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Preschool of Hard Knocks? What to do about mean kids?

post #1 of 61
Thread Starter 
I was reading another recent thread about bullying at preschool of a 4 y.o. but didn't want to hijack that post though there are similarities.

My dd is 4 going to a mixed age preschool with 25 kids and 5 teachers in a large classroom. Not my first choice, but I'll get to that later. A cliquish thing is going on where there's a contingent of rough boys my dd tries to avoid, a few groups of girls and and a couple pairs of kids whose mantra is "you're not playing with us" whenever my dd tries to join. Today, she persisted in drawing at a table and engaging with 2 girls. One of the worst offenders, "R" said to the other girl, "lets stop listening to her." It is heartbreaking to see, especially since my dd really wants to be friends with these kids despite their obvious meanness.

I tried to talk one of her teachers before today, and she shrugged it off saying, "if I never hear that again, it will be too soon," like its just normal and harsh, but part of learning how to adjust to school and school has mean kids. I felt like there should be some kind of intervention in the culture of the school, but I can see that the teachers probably don't even hear it or have stopped hearing this kind of thing as problematic. I don't know. They are in most other ways very kind, nurturing, etc.

This is the 4th school we've tried in 2 yrs. because we practice attachment parenting and my dd hasn't been ready for me to leave her, and the other schools haven't been willing to let me stay. (Waldorf school, Waldorf home-based, Reggio Emilia school, and now, plain play-based community church school) We found this one that said I can stay forever, and I stayed for a few weeks until she was ready to try it on her own. She was very excited to go and likes the teachers and the activities. But, I think the mean episodes mounted, and she stopped being willing to go to school without me there--to protect her. I have been inching away from her to let her experience some autonomy, but a day hasn't passed without one of these girls saying, "you're not playing with us."

One day, dd came to me and said, "I can't find anything to do that isn't near some of the "bad" kids. (Her term for the ones that scare her). I've practiced with her what she should say or do when confronted, but that isn't exactly what I thought preschool was for. I dropped from 3 half days to 2 without saying anything to dd just to lessen the influence these things are having on her. This is my first child. My intuition says, its not working, find an alternative--but I don't want this to be a "failure" for her...dh is adamant that we don't teach the lesson of giving up in the face of adversity. How would you approach this with dd if on some level, she likes going--and I absolutely don't want her to think its her fault.
post #2 of 61
I disagree with your dh, your daughter is 4 and I feel that she is still young and needs parents to stand up for her when she can't.

I am also annoyed at the teachers response. It sounds like there is not enough adult supervision happening during recess. Yes, some boys can play rough, but a good teacher can help guide them and not allow the type of play that is happening. 25 kids isn't a ridiculous amount for 5 teachers to keep an eye on. I have seen situations where teachers are clumped together and chatting- not accusing anyone, just saying it happens and may need to be addressed.

We believe in the "you can't say, we can't play" rule. (Shoot is this Vivian Paley?, will look up when dd isn't hanging on my arm).

I don't care for the teachers attitude at all- I would try and talk to another teacher, bullying needs to be handled before it gets out of hand.
post #3 of 61
Any school that has this kind of attitude towards unkind behavior is not a safe atmosphere for a child, in my opinion. For me, the only acceptable option should be the teachers right there in the middle of the kids, facilitating kind, friendly social interactions, immediately putting a stop to bullying or mean behavior, and explicitly teaching about empathy and kindness. Most parents, if you ask them, will tell you that one of the reasons they put their small children in preschool is so that the kids can spend some time with other children, make friends, and learn about social behavior. That's one of a preschool's primary jobs, I think.

Is there somebody in charge at this school- a director, for instance? If it were me, and the teachers were unresponsive to your concerns, that's where I would go next. Another option is to figure out which of the kids are NOT included in this group of unkind children, and speak to the parents. One parent complaining might not accomplish much, but a group of them would.

But if nothing changes, I'd seriously consider pulling the child out. 4 is too young to have to field that kind of adversity, especially with unsupportive and unhelpful teachers.
post #4 of 61
I have mixed feelings on this situation. On one hand, it sounds as if your dd isn't ready for a school atmosphere. Four schools in 2 years is a lot, especially as she's only 4. Perhaps stopping for a while until she feels more confident to negotiate things without you would be helpful.

OTOH, is your dd really sensitive? She seems to have problems with quite a few groups of children. Is it possible that her perception of these events is skewed a bit? I was an extremely sensitive child, and it really didn't take much that another child said to upset me. Your dd sounds like she may be that way. If that's the case, then I think the best course of action is working with her on how to respond to others.

