What are warning signs of bullying in toddlers and preschoolers?
- Has many temper tantrums in a single day, or several lasting more than 15 minutes, and often cannot be calmed by parents, family members, or other caregivers
- Has many aggressive outbursts, often for no reason
- Is extremely active, impulsive, and fearless
- Consistently refuses to follow directions and listen to adults
- Does not seem attached to parents
- Frequently watches violence on television, engages in play that has violent themes, or is cruel toward other children
There are some warning signs to be aware of in young children who may have been bullied or who might be the bully. It's important to remember that these particular warning signs could be an indication of other things, such as trauma or physical or sexual abuse. We, as early childhood professionals, need to be detectives and investigators to determine what is the root cause of that particular behavior.
One behavior you might see is a temper tantrum or many temper tantrums in the course of a day. These temper tantrums might last more than 15 minutes and even the caregiver, yourself, or parents are not able to calm the child. The child may have many aggressive outbursts for no apparent reason. The child might fly off the handle all of a sudden and have explosive behavior for no apparent reason. The child can be extremely active, impulsive, and fearless, more than the other young children within your program.
The next three are more indicators of a child who might actually engage in bullying behavior. The child consistently refuses to follow directions and listen to adults. The child does not seem to be attached to his or her parents, frequently watches violence on television, and/or engages in play that has violent themes or is cruel towards other children. Precursors to bullying behavior are very easy to identify and observe in our early childhood programs, especially during dramatic playtime and how the child associates with materials and others.
This Ask the Expert is an edited excerpt from the course, Bully Proofing Your Early Childhood Program, in partnership with Region 9 Head Start Association, by William DeMeo, PhD.