Years


(Arti Freeman) #1

Dear Dr. Jean,

My 2 year old is being bullied by a peer in his preschool program. Every morning and every night, our son cries about not wanting to go to school. He begs to stay home. Before we knew he was being picked on, the school had called us asking if something had changed at home because our usually happy, smiley 2 year old was inconsolable at school. A few weeks later, our son was able to tell us about his experience and name the child who was pushing, hitting and being mean to him. We scheduled a meeting with his school only to be told that our son needs to adjust how he reacts to this stimulation and learn to regulate his emotions (essentially toughen up). Me, being the sensitive parent I am, immediately got my back up. It saddened me to think that this little boy who is kind, caring and praised for being the most empathetic in his class, would need to change who he is rather than seeking ways to address the bullying behaviour. How can a sensitive parent like myself help my little guy through this tough times without trying to get him to toughen up?

Thank you!

Sam (Parent / Caregiver)

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(Dr. Jean Clinton) #2

Dear Sam,

I’m so sorry that your son and your family is going through this. Congratulations on supporting his emotional development such that he can tell you what is happening. Many two year olds do not have that capacity yet. Two year olds are still very much beginning the journey of managing their emotions, at a time when they have few ways to express them, other than through behaviour. It is known to be the most aggressive stage of mankind!! However it sounds as if the OTHER child is the one with the biggest issue and the program should be helping that little one to develop different ways of managing his their aggression. Social and emotional development involves learning to build relationships and learning how to experience, manage and express emotion. Your little one is clearly further along this path and the preschool can help both the children by addressing the environmental issues that are leading to the problem, TOUGHEN UP is NEVER the solution.

They need to seriously address when and where and how often incidents are occurring and stop them. At the same time help the kids develop the expressive skills. A great book for Preschools around this is “BEYOND BEHAVIOUR MANAGEMENT” by Jenna BLIMES