Look at it this way. You said she persisted in engaging 2 other girls, which suggests the girls didn't want to engage. So one said, "stop listening to her." Well, they didn't want to play with her anyway, so I don't think that's terribly mean. They don't have to enjoy playing with her, and it's important that she learn to read those social cues. Now, if they told her she couldn't draw at the drawing table, then I think that's different. Expressing what they think, though, is okay.
post #5 of 61
Honestly, it doesn't sound like she's ready for school.

Do you have any co-op preschools near you? Not only do they tend to be less $$, but you won't have teachers rolling their eyes at you staying and there tends to be more involved adults and a higher ratio of adults to kids because parents are *required* to be present and engaged at at least some of the days and generally if you wanted to stay all the time you'd probably be needed and appreciated.

What do you want her to get out of preschool specifically? If it was socialization, clearly she's not getting it or is getting hurt and there's a danger that she'll withdraw from it in this environment. It seems to me you'd do better to back off for a year or arrange more small group or one on one playdates. If it's learning to deal with "school", then take a class once a week, where you can be visible to her but where she can gently adjust to taking direction from another adult. If it's academic, she's not really going to get that in preschool anyway.

Standard drop off preschool does not sound like something that is a good fit for either of you. Better to drop it, than have this poison her experience and expectations, IMO.

I really encourage you though to look into co-op or playgroup/parent-ed classes, that give a taste of preschool but are more supportive of separation issues and parental involvement than typical mainstream preschools.
post #6 of 61
Quote:
Originally Posted by BrandiRhoades View Post

Look at it this way. You said she persisted in engaging 2 other girls, which suggests the girls didn't want to engage. So one said, "stop listening to her." Well, they didn't want to play with her anyway, so I don't think that's terribly mean. They don't have to enjoy playing with her, and it's important that she learn to read those social cues. Now, if they told her she couldn't draw at the drawing table, then I think that's different. Expressing what they think, though, is okay.
Yes it is terribly mean to leave someone out in that way. Bullying doesn't have to be in the form of loud abusive insults or violence. Bullying from girls tends to be more quiet and subtle but just as painful. Someone wrote a book about bullying (something like _Please Stop Laughing at Us_) and made the point, "It's not just the mean things you do to people; it's also the wonderful things you don't do for them." This girl is being excluded and is not being given the freedom to enjoy herself the way the other kids are. I don't care how reasonable the individual acts of exclusion might look. Collectively, those acts result in an excluded and unhappy child. If I caught my child talking like that about someone, I absolutely would tell her that she is not allowed to be mean like that. I would honor the feelings of the lonely child over the girls' need to express themselves. That kind of talk can set off a chain reaction where the other kids might think, "Well, if they don't want to play with her, I don't either."
Generally it sounds like the girl needs to be with her mother more than with peers. Probably the other kids are more independent, have known each other longer, and separate from their parents much more easily. If my children were ever bullied, I'd coach them on how to act "cool" when the bullying occurred (I read about that strategy somewhere, I forget where). But that would be for older kids. I wouldn't expect a 4 year old to learn to put up pretenses.
post #7 of 61
I would expect cutting back to two days a week will mke matters worse not better.

This is an age where the idea of what a friendship is is still being formed in children's minds. They don't quite grasp all the nuances yet. One of the easiest things to grasp in this early stage of friendship defining is "a friend is someone I spend time with."

If you DD spend less time with the other children she will have a harder time being thought of as a friend. It sounds like she already had the disadvantage of coming into the class after relationships had already started to form.

I think you and your DH need to decide if your going to fish or cut bait. If you want to commit to try to give it a real shot and make it work, then you need to have her go at least 3 days if not more. You need to put an effort into doing outside of school one on one playdates. You need to really embrace creating relationships. If you aren't up to breaking into this complex friend system, then it's time to really leave the school instead of your DD going in with the disadvantage of being the least involved student.

ETA: I'd be really annoyed at the teachers attitudes about this, they really should be helping facilitate friendship building. Though I'm not a fan of micromanaging children's social lives, they should be there to offer some guidance.
post #8 of 61
Thread Starter 
Not a lot of time to address BrandiRhoades comments at the moment, but wanted to say that the other 3 schools lasted between 1 and 4 weeks, or 2-6 sessions. DD doesn't have trouble with all the kids. I would say that she has not been ready for the school environment before now but now I think it is these particular kids that are the problem.

It is really 2 issues--the loud/rough/physical play styles of some of the boys, and the mean girls which is probably about 3 of them that lead a few others that they know from outside school in the "you aren't playing with us" game.

