Hi Joanie,I wanted to comment on your question as to whether "preschool age bullies" exist.
I think some of the confusion in this topic comes from the rightful avoidance of discussing "bullies" vs. the discussion of "bullying behavior." While many researchers who study the development of aggression, exclusion & prosocial behavior shy away from using a label of "bully" to describe children & adults who bully, this does not mean bullying does not happen in preschool!! To the contrary- many researchers in this area point to experiences DURING preschool age as the beginning of bullying in later childhood. However, the research is sparse, and fir obvious reasons, this is a very difficult area to conduct long term developmental studies.That said, there IS a lot we do know about aggression, bullying and prosocial development in preschool.This is an excellent source from Childtrends on the topic:https://www.childtrends.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/2015-31BulliesBlockArea.pdf
One last source of confusion on bullying & it's preschool roots is the developmental difference between 1-3 year olds, & 4-6 year olds. While the children age 1-3 do lack the basic cognitive skills or self & other awareness to bully, most 4-6 are quite capable of bullying, and pretty much we aALL do it at during early childhood some times. Researchers make a distinction between "instrumental aggression" & aggression intended to hurt." Often 1-3 year olds AND 4-6 year olds are exhibiting "instrumental aggression"- that is aggression used to get a object or objective, NOT meant to hurt or retaliate. For example, Fred buds in line & pushes Sasha away from the slide: here Fred might hurt Sasha, but his focus is all about getting a turn on the slide first.
Another important thing to remember when looking at aggression in early childhood is that it is not a straight developmental pathway- just because you get into a lot of squabbles during the toddler years does not mean you will be an aggressive or violelent child, teen or adult. In fact, high levels of conflict with peers in toddlers is actually more related to sociability than aggression! ( if you combine peer conflict AND disregulation the correlation with later aggression is stronger, especially if it is combined with exposure to abusive or neglectful parenting).Peer conflict in toddlers is really driven by the desire for peer interaction, and because more experience leads to greater mastery, these toddlers who are drawn to peer play might start out as "problems" in a preschool class, but with the right scaffolding, they blossom into "social super stars" and sought after playmate pretty quickly!This is why not labeling young children as bullies is so important- once you get that bad reputation it quickly spreads through the whole classroom & can easily lead to being left out or picked on by peers. This is also why paying close attention to bullying during preschool is so critical: it is the right time to gently shape prosocial behavior & make aggressive or mean behavior ineffective is getting young children what they want whether that is a turn on the slide first, a toy truck or just the experience of power we all get from being mean or excluding others from play.Hope this helps clear up some of the confusion,Margro PurpleRockville, MD
Hi everyone,I'm not sure if we have one important piece of information that we need to really understand & solve this problem: Scott, did you tell us the child's age? She sounds pretty verbal, so I'm thinking she is 4 or 5?Many of the people who have already replied stressed empathy & relationship building between the children - I am actually going to suggest a very different tactic - this is NOT a problem BETWEEN two children! The child who is being insulted, isolated & harassed by the first child is NOT the problem.The more attention that is placed on the other child, the more likely you are to actually reinforce this child being labeled as a "misfit" by the other children in the class.Instead, the attention needs to be pinpointed on the bullying behavior. I definitely agree that you need extra vigilance with this child- hopefully, most adult interactions with this child in your classroom are overwhelmingly positive ( noticing & reinforcing prosocial behavior & rule following). This is critical to changing the child's behavior- if you follow her around with the mindset of "catching her" doing the wrong thing & punishing her for the behavior, you will likely she an increase in unwanted behavior. This is because:1. children treat other kids the way they are being treated by adults. When "Catching" unwanted behavior, you model a "bossy" style.2. You create a pattern were the unwanted behavior becomes a mechanism for attracting adult interaction ( not that the child is consciously aware that they act out to get attention).3. You are likely to erode the positive relationship/feelings between the child & teachers; where you really need a warm & friendly relationship to best shape prosocial behavior & compliance.So about 12 positive interactions to each single punitive or disapproving interaction- definitely easier said than done!That in mind, redirecting BEFORE a harassing behavior