A story from San Antonio, Texas regarding one teacher’s approach to handling a kindergarten bully recently went viral.
It has been reported that the teacher orchestrated pay back by having each of the 6 year old’s class mates line up and hit him. He was reportedly hit by 24 peers.
The little boy did not tell his parents. His parents found out two weeks after the incident when another teacher who had observed situation finally stepped forward.
It has been reported that the teacher who initiated the incident will not be hired back to the school. The teacher who witnessed the incident will be allowed to return despite the delayed report.
No criminal charges against the teacher have been filed.
It is hard to define the most shocking details of this account. Perhaps the most glaring is the lack of emphasis on how concerning and downright potentially damaging this teacher’s response could have been not only to the bully but on the rest of the children in the classroom.
Much of what children learn is modeled by the important role models in their lives including but not limited to parents, teachers, extended family, coaches, etc. It is possible that this teacher has not put an end to one student’s bad behavior but instead encouraged it in an entire classroom of young innocent minds. Essentially the message that this teacher has taught is that we respond to bad behavior and violence with violence and bad behavior.
Also of great concern is the labeling of a 6 year old as a bully. Most children begin their formal education in kindergarten.
This transition into a world of rules and regulations is harder for some kids than it is for others. The of the adults charged with teaching are charged with a big responsibility.
For the children in this Texas classroom they have learned that instilling fear and intimidation are appropriate responses to aggressive behavior. Good luck to the teacher who gets to take over the classroom next year as it is likely to be quite a rodeo!
So then, what could have the teacher done differently? Managing a classroom bully is certainly far from easy. At the tender age of six however, there are more positive ways to intervene.
A little kindness support and caring can go a long way. At the tender age of six children still have much growing to do. Concern not retribution is not only the responsible response to a child behaving badly but it is required. Outward behavior especially at this age, can often offer a bird’s eye view of what is going on for a child inside emotionally, socially and domestically. Because young children lack the control over their emotional impulses they tend to express what they are dealing with externally through behavior.
Parents should partner with teachers and other adults charged with interacting with their children. If you notice that your child is having a difficult time at home it is helpful to keep the individuals in the outside world who work with your child on a regular basis informed. Any new changes such as the loss of a loved one, addition of a sibling, etc. can affect children even if they do not seem to be affected at home. By sharing this information you alert these important outside individuals to be mindful of any concerns. In addition they are more likely to offer the caring and support your child needs during this transitional time.
Partnering with Parents is a must. As a parent it can be difficult to hear that your precious one is less than an angel in the classroom. It is natural for parents to act incredulous or even defensively when such information is imparted to them. Teachers and other adult authorities charged with interacting with children are best served focusing on how they deliver less than positive news. It is not the content that can set a parent off, but the process.
Teach through example. Parents and other adults regularly interacting with children need to remember their role and influence. Young children are like sponges. They tend to do what they see.
Boost them up, don’t tear them down. Children expressing negative and or aggressive behaviors often feel dis-empowered. One way to turn around their behavior and attitude is to engage them in positive situations in which they carry influence. Putting them in the role of a peer tutor is one way to do this. Have them help other students in an area in which they show strength. A little validation can go a long way.
Outside help is helpful and sometimes necessary. A child who continues to have interpersonal difficulties is often in a sense calling out for help and direction. Continued difficulties may indicate the need for outside intervention with a well-trained professional such as a counselor or therapist.
Bullying the bully is never the answer. Through caring and concern you teach compassion and kindness a lesson about which we can all use a refresher from time to time.
Jennifer Powell-Lunder and Barbara Greenberg are authors of the hit book, "Teenage as a Second Language: A Parent's Guide to Becoming Bilingual." They've set up an interactive website for parents and teens to listen, learn and discuss hot topics and daily dilemmas. You can find it at www.talkingteenage.com.