Wondering, what to say/do when this happens right in front of me...to other people's kids...to my dd.
post #9 of 61
I would just say what I would say to my own child. "Oh, let's use our manners, please. It's ok if you want to play alone, but please say, 'We want to play alone right now.' (And then to your dd) They're playing a game already. You may color here too if you want, or you can go play xyz and maybe they'll join you later." Or something to that affect. I would just try to model polite ways for the children to handle the situation, and remind the mean girls (nicely) to use their manners. I wish there was more you could do. Of course, if the teacher was doing this all day, you might not have this issue.
post #10 of 61
Quote:
Originally Posted by eko_mom View Post

It is really 2 issues--the loud/rough/physical play styles of some of the boys, and the mean girls which is probably about 3 of them that lead a few others that they know from outside school in the "you aren't playing with us" game.

Wondering, what to say/do when this happens right in front of me...to other people's kids...to my dd.
WHy is the physical/loud play style of the boys a problem?

I like the PP's suggestion for what to say.
post #11 of 61
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tapioca View Post
WHy is the physical/loud play style of the boys a problem?
It scares her when she feels like she's going to get run over or hit.
post #12 of 61
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by kittykat2481 View Post
I would just say what I would say to my own child. "Oh, let's use our manners, please. It's ok if you want to play alone, but please say, 'We want to play alone right now.' (And then to your dd) They're playing a game already. You may color here too if you want, or you can go play xyz and maybe they'll join you later." Or something to that affect. I would just try to model polite ways for the children to handle the situation, and remind the mean girls (nicely) to use their manners. I wish there was more you could do. Of course, if the teacher was doing this all day, you might not have this issue.

I like that. In fact I used it today when dd repeated verbatim to her 8 mo old brother what these girls are saying to her and I think it made her think and make some connection in understanding what is happening with these girls. That they lacking in kindness, not that there is something wrong with her.
post #13 of 61
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by BrandiRhoades View Post
Look at it this way. You said she persisted in engaging 2 other girls, which suggests the girls didn't want to engage. So one said, "stop listening to her." Well, they didn't want to play with her anyway, so I don't think that's terribly mean. They don't have to enjoy playing with her, and it's important that she learn to read those social cues. Now, if they told her she couldn't draw at the drawing table, then I think that's different. Expressing what they think, though, is okay.
I don't at all agree, obviously. They are 4. Learning inclusion and kindness is one of the things keeps us from being wild animals, IMHO.
post #14 of 61
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tigerchild View Post
Honestly, it doesn't sound like she's ready for school.

Do you have any co-op preschools near you? Not only do they tend to be less $$, but you won't have teachers rolling their eyes at you staying and there tends to be more involved adults and a higher ratio of adults to kids because parents are *required* to be present and engaged at at least some of the days and generally if you wanted to stay all the time you'd probably be needed and appreciated.

What do you want her to get out of preschool specifically? If it was socialization, clearly she's not getting it or is getting hurt and there's a danger that she'll withdraw from it in this environment. It seems to me you'd do better to back off for a year or arrange more small group or one on one playdates. If it's learning to deal with "school", then take a class once a week, where you can be visible to her but where she can gently adjust to taking direction from another adult. If it's academic, she's not really going to get that in preschool anyway.

Standard drop off preschool does not sound like something that is a good fit for either of you. Better to drop it, than have this poison her experience and expectations, IMO.

I really encourage you though to look into co-op or playgroup/parent-ed classes, that give a taste of preschool but are more supportive of separation issues and parental involvement than typical mainstream preschools.
Perhaps. She really enjoys the activities. We have done a number of your suggestions and they are best, but we thought we'd try. Truly, I'd like to bail out of this situation, but I don't know how to do that without it looking like quitting to DH and DD.
post #15 of 61
Quote:
Originally Posted by eko_mom View Post
Perhaps. She really enjoys the activities. We have done a number of your suggestions and they are best, but we thought we'd try. Truly, I'd like to bail out of this situation, but I don't know how to do that without it looking like quitting to DH and DD.
So what if it does? I'm sorry, but your daughter is 4 years old. If this is not a good environment for her, swallow your pride already and do what's best for her like you have the last few times you have left a program that wasn't right. If you and your husband feel that you can't leave a bad situation that isn't improving and in which you get no sympathy or help from the teachers and director, then please understand it's not the other kids that are creating the "preschool of hard knocks"...it's you guys' attitudes that are contributing to that!

Four year olds do not get the concept of "don't be a quitter". And if it's an environment where she is being bullied and none of the adults are going to do anything, I'm not sure if that's a great concept to have in the first place!