occurs is great.When the bullying behavior IS exhibited, respond to the BEHAVIOR, not the children. For example, "Sarah, in our classroom " hurtful words" are not allowed. You need to stop saying those things right away." "Daniel! Pushy is not okay in our classroom- you must stop pushing right now." Sarah, our class rules say you need to ASK for a turn before taking a toy that some else is using- I can help you ask for a turn, & then we can play together while you wait for your turn."Engineering a friendship between the two children sounds like a great idea - it always works in the movies, right? But in real life, it often creates more problems than it fixes.Definitely ease the new child's entry into the classroom: set up play dryads with your most prosocial & popular kids, frequently play with the new child & invite a couple other classmates to join the game.This intentional "play partnering" is also a great thing for the child who is acting out against her classmate: pairing her with more mature & socially skilled, patience classmates will give her great social experience that will foster & strengthen her social development.I'm afraid if you partner two students who lack prosocial play skills, you will create peer interactions that are bound to implode & teach unwanted social behaviors.Certainly go over & re-post you collectively created classroom rules. Also, this a great time to choose books that reinforce prosocial behaviors!And additionally, TEACH/MODEL not only how to join/enter an ongoing play group, but also TEACH/MODEL how to invite new comers into ongoing play!One last thing on young children's friendships: peer friendships are critically important to social development, best friendships & other close friendships provide young children with invaluable & unique social experiences that lead to future, fundamental social skills!!Even young children are aware of being talked down too, so forcing a bad fit friendship rarely works. Instead, we need to treat children & their friends with honesty & respect. Please don't separate best friends in preschool! Yes, they can introduce a lot of bickering & craziness in classrooms, but they are critical pathways for resilience!! It's a good idea to have "you can't say you can't play" at school-it's tricky- but worth it. Let best friends play together, but remind them everyone can play at school, exclusive one on one playtime is for play dates outside of the classroom.Thanks for giving my thoughts your time,Margro PurpleRockville, MD
I don't know everything you have already tried, but you have clearly invested a lot of thought, research and effort in helping both children. I think I taught in a similar type of preschool, with a lot of emphasis on inclusion and developing social skills. After some similarly stressful situations, we received training in managing high need children in a mainstream setting. I think some elements of it apply here.I'd like to piggyback on Jack's comments. Whenever a child was endangering another, we had a protocol for managing the behavior to keep all children safe. As Jack mentioned, the aggressive child is going to need complete shadowing by an adult in very close proximity, so that the adult can intercept before another child gets hurt. This is not a punitive action, simply a necessary procedure to make sure she is not able to make physical contact with the new boy (or any other child she may focus on.) We had to stand between the aggressor and the other child and redirect. Hopefully, as Jack pointed out, the adults can be her ally, though it is understandable that she could get aggressive towards them because they are thwarting her.The purpose here is about safety, and it is separate from other kinds of intervention. I know from experience, this shadowing is physically and mentally exhausting for the adult. If you don't have extra staff, good communication between the co-teachers helps, so you can trade off responsibilities.If you haven't spent a few days with a time chart, dividing the day into 20 minute increments, try tracking the incidents or intercepted incidents. Don't describe the incident, simply mark that there was one in that time period. The reason to track closely is to see if there are any patterns to the incidents that reveal what time periods are most vulnerable. In this way, you can look for issues that can be corrected such as transition times that allow the child more unsupervised access than at other times in the day. This understanding helps to know when to allocate extra staff, if available. It also may help to identify antecedents (what was happening before the incident) or other environmental triggers like extra noise or activity, in case that applies.I think Jack was indicating another reason the behavior should be intercepted as thoroughly as you are able. All brains pick up patterns and inscribe them as habits. Young children have quick learning brains, and the less this child is able to satisfy this behavioral urge, the better chance that the behavior will fade away and not become habitual.Good luck, this is really difficult. I hope that in 6 months you will look back at the skills you have been forced to gain, and be really proud of yourself!