Bullying in Preschool: What Parents Need to Know


One of the biggest fears parents have about sending their child to preschool is that their child will be bullied or picked on. It's understandable, too - one study found that over 20 percent of four-year-old children in school have been the victim of bullying. To help you understand more about this troubling topic, our Raleigh child care center is sharing what you need to know about bullying in preschool, from identifying and handling the situation to knowing what to do when it's your child doing the bullying.

Defining and Identifying Bullying

In preschool-aged kids, bullying can be difficult to identify. Stopbullying.gov defines bullying as" unwanted or aggressive behavior...that involves real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated or has the potential to be repeated. Examples include:

  • Physical bullying: Hitting, pushing, taking the other child's toy or belongings and intentionally breaking them.
  • Verbal bullying: Threats, repeated name calling, and teasing.
  • Social bullying: Intentionally leaving a child out from a group, telling other kids not to be friends with a child, making fun of other kids for being friends with a child.

An argument, a single incident of name calling, or refusing to share, while these are behaviors that should be addressed, are generally not examples of bullying.

Signs Your Preschooler is Being Bullied

While some children are very vocal and will come right out and tell you what is going on, other children may keep it to themselves if they're being teased or bullied at school. Signs your child may be being bullied include:

  • Not wanting to go to school (especially if they normally love school);
  • Complaining of not feeling well or a tummy ache before and after school;
  • Not answering questions about their day;
  • Coming home sad;
  • Acting out toward younger siblings;

If your child tells you someone is being mean to them or they're demonstrating these signs, it's important to find out what's going on. Preschoolers can get off-track when telling a story or struggle to find words so asking very specific, short questions is a good way to get to what actually happened. Things like, "Was someone mean to you today?" "Did they push you intentionally or was it an accident?" "How did those words make you feel?" will help your child open up and give you the information you need to know what to do next.

Be sure to reassure your child, give them a hug and let them know you'll take care of it. It's important to not minimize their feelings ("Oh, it was probably just an accident or a joke.") or excuse the behavior ("He was just doing that because he likes you!"). Instead, telling them to stick up for themselves, such as a loud "Leave me alone!" if they are being pushed or hit, then telling the teacher immediately can empower them.

Speaking to the Preschool Teacher

Discovering your child is being bullied can feel like a kick to the chest, and it's definitely normal to want to take definitive action NOW. First, reach out to the preschool teacher by phone or email letting them know about what's going on and if they are aware of any concerns. Often, bullies will pick on children in a secretive way or when adults aren't looking. Simply bringing it to the teacher's attention will ensure they can put a stop to it before it starts.

If you feel the teacher is not handling the situation or the behavior continues, speak with the administrator of the preschool.

What to Do If Your Child is the Bully

While no parent wants their child to be bullied in preschool, knowing your child is the one picking on another child is just as devastating and heartbreaking. You may be inclined to defend or minimize the behavior, but it's important to address the problem immediately. A preschool aged child who is bullying others most likely has a root cause to their behavior, such as anxiety, instability at home, or even a bully who picks on them, such as a neighbor or older sibling. With preschoolers, the most common issue is that the child may be more impulsive or not fully understand how the behavior affects the other child. However, it's also important to note that even though something may have triggered this behavior or they don't understand the ramifications, it doesn't excuse hurting another child.

Communication is key when you find out your child may be targeting another child. Again, specific questions help you get to the bottom of the issue, and discuss scenarios of social interactions. You can even roleplay social interactions where you focus on respectful language and including others as well as providing coping skills to combat temper or frustration.

Fill Your Child's Heart with Love

Whether they are bullied or bullying others, your preschooler needs love and nurturing. Be present in their lives and let them know home is their safe space where they can talk about their feelings and that you want to know what's going on with them. By having this safe, nurturing environment at home, they will be more confident at school, which can prevent aggressive behavior or being targeted with aggressive behavior.

Schedule a Tour of Our Preschools in Raleigh

If you are searching for a preschool for your child where there is a safe, nurturing environment, positive social interaction, and caring adults available, schedule a tour at Primary Beginnings. Contact us today at our North Hills Drive location at 919-785-0303 or our Spring Forest location at 919-790-6888 or schedule a tour below!