Excerpted from Class Meetings: Young Children Solving Problems Together (Rev. ed.) by Emily Vance, 57. 2014.
The roots of a bully’s behavior are found in early childhood, when patterns of social interaction are formed. A need for power, control, or attention is often the motivation for bullying behavior. An example of a child trying to fulfill this need is when he or she uses the familiar, simple, songlike chant, “Nanny, nanny, pooh, pooh, you can’t come to my birthday party!,” as a way to embarrass or exclude another child. Coloroso (2003) calls this the bullying play or the script that a bully uses to express contempt for another, generating a “powerful feeling of dislike for somebody considered worthless, inferior or undeserving of respect” (p. 20). She states that “bullying is arrogance in action” (2003, 21). In the scenario with the songlike chant, the child singing the taunting song is the bully. The child being sung to, the target of contempt, is the bullied. Others observing this situation are bystanders. Each one has a role in this drama and each must receive additional guidance and support to eliminate the negative behavior. “These terms are not meant to permanently label children but rather provide a way to identify certain roles and characteristics” (Coloroso 2003, 4). As an early childhood professional, I have observed this scenario many times and over the years developed a way of responding that seemed to work.
Sometimes the bully and bullied need the help of others to establish that the bullying behavior actually occurred. For example, when talking to the child who was doing the bullying, you may sense that he is fearful of confessing or stating his involvement in the problem. He may say no when asked if he remembers the situation. This is a good time to invite the bystanders to share further information. These testimonials provide more details and confirmation, or verification, of the situation. I have found that when a child who has demonstrated bullying behavior becomes aware that others observed her actions, it defuses her ability to deny participation in the drama. Other times, bystanders are unable to give information that either confirms or denies the actions. In such cases, we might talk about how we will have to be more observant as we go forward. Class meetings or mini meetings are effective forums for addressing less severe types of bullying, like the example above.
Excerpted from Class Meetings: Young Children Solving Problems Together (Rev. ed.) by Emily Vance, 57. 2014. This book is available for purchase in the NAEYC Store.
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