The Preschool Bully

In life, we all encounter bullies at some point. Whether they’re physical or emotional, it happens. I was always shy and quiet in school which I’m sure made me an easier target when I was little. I had a girl knock my toys over in preschool and then in elementary school I was once choked and I was shoved on more than one occasion.

When I heard this summer that my son was bitten by another kid at preschool, I was less than thrilled. Here we had switched preschools after a horrible previous experience, and I was so worried this experience would cause him to hate this school too.

This school is different though. The teachers are very attentive and the environment is wonderful (if they accepted adults, I’d sign up in a heartbeat!). After this incident, Bailey would cry at every school drop off for weeks on end. He’d tell me not to go, clutching onto me, running after me, telling me how scared he was.

I felt horrible. I’d drop him off and cry in the car every single time, but I knew that I couldn’t just switch schools to avoid a bully, after all, he will encounter them throughout his lifetime. I also knew that there was no place better than this school to deal with a bully. After all, every day upon picking him up, he’d refuse to leave and tell me he wants to live at the school. The teachers were actively making sure he remained safe and he has not been bitten again. And despite his initial for fears at the daily drop-off, he was happy the rest of the day.

A person can be a bully for many reasons. It could possibly stem from the child’s innate personality, it could be caused by something in their home life, but for a preschooler, it could just as easily be because they lack communication skills and being physical is they’re only way to communicate. In this kid’s case, he’s younger, still using his pacifier, and at the time of the incident, couldn’t talk much. At first we explained to Bailey that this kid was younger than him and he doesn’t understand how to behave nicely yet. We told Bailey when approached to tell him “no” and to be a good influence, showing this “baby” how to behave nicely. For weeks, we told him this but for weeks he was still crying in fear every time we arrived at school.

Then suddenly, after what seemed like an eternity, something changed. First of all, I had stopped lingering at drop off. I said bye and basically ran out the door as fast as I could, even if I heard him crying behind me. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done but I knew his teachers were comforting him. But it wasn’t just me that changed. One day, I dropped him off and he came to me, asked for his kiss and cuddle, said bye, and then ran off happily to play with his friends.

For the longest time I’ve been wondering what shifted. I’ve wondered why he’s no longer afraid when this kid is still there, and still misbehaving. Yesterday, I learned the answer. One of his teachers turned to me and told me how well Bailey is doing with this bully now. She told me that when this kid approaches him with mischief in his eyes, Bailey gently puts his hand on his chest to stop him and in his most parental voice, says a calm “Nooooo,” while gently pushing him back. Apparently, when the same kid comes to knock over Bailey’s toys too, Bailey does his best spider-man pose and blocks all of his toys from him. Not only has he learned how to stand up for himself and have control over the situation, I also learned that he’ll play with this kid too, which speaks volumes to me. I couldn’t be prouder knowing that he’s trying his best to show this kid what it’s like to be a nice. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

Some bullies never grow up and some remain bullies the rest of their lives. Heaven knows I’ve dealt with my fair share of emotional bullies in my adulthood. Then there are some bullies who grow out of it because they dealt with the demons they faced in their childhood by having good and supportive influencers in their lives. The girl who choked me and shoved me back in kindergarten became a friend in 8th grade and is still one of the nicest people I know in my adulthood. This child may or may not always be like this. I’ll probably never know that answer. But what I will know is that Bailey has not only learned how to deal with his first bully, but he’s also learned that through kindness. we can be influential to helping people change. Both of these skills will comfort me as he continues to grow up and encounter different people in his lives. What more can I say than I’m honored to be his mother.

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