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Is it fair to call a 5 year old a bully?

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
I just got back from picking up my ds at kindergarten. His teacher wanted to talke to me. Aparently my ds was calling another child names in class today. I'm not sure where he got this behaviour from, perhaps our neighbors boy who he plays with from time to time.

Anyway, this is the first incident like this that I'm aware of. It's certanly something I'm going to need to talk to him about, not behaviour I want to take lightly but his teacher called him a bully. I was realy taken aback by that. He's 5 years old for crying out loud. I don't think a 5 year old has the awarness of the imact of their actions and the intent to cause harm that would qualify them as a bully. I'm not saying that he's perfect, he's an avarage little boy, trying out some behavour that he's seen some where and (hopefully) finding out that it's not apropriate.

How would you handle something like this. Do you think I'm over reacting to his teachers choice of words? Is it possible that he is a bully?
post #2 of 23
I do believe it is possible for a 5 year old to engage in bully behavior. Personally, I would only call a 5 year old a bully after numerous incidents not one. When my son was in Kindergarten there were a couple of definate bullies in the class. I would not be thrilled if the teacher refered to my child as a bully with the first notification.

I would tell the teacher what you thought of her choice of words (in a non-confrontational way, of course). I'm still ticked that my ds' teacher referred to him as chatty-which is true-but the way she said it smacked of labelling and I wish I had said something then.
post #3 of 23
I agree that a 5year can be a bully, I have seen bullies younger than 5. It isn't necessarily the intent to harm or being aware of the consequences of their actions that makes a bully a bully. Most kids this age do not understand what something like name calling can do. It seems like a minor thing because nobody is being physically hurt, however the emotional impact is what makes it bullying.

If this was the first incident then it is not fair to call him a bully. If it was not the first time and the teacher felt that your son is a bully then I"d be questioning why it hasn't been brought up until now - you can't fix what you don't know is happening.

Go to the school and talk to the teacher about labelling him, find out which kids he's playing with at school he could be picking up behaviours from them, talk to the teacher about how you can work together to stop any further behaviour like this.
post #4 of 23
Thread Starter 
Thanks, I guess it was the fact that this was the first time it's come up that I took exeption to. If this is something that has been going on for a while, why wasn't I told. I'm there every day and most days, when I pick him up I ask something like "how was he today?"

It was just kind of sudden and harsh.

I'm going to set up a meeting with her to talk about it.
post #5 of 23
Yes, I think a 5 year old can be a bully.

No, I do not think it is fair of the teacher to label your son as a bully unless there have been multiple incidences that she knows the whole story behind (for example, what if someone was harrassing your son, but she only ever noticed the end when he finally started "fighting back.")

Good luck with your meeting!
post #6 of 23
I also agree that a 5 y.o. can behave in a bully-ish manner, but disagree that it is helpful to label him as a bully. Remember the idea that children will "live up to what we think of them." If he is labeled a bully, he might just live into that "role." See if she can label the behaviors instead of him, and together, in partnership you and the teacher can work to help your son eliminate those behaviors.

Good luck with the meeting!
post #7 of 23
To clarify:

1) I don't think that the teacher should EVER call the child a bully (even if she does think it is a legitamite designation).

2) I would be concerned w/a teacher who would identify a young child as a "bully" for the reasons lauren outlined (self-fullfilling prophecy, she may look at him differently and type-cast him, etc...)
post #8 of 23
It's ironic that his infraction was name-calling and the result was that his teacher called him a name.
I gather she called him that to you, and not in front of him (I hope).
post #9 of 23
I do think a 5yr old can be a bully.

But I do not think its right to label him one, with only one offense.

I would talk to him. Maybe someone is bullying him.
post #10 of 23
Thread Starter 
Like lauren said, I'm worried about labeling him as a bully, aspecially so early in his life as he may end up growing into the roll.

She said it to me with him standing right there!

I've been looking around online for resorces. There is alot out ther on how to help your child if they are being bullied (and this is good) but I can't find anything on how to prevent your child from becoming a bully. Does anyone have any advice on where I could look for that?

I was bullied a lot as a child so I have (I thought) been aware of teaching him to be kind to others. We don't hit or name call in our house. I don't let him watch shows where people are doing that. I've talked to him about how he's feeling, how the other child might have felt, weather or not anyone else has done that sort of thing to him. (no one has, he saw someone else calling another child that on the playground) I'm hoping I've nipped the behavour in the bud but I'm all worked up about it now.

