Dealing with bullying for preschoolers (and the importance of respect).

In our Lil’Ninjas program (3-5 years old), we are address bullying and unwanted rough play and get them to experience dealing with it, in the safe and supportive environment of our dojos.

As part of our Respectful Turtle theme, we explain that it’s not just about giving respect to others but also to expect others to be respectful/nice to them.

How do you explain “respect” to a 3 year-old?

The first challenge is that we cannot teach respect by being disrespectful to our children.
It might sound obvious but it’s easier said than done and at times we might not. We want things to be done promptly, we get impatient when our little ones put their shoes the wrong way, make a mess when they eat, the list goes on. Sounds familiar? The best way to teach respectful behaviour is to demonstrate it ourselves.

Understanding respect sets the boundaries for what is ok/not ok and is the baseline for teaching about bullying and standing up for themselves. Confidence building is what will enable to deliver a strong response to bullying (and to prevent becoming a bully themselves – but that’s for another post).

If someone does something that is rough or scary (push, pull hair, punch, kick etc), and it’s unwanted, we teach our students to step up and make it stop.

The steps we teach are simple for them to remember and use:
1. Say STOP using your loudest voice;
2. Push them away;
3. Tell a grown up what happened so that they can help.

This basic response in our teachings leaves room for individual parenting to bring it further.

These are very simple steps and yet it requires confidence and the reflex to apply when needed.
Just like for adults, self-defense is a lot about confidence and the ability of deal with the stress of the situation.

Kids at that age start to experience associate and cooperative play and things can get rough at times. It is a good opportunity to get them to understand boundaries and to stand up for themselves.

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