I can understand that it must be terribly frustrating to go through 3 schools in a very short time period, but isn't that also an indication that maybe you just need to pull back for awhile and give your child a little more time and less intense toe-dipping into group experiences?
post #16 of 61
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tigerchild View Post
So what if it does? I'm sorry, but your daughter is 4 years old. If this is not a good environment for her, swallow your pride already and do what's best for her like you have the last few times you have left a program that wasn't right. If you and your husband feel that you can't leave a bad situation that isn't improving and in which you get no sympathy or help from the teachers and director, then please understand it's not the other kids that are creating the "preschool of hard knocks"...it's you guys' attitudes that are contributing to that!
Yes. I don't have a problem moving on, its DH. He is way more "mainstream" than I am. So is everyone around me, and this is my first time parenting, so, I am not confident. It was a major battle with DH to leave the last school...so, I'm anticipating the same here. Just wanted to get some feedback that I am not insane, coddling, sheltering, or damaging DD by keeping her home and with me on parent/child groups.
post #17 of 61
Absolutely not! At least IMO. It seems like you and your DD have given it all you've got. What is it that DH wants your DD to get "out of" preschool? If you know, then I'd come up with a plan to meet those objectives. If he doesn't, then I don't think it's a bad idea to have a plan to meet the most common objectives plus some advantages of down time and a more flexible schedule.

And you can still keep interviewing and visiting school (perhaps for next year), but bring up the current problems with the director right at the start, how they react (by totally blowing you off, or looking in disapproval, or with genuine compassion and understanding) might help sort out some other candidates for a gentle, safe entry into school.

Or are you guys looking at K next year, and that's why DH is nervous perhaps?

It's amazing what a difference six months can make, esp. with some breathing room, KWIM?
post #18 of 61
I think you should leave.
It doesn't sound like a good school.
Your dd shouldn't have to worry about being bitten or hurt by a bunch of rough boys.
And the girls should be nice.
I pulled my dd out of a school at 4 because she was being bullied. My only regret is that I waited so long.
For what it's worth, she's a very very social first grader. She's happy and has tons of friends. She is also very independent now.
I decided to stop trying to find a school. I concentrated on finding her a couple of good friends so she had social success. I also got her to take a couple classes. [Funny. I don't remember what they were. I think they were art and dance.] And then, eventually, I found a local nursery school co-op that was only one morning a week. I went with her. She made a friend, she had fun and it was very, very low key.
Like I said, she is totally social now. We homeschool but she takes lots of classes and, seriously, makes friends everywhere. It took her a few months to get over the bullying but, in the end, she got over it.
post #19 of 61
Thread Starter 
Mama2mygirl and Tigerchild, I want to be like you when I grow up. Just had the discussion with DH. It went about as well as I expected, but Tigerchild, your ideas about finding out what his "objectives" are helped it not devolve into only a battle of the wills. He just thinks that he wants her to learn how to deal with adversity and that she needs to learn without the relationships being micromanaged. I told him I thought that from a solid base of safety and self-confidence built from trusting us and her environment would yield the results he's looking for...

He's also worried that if he "gives in" to this, that he will be making it easier to homeschool, which he is knee-jerk against. Yes, he's afraid that I won't want to send her to kindy either, and he's right. But, don't get me started.

Because of her bday, we have a year and a half til she's eligible.

We are at a draw at bedtime. Tomorrow would normally be a preschool day. DD doesn't know which days are which, so, I'm not sure if we'll be going or not. But, for sure, no one is going to intimidate her without intervention. Maybe we'll wind down...not sure exactly what to say to her about why we aren't going anymore...if in fact, I can negotiate the exit with DH.

I was thinking I'd say what I've said before, that it wasn't the right fit for our family...and make plans to anticipate a mommy and me thing we go to in spring.
post #20 of 61
If the teachers won't work with you to make it a better environment than I agree that it is time for you take her out. Our DD started Kindergarten this year, about 6 weeks into the school year. Before the holidays she started coming home and telling me everyday that so-and-so won't play with her. It was the same few girls everyday. I talked to the teacher who was very understanding and was willing to work with us to make it a better environment for DD. She volunteered to add some lessons on "behavior". She also mixed up the tables to move DD away from the main "offender", who she so wanted to be friends with anyway (it was heartbreaking for me to hear). The teacher also suggested that we start having play dates at home with some of the kids so she could get to know them better. Her situation is much improved over the last weeks, thanks to the dedication of the teacher.

Perhaps you can arrange a few play dates with other girls - as another PP pointed out, at that age they are really just starting to form the idea of friendships but they need to get to know eachother first. Also see if you can get your DD engaged with other children at school before the unkindness starts, so that she becomes part of at least some group to play with regularly. Obviously, the teachers need to be willing to work with on this.

No, we cannot expect all children to get along, but as another PP stated, it can get out of hand with other children following the "leaders". No school, especially a preschool, should be tolerating that type of environment.

I would try to talking to one of the other teachers or the director, but if they are not willing to work with the children to create an inclusive environment, then there is nothing else to do but to pull her out. Whether or not your Dd learns to stand up for herself, that does not make it any better if the problem is almost complete exclusion.
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