I want to help my son to be the kindest person he can be.
post #11 of 23
Rhiannon I think the teacher's labeling may have you becoming needlessly anxious. I am guessing that you are already doing all the bully prevention that he will ever need-- by being a responsive, empathic and sensitive mama to him!! One incident of calling a name does not a bully make.

Keep being a great mama and he will turn out wonderfully!

(not trying to be sarcastic at all---I know how anxious I can get when a teacher has a different view of my child. In 3rd grade my ds was accused of lying and I went through a doubtful few days until I again trusted him and my gut!)
post #12 of 23
Rhiannon: Just a quick note: Barbara Coloroso's The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander has a chapter devoted to helping your child if they are engaging in bullying behavior...

Good luck, and I agree; the teacher should have a) shared this info privately, where your ds wouldn't hear, and b) chosen her words more carefully.
post #13 of 23
Originally Posted by Rhiannon Feimorgan

I've been looking around online for resorces. There is alot out ther on how to help your child if they are being bullied (and this is good) but I can't find anything on how to prevent your child from becoming a bully. Does anyone have any advice on where I could look for that?
Barbara Coloroso's book The Bully, The Bullied and The Bystander is excellent and has resources for all kids - whatever their role. You could also call the school psychologist to see what they recommend.

Good luck
post #14 of 23
It is never appropriate to call a child a bully. Labels like "bully," or even, "easy," cause more problems than they solve. Yes, the behavior needs to be addressed, but her methodology is poor. The Faber & Mazlish book, Siblings without Rivalry, discusses the issues that go along with such labeling and how to avoid them.

Coloroso's book is also a great suggestion!
post #15 of 23
No, I don't think a child that young can be a bully. The label "bully" gets thrown around WAY too much now for my liking.

That's not to say that hurtful name calling is acceptable. Calling a child a bully...now there's some hurtful name calling. Good modeling, teacher!
post #16 of 23
As a former kindergarten teacher (now staying at home), I can honestly say that I would *NEVER* call a child a bully....even if there were many incidents that I thought he was behaving in a bully-like manner.

I think the teacher should have chosen her words more carefully and I would speak to her about it for sure.

Good luck.
post #17 of 23
Well, I must say what he was doing sounds a little normal, and not "being a bully". My little brother called me an irty-dirty name one time, just because he'd heard someone else say it. Do I instantly label him as having a dirty mouth/mind? No. That teacher must have been having a bad day, and things got way over-exaggerated. I do think that you should discuss this with her, I'd hate for her to label your child in her mind.

That being said, I do know 5 yr olds who do things to hurt others. They understand it's not nice, and that it's hurtful, but they continue to do it. When my dss was this age, he was mean to my brother (a year younger than he) and my son, but that stemmed from him being bullied by his older stepbrothers at him mother's house. It's resolved now, but it was def. bullying.
post #18 of 23
post #19 of 23
Oh my gosh, *please* read "Hold onto your kids" by Gordon Neufeld (sp?). He has a chapter on why bullying happens, what makes a victim and a bully (and his perspective is a little different to that of the popular view (the bully is bullied, etc.). He writes about how it is absolutely imperative that the attachment connection to our kids remain intact for the parents of the bully and the parents of the victim to their respective children. This is a very important book - not only for that one chapter, but he makes a strong case for preserving the child / adult bond through teenagerhood and shows how some forms of popular discipline break down that bond so subtly that society has become immune to its effects and even actively encourage it.

Michelle in NY
post #20 of 23
Thread Starter 

I spoke to his teacher. She clarified that this was the first and only instance of namecalling that she was aware of. She also apoligised for her choise of words. She said she haddn't ment to say he was a bully so much as that the behaviour was bullyish and therfor something that thy take seriously in his school.

So I'm comfortable with doing what I've been doing. Which is gently letting him know that name calling isn't a good thing to do, that people get hurt and that I love him and know that he is capable of comunicating in other ways. We've talked about some other more acceptable things to do if you don't like someone or what they are doing (just walk away for instance)

Now I'm going to leave it alone. I'm confident he got the mesage. I don't belive harping on him is going to do any go so I'm letting it rest. Unless of corse it continues.
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