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Preventing Bullying: Using Your Words

One of the most critical components of a child’s development during the preschool years is language development. A child’s abilities to understand the meaning of words and then to express himself or herself with words affect every aspect of a young child’s life, especially behavior. As they develop better understanding of their world through language, young children learn how to control their emotions by using words.

Use the Building Blocks Know Kit Cards to start talking with your children about their feelings and how to respond to specific situations that might get them angry, frustrated, or sad. Allowing your children to practice expressing their thoughts and emotions helps them understand that they need to use their words, and not their behavior, to express their feelings. Below are a few specific Know Kit Cards that help parents talk with their children about feelings and emotions (Know Kit Cards are now available in Spanish).

Helpful Know Kit Cards

Samples for Ages 3–4

  • Samples for Ages 3–4“What do you do when you get angry?”
    Together, talk about the picture on the card. How does Mee look? How is she acting out her feelings?

    Next, use the questions on the card to guide your child to identify and deal with angry feelings.

    Now, ask how it feels if someone talks angrily to him or her—shouting, name calling, or teasing. This question helps in two ways. First, it allows your child to understand how it feels when someone is picking on him or her; and, second, it helps your child empathize or understand the feelings of others who are being picked on.

  • “What do you do if a friend takes away your favorite toy?”
What do you do if a friend takes away your favorite toy?

Together, talk about the picture on the card. What happened? How does Ali Rabbit feel? How do you know?

Next, use the questions on the card to guide your child to talk about how Ali might get his toy back. Talk about the importance of sharing, but remember sharing does not mean not having your turn to play with the toy.
Now, ask your child to talk about a time when someone took away a favorite toy. Talk about his or her feelings at the time. Talking about how your child felt when this happened can help prevent him or her from doing this to someone else.

Samples for Ages 5–6

Samples for Ages 5–6
  • “What do you do when a friend hurts your feelings?”
    Together, talk about the picture on the card. How does Wally feel? What might have happened?

    Next, use the questions on the card to guide your child to talk about hurting someone’s feelings. What actions or words have hurt your child’s feelings in the past? How did he or she handle the situation? What else could have been done? 

    Now, ask your child to look at the picture again. Talk about how to help Wally. What kind words would your child use? What actions might he or she take?

  • “What would you do if a bully threatened your friend?”

What would you do if a bully threatened your friend?

Together, talk about the picture. What might have happened? Who is being threatened? Who is helping? How can you tell? What is a bully?
Next, use the questions on the card to guide your child to talk about bullying and whether he or she has ever been bullied.
Now, have your child talk about being an onlooker or the friend of a child who is being threatened. What could he or she do to help?

Whenever you need a little help getting a conversation going with your child, get out the Know Kit Cards.You may choose to pick a card that focuses on something you have in mind or let your child pick out one that he or she finds interesting or appealing. Use the cards to boost your child’s confidence, build vocabulary needed to express his or her feelings, and help your child practice problem-solving skills by talking about alternative solutions to a problem. Children with these life skills benefit from social acceptance, friendship, and positive social play experience with friends and family.

Remember, if you have any concerns about your child’s unexpected change of behavior, talk with his or her teachers to see if they have seen any changes in the classroom. Speaking up early allows teachers to be aware of any issues and prepare to make classroom adjustments immediately if necessary.   Note that all children are entitled to courteous and respectful treatment by students and staff at school.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is a website with resources, tools, and videos to educate parents, children, and community members on preventing and addressing bullying. The following is a recent blog in Stopbullying Blog:

  • Teaching Social Skills to Prevent Bullying in Young Children explains to parents and educators the importance of teaching young children three types of social skills: social problem solving, empathy, and assertiveness.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
SAMHSA provides a variety of materials on preventing bullying:

  • The SAMHSA Blog, October is Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, provides information about bullying and its impact, as well as strategies on how everyone can and should take action against bullying;
  • Me, You, and Wally Bear: A Building Blocks for a Healthy Future Mobile Application guides adults in building positive relationships and open lines of communication with their young children (can be downloaded for free from the SAMHSA website and Apple iTunes Store soon); and 
  • 15+ Make Time to Listen, Take Time To Talk … About Bullying cards encourage parents and caregivers to spend at least 15 minutes a day listening and talking with their children to prevent youth violence.
The following online resources provide excellent tips, information, and resources for parents and caregivers to stop bullying:

Education Development Center, Inc.
Eyes on Bullying Toolkit: What Can You Do? provides parents and caregivers of preschool and school-age children specific insights, strategies, activities, and resources to prevent bullying in their children’s lives

Sesame Street Workshop
Sesame Street Bully Prevention provides videos and tips for parents to understand the signs of bullying and the role of adults when dealing with bullying. 

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Updated on 3/22/2014