As parents, we strive to bring up our kids to be well-mannered individuals. So, Susan Ong never thought that teaching her 3-year-old preschooler to be gentle with people would turn him into a target for bullies.
It started with name-calling, but quickly turned physical. The bully punched her son’s stomach, then pushed him, causing him to fall. When Ong asked that the preschool’s principal urge the bully to apologise to her son in front of the class, she refused to do so, explaining that the bully’s act was probably unintentional. Infuriated by the lack of support from the teaching staff, she pulled her son from the preschool.
Sure, you should talk to your tot about the importance of sharing. At the same time, you should also make sure that while he is accommodating, he also doesn’t become an easy target for the class bully.
Use real-life situations as teaching moments to hone junior’s ability to stand up for himself, suggests Dr Hana Ra Adams, a psychologist at The Change Group LLP, such as talk about some incident that might happen at the playground.
When you keep stepping in all the time, it not only prevents them from learning how to deal with the situation, it also stops them from standing up for themselves.
If your child is in a heated exchange with his peer and are tempted to intervene ― don’t. Cautions Geraldine Tan, a principal psychologist at The Therapy Room, “It is important for parents NOT to jump in at every situation and to observe what happens [instead].” When you keep stepping in all the time, it not only prevents them from learning how to deal with the situation, it also stops them from standing up for themselves.
By the way, the best outcomes aren’t just those are in your child’s favour. Tan stresses, “If the child have managed it right, then it is the best result.” Here are expert tips on how to help junior handle two common social set-ups:
The playground bully
THE SITUATION Your tot is happily playing with his toy car when his friend comes up and demands that he share his toy with him. When your child declines to, they get into a fight.
WHAT SHOULD JUNIOR DO Tan says you should ask your child to share his reasons for not sharing. He could be careful about sharing the toy, especially if you have told him that it is pricey and he doesn’t want it to be damaged. Teach him how to express his reservations with his friends, instead of giving an outright rejection.
As the owner of the toy, he can set out conditions for sharing the toy. Try: “I will share my toy with you, but only if you don’t damage it.” If his peer damages the toy, then your kid should know that he can walk away and play with someone else or go elsewhere. Tan points out if the toy is very precious, we can suggest that he allows his peer to touch the toy or give it a kiss.
Another way is to get your child to put himself in the other person’s shoes, says Dr Adams. Ask your child how he’d feel if he tried borrowing a toy from his friend, only to have his request denied. If your child shares his toy, you should ask him how he felt after sharing the toy and seeing how happy his friends were.
Click to find out how to help junior manage another common scenario…
Pinched by a classmate
THE SITUATION Your kiddo’s classmate runs crying to the teacher when your child retaliates after being pinched by him.
WHAT SHOULD JUNIOR DO If junior is caught in this situation, it is a good time to reinforce family rules and values with your child, Dr Adams explains. Start with asking her to talk about what has happened before repeating the rule: Keep your hands to yourself and never hit others. Explain that instead of retaliating, tell the person to stop, then go and talk to a teacher or an adult.
Tell junior that standing up for himself need not entail physical aggression. Tan says it is acceptable for your child to push his friend away if his peer constantly hits or pinches him. Copying the bad behaviour should not be tolerated. “We stop the behaviour by bringing it to an abrupt halt. [Physical retaliation] only leads to both being hurt and [there are] no winners. ” Tan explains.
Tell junior that standing up for himself need not entail physical aggression.
Here are other ways to build up your preschooler’s confidence:
Talk to the teacher Tan stresses, “This is vital as many children are afraid of teachers and stay silent in their presence.” If he is not afraid to reach out to his teacher for help, classmates will learn to respect him.
Give them manageable responsibilities Assigning age-appropriate chores to them can help them understand that they can complete tasks.
Make friends, not enemies Junior should learn to be sociable and must be willing to interact. Tan explains, “If we go into a situation always [in] defence, then the world will always be a scary place and every action is an attack.”
Let them fight their own battles Respect your child’s ability to solve their own problems. Believe in their ability to stand on their own two feet, rather than rescuing them all the time. Tan stresses, “This way, we empower them.”
Organise or get involved in more playdates Interacting with his preschool peers gives him opportunities to improve his confidence as he learns best by observing his friend’s behaviour. Dr Adams advises, “If there is an activity that your child particularly enjoys, help support their interest by helping them join a local group or become involved in it yourself.”
Point out that learning and changing is an on-going process Dr Adams stresses she constantly reminds her own kids that we all make mistakes and we are all learning. It takes away any guilt or shame when they don’t perform well in school or if they fail at something. Dr Adams explains, “Helping your child increase their resilience and independence also builds confidence.”
Dr Hana Ra Adams is a psychologist at The Change Group LLP. Geraldine Tan is a principal psychologist at The Therapy Room.
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