Common approaches to teasing and bullying: what you need to know
It should be apparent when you mention your worries about your child being teased or bullied, that the practitioner is equally concerned and is clear that the problem lies with the child who is the bully. Do not allow yourself to appear to accept that your child is in any way responsible, unless it is obvious that he has deliberately contributed in some way to an intentional effort to upset another child. When your child is involved in this manner then the way forward needs to be the application of suitable sanctions, followed by a bringing together of the children, after discussion with the parents, so that harmony can be restored.
If your child is bullied in a situation where he has not deliberately upset another child, then no fault must be laid at his door. It is clearly the fault of the bully and that must be the starting point for the intervention.
Nowadays there are approaches that use systems that are based on a 'no blame' approach for the bully, and you need to be certain that you are happy with this attitude when you choose your pre-school. It can go badly wrong and if followed may leave your child with a sense of injustice and even fear.
While it is a decision for you, a policy that does blame the bully, and does then have procedures for punishing him, and then building strategies for him to realise how badly he has behaved towards your child is more likely to leave your child feeling supported. After the bully has responded to these strategies, then you can support a coming together of the two children and a way forward to help them build a relationship.
Serious bullying behaviour can be seen as early as pre-school. Pre-school children may bully others to get attention, show off, or get what they want (toys, clothing, playground equipment). They might be jealous of the children they are bullying. They may also be getting bullied themselves or have seen behaviour at home that they are copying. When pre-schoolers begin to call people names or use unkind words, intervention should take place immediately and consistently to teach acceptable behaviour. It is important that the bullying does not escalate to physical attacks that can so easily get out of hand.
Talking to the children about stammering
If your child's stammer had led to the bullying you could discuss with the pre-school how to educate the other children about stammering to show how upset your child has been by the teasing/bullying. You need to talk to your child to make sure that he is comfortable with such an approach. Staff may wish to work with your child's therapist, use leaflets from the BSA or even work in role play situations that teach the children about diversity. Such learning is very useful for all children and shows your child how his worries can be sorted out once he talks about them, this is a useful message for him to understand as he goes through his education.
Therapists do commonly work with older children who stammer to help them cope with difficult situations by expressing their reactions in an assertive manner that the other children will respond positively to. Very young children are unlikely to understand the complexities of such an approach but many pre-schools do already teach the children how to explain that they do not like a comment or an action because it is unkind and parents should support this. If you feel that your child would be helped by such an approach it is worth raising the idea with your provider.
What to say to staff when you are still concerned and think that the bullying needs to be more formally discussed and dealt with
If you feel you need further support contact your local Parent Partnership service or get their contact details from your local authority This service is available in every area to provide independent advice to parents of children with special educational needs and may be able to provide a worker who can support you and accompany you to any meetings.
Prepare some notes of incidents and reactions by staff to support your case, include dates, times and details of actual incidents with names of children and staff involved. It is worth spending time on this and keeping these notes in a special file or envelope as if you pursue a formal complaint the information will be required.
Make a definite appointment to talk to your child's key worker again but this time request that another more senior colleague, such as the member of staff responsible for special educational needs (SENCO) is present. If you are talking with a childminder then ask her to invite the officer from the local authority who is responsible for Early Years. You may find it helpful to take a relative, friend or representative of the Parent Partnership with you who know your child and can give support.
Remember that as a parent you have the right to expect that staff in the pre-school setting deal with your concerns about teasing and/or bullying. You should leave the meeting with a definite plan of campaign to deal with the bullying based on the bullying policy and have this explained to you and be satisfied with this before you leave. If you think you would be helped by having written details of what staff will do then ask them to write it down.
In the unlikely event that your concern is still not dealt with to your satisfaction, make an appointment to talk to the Head or Manager of the pre-school immediately. If your childminder does not seem to understand your concerns you should directly contact the local authority officer with responsibility for Early Years staff to arrange a meeting. When you go to this meeting take a written copy of what has been happening so far to leave with the practitioner that you see and again do not leave the meeting until you are satisfied with what action is proposed, asking for a written copy to keep in your record. Agree on a definite time scale for action to be completed and fix a date for another meeting to review the situation.
Hopefully you will never need to pursue a complaint further than this, at pre-school level, it should always be possible for a bullying incident to be resolved within the setting.
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