Dealing With a Preschool Bully

preschool bully
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We want to believe that all little kids are complete angels, incapable of inflicting harm on each other, but the unhappy reality is, they are. While it's unlikely that you'll find a 3-year-old stuffing his classmate into a cubby, sadly, preschool bullies are very real and have lots of methods of inflicting emotional and physical harm on their pint-sized classmates.

Teasing, taunting, exclusion, and even hitting, kicking and other forms of bodily injury can certainly exist in a preschool classroom. And if your little one is the victim of a preschool bully, it's hard to stay calm and focused while offering your child support. But you need to. Here's how.

Know the Signs

While some children will come right out and say that someone is teasing or hurting them, others may say nothing at all, especially if it is a chronic problem. Possible signs that your child is being bullied include not wanting to go to school after always loving it, complaining of feeling sick or having a stomach ache before going to school, or not answering questions about how school was.

You may also notice a sudden change in demeanor—maybe your child is sad or even angry. They may even give you some clues, telling you that a certain child bothers them or that they don't like someone in the class.

If you suspect your child is the target of a bully, talk to them. Ask specific questions about what is happening, like, "Did Sammy hit you?" "What did Quinn do that is making you upset?"

It's important to suss out whether the behavior is bullying (that is, happening repeatedly) or an isolated incident, such as a tussle over a toy or a turn on the playground.

Talk to Other Adults

If you think your child is being bullied, talk to the classroom teacher or daycare provider. Find out if they are aware of the situation. If they aren't (which isn't uncommon; many bullies do their best work in secret), express your concerns and talk about what you think has been happening.

See what kind of insight and advice the caregiver offers. Simply alerting them to what has been going on may take care of the issue, as they will give the situation more attention. If, after talking to the teacher, you feel that nothing has been resolved, keep at it. Discuss the situation with the school's or day care's administrator.

If you think you can remain calm, consider talking to the other child's parents. This could be a minefield, so tread carefully. Don't accuse the other child of anything. Just mention that your child has said that they don't get along with little Sammy and you are wondering why. See what they say and take it from there. Do not turn the conversation into a confrontation and don't get upset if the other child's parents don't acknowledge the situation.

Offer Your Child Support

To help your child deal with a bully, give them a hug and assure them that you are there to help. Letting your child know that this isn't something they have to handle all alone will do wonders for their demeanor and self-esteem.

While the preschool teacher is going to be your child's strongest ally in the classroom, the reality is that your little one isn't going to be bullied while grown-ups are around. So you need to help them work out what to do if another child bothers her. If it isn't too upsetting to your child, you could even role play different scenarios, coaching them through what to do.

You might suggest a couple of options to your child, including:

  • Ignoring it. If your child is being verbally teased, sometimes the best course of action is no action at all, simply walking away. Most bullies bully because they are looking for attention. However, if the bully is hitting or otherwise physically hurting your child, instruct them to tell the teacher immediately.
  • Being brave. When the bully starts to pick on your child, advise them to stand up for themselves (but not fight back). A loud "Leave me alone!" can do wonders.
  • Telling the teacher. If your child is uncomfortable, then by all means, have them tell the teacher. Some children are worried they will be labeled a tattletale, but assure them that this is an instance where they need to enlist the help of a grown-up.

The goal is to build your child's confidence while giving them a lesson in socialization. Even as adults, we often have to deal with people who aren't nice to us. By giving your child these skills now, you will be helping them throughout their life.

A Word From Verywell

Ultimately, if the situation is bad enough and you feel that not enough is being done, you may decide that you need to switch schools or classrooms. Hopefully, it won't come to that. But as parents, we are our children's best advocates. The answer is doing what is best for our child.

3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. KidsHealth from Nemours. Helping kids deal with bullies.

  2. American Psychological Association. Resilience guide for parents and teachers.

  3. American Psychological Association. How parents, teachers and kids can take action to prevent bullying.

By Amanda Rock
Amanda Rock, mom of three, has spent more than a decade of her professional career writing and editing for parents and children.