There’s a fine line between thoughtless or selfish actions and true bullying among young children.

If your child is a preschooler, their overly assertive actions may simply be a way of testing the boundaries of what’s acceptable. They are still learning basic social skills and figuring out how to manage their own emotions. To some extent, easing and grabbing are part of every little kid’s development. At this age, a kid acts less deliberately and is more likely to torment whichever child is around her at the moment.

By kindergarten, children begin to understand social power among their peers, Aggressive kids this age start to actively target others whom they see as vulnerable — whether it’s because they’re shy, sensitive, small, or different.

Teachers generally respond differently to bullies depending on  age. In preschool, they make an effort to teach kinder, more gentle behavior. By elementary school, the emphasis shifts toward protecting the victims, but teachers need to keep in mind a budding bully can be reformed with guidance and conflict resolution.

While teachers do their best to control bullying, they can’t always be there to witness or prevent it. School administrators may not even be aware bullying is occurring. Victims tend to keep quiet out of fear or embarrassment. In some cases, principals simply don’t know how to deal with the problem.

How does a child become a bully at a young age? Most experts agree that a child crosses the line if his actions are both intentional and occur habitually. Bullies tend to have low self-esteem. They lack empathy and need to dominate others to feel important. As parents, be diligent about noticing your child’s behaviour. You don’t want your child to be bullied, but you also don’t want them to be the bully! Obtain professional help if needed – if your child is the bully something is usually going on beneath the surface and needs help.

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