Child sad after bullyingBullying is typically a problem that affects school age children. So why address it as early as the toddler years and the preschool years? Many of the factors that increase bullying behavior later in childhood actually occur during these early years.  Being on the lookout for these factors is important when parenting young children.

First, children reflect what they see at home in their own behavior. When parents behave in a way that is disrespectful to one another, to their children, or to friends and family members, children take this as cues. Of course, adults will occasionally snap at one another or have a disagreement. But verbal and physical abuse, harsh discipline, and flaring tempers are behaviors that may impact bullying behavior of children in the future. On the flip side, positive engagement with one another, and with children, on the part of parents, will model respect and kindness.  

Make sure your children are not witnessing violence or being exposed to maltreatment in any sphere of their lives.  If you have a calm, respectful, and kind home, but your child consistently sees a cousin, neighbor, or friend becoming the victim of abuse, that may impact the way your child behaves in the future. Witnessing violence and abuse is traumatic to young children and this trauma can manifest as low self esteem, depression, anxiety, and bullying behaviors in the future.

Keep an eye on the kind of television, movies, and Youtube channels your child is exposed to. Studies have shown that increased television viewing can increase aggressive behavior in children. Make sure that your child is watching age appropriate shows, and steer them away from violence. Shows like Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood and Sesame Street can teach children valuable lessons about kindness and generosity, as well as enhance emotional growth, and are better alternatives.

Work with your child on building emotional intelligence. Encourage him to notice the feelings of others, examine his own feelings, whether he is happy, frustrated, or sad, and talk about his feelings with you. You can even speak with your child’s daycare teachers to ask them how they address big feelings when they come up in the classroom. They will likely have some verbiage or even some books or resources to recommend.

Talking with your pediatrician is also a great idea, as she may have resources to share. And if you have advice for your fellow parents, please tell us in the comments section!