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My son is 4 1/2 and just started at a new Montessori school. He is in a "mixed-age" class, ranging from 3-6 years. He is in the summer camp program where most kids know each other from the school year. He has been there one week. He told me tonight that there are 4 six-year old boys who were being "naughty". When I pressed him as to what they were doing that was "naughty", he told me that they took his yellow ball away, that yes he told the teacher, but she let them keep it because they had it first and told him to wait his turn. This was obviously in the playground.<br><br>
I told him that if that happens again, to go and do another activity, or find someone else to play with. He said he couldn't because they were "blocking his way" and wouldn't let him get by, and that they were telling him to "go away" and "go home" and calling him names. I told him that if it happened again, that he should ignore them and do something else, but that he should go and tell the teacher, but he said he couldn't because they wouldn't let him by. I asked him to show me, and we did a role-play. I tried to get by him, he put his hands out and moved side-to-side blocking me. Then he said they laughed at him. (Me, mammabear = <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/angry.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="angry">).<br><br>
I asked a few more questions trying to get at where it happened, where the teacher was, etc. He went on to tell me that they were blocking him from getting on the climber, that they said if he threw the ball over them, they would let him go up, but if he couldn't, he couldn't get by. He said he tried, but couldn't throw it over them, it kept going under the climber. He said he tried to climb up the climber, but they wouldn't let him. I kind of wondered if they were just blocking him from going on the climber, but every time I suggested he do something else, go somewhere else, tell the teacher, etc., he said they wouldn't let him get by.<br><br>
Three other things I think are important:<br>
1. A friend was there dropping off paperwork a few weeks ago and had her son with her, he was apparently just walking along beside her, not saying/doing anything and these older boys were apparently calling her son names through the fence, (cry-baby, mammas boy, saying "go-home baby" etc...). So much so that she decided not to send her child there. She said the teacher was not doing anything, but wasn't 100% sure she'd heard.<br><br>
2. I spent 2 hours with DS on his first day and I had to speak to these 4 boys (I know exactly the ones he's talking about) a few times about not being very inclusive or nice to some of the other kids. My son asked them if he could play with them, asked them questions, their names, etc. and they were rude/ignored him, which I thought was harsh for his first day.<br><br>
3. My son tends to get "picked on" for some reason. He is very emotional and dramatic and cries / whines at the drop of a hat. He got picked on by a boy in Preschool, (the boy cornered him, kicked him, pushed him constantly, etc. - the school dealt with it very effectively and that's behind us, but may be part of a pattern). He also plays soccer with two boys he's known his whole life; the three of them used to play really well together, but over the last 6 months, the other two have started to gang up on my son, they call him names, taunt him, etc. when the 3 are together (which I now avoid). I am just wondering why he is predispositioned to be picked on! <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/greensad.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="greensad"><br><br>
Any thoughts? I am going to talk to the school tomorrow (principal and teacher) to tell them my concerns and find out what they plan to do about it, and find out their policy on bullying. I put him in private school hoping to avoid this kind of thing, (also because he's quite advanced academically and I thought he'd get bored in regular JK)! Maybe he'd be better in public school where he doesn't learn much but is not with older kids! (He loves older girls though, he gets along GREAT with them so I was really looking forward to the mixed age groupings...<img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/greensad.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="greensad">).<br><br>
One stressed mamma....
 

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<img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/hug.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="hug"><br><br>
I know the mama bear in you is raging right now.<br><br>
If it actually happened as he said, then I'd say YES it is bullying. I think you are absolutely doing the right thing by speaking with the school. Even if it wasn't as bad as you think, at very least the teacher should try to work with your son and the other kids to make sure he feels comfortable and included.<br><br>
It makes me sick to think this kind of thing happens so young. Yuck. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/greensad.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="greensad">
 

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I see this as bullying, and I'm so sorry that this is happening to your young son.<br><br>
Are there other adults around? This was going on for several minutes and no adults noticed and took action?<br><br>
My 4.5yo ds is similar to yours... Academic, sensitive, and likes older girls. He's been picked on too. I'm also`looking for solutions. My parents have mentioned karate to give him confidence. I have a sense that he's not ready for that yet. We plan to homeschool and hope to give him a strong self-esteem foundation. I can let you know this theory works out in about 10 years.<img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/wink1.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="wink1"><br><br>
I'm a mamabear too. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/hug.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="hug">
 

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Wow, this scenario sounds so familiar, sadly. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/greensad.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="greensad"><br><br>
DS also was in a mixed age Montessori and also was faced with an older boy clique. He started there at age 3 and a quarter. The boys were all 4.5-5 years old and all knew each other from before. I TOO was hoping the mixed age thing would be a bonus, but for us it was TERRIBLE! My DS ALSO gets along GREAT with older girls and is also a pretty bright little guy who loves imaginary play, reading, etc. Long story short, socially, it was BAD NEWS for him. He'd vacillate between modeling the bad behavior, and having extreme anxiety and crying about the "big boys at school". It just wasn't worth it!<br><br>
We ended up dropping the class and switching to a different day/ class. (I WAS going to drop the school mid-year but the teacher came up with this alternative to finish the year) It was better there, but he was now the "new kid" in a school he'd been in all year.<br><br>
I think in theory the mixed age thing can be great, but for us it was pretty awful. We are going to a Reggio Emilia preschool in the fall, all 4 year olds, smaller class size, and thankfully all kids who he knows already.<br><br>
I hope you can find a resolution for you DS that lets him thrive and be joyful.
 

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First of all I don't think it is a great idea for 4 year olds to be with kids as old as six. Second, it fits all the criteria of bullying and must be especially threatening/upsetting to your son because it is more than one or two boys. If I were you, I would write all this down and meet with the director and teacher and make it clear that you are very serious about this, you want a special meeting right away, and that you expect steps to be taken to deal with this. I went through this last year, with my son who is first grade. Don't forget that bullying can be subtle, too, as in relational aggression or verbal bullying. I would make it clear too that I would pull my son out (if you can) if they don't take action to my satisfaction. I would think that at least they would have a special talk with all the kids at once, making it clear to all that that kind of behavior is unacceptable.
 

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My 4 year old was being bullied by a girl in her class and an older girl as recently as a month ago. (they are both in daycare together and tend to gang up on other kids)<br><br>
Both my neighbour and I have see this first hand. I spoke to DD and made the same suggestions as you. but I also suggested that when they are mean to her-that she should call them bullies and tell them they are being mean and that you don't like that etc.<br><br>
So as i stood in the bushes watching, she decided to march right up to the girls (who were minding their own business for a change) and say "you're mean and I won't play with you because you're bullies and you have to stop or you'll get in trouble from my mummy.'<br>
Just like that-right out of the blue.<img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="/img/vbsmilies/smilies/eyesroll.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="roll"> Not quiiite what I suggested.<br>
but there hasn't been a problem since-DD and the girl in her class are friendly again. And the older girl has moved on to tormenting another little girl.<img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/greensad.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="greensad"><br><br>
I think that because she stood up for herself and let them know she wouldn't let it continue, it showed them she wasn't their victim.<br>
Can your DS try something similar?<br><br>
i'm sorry! I hope this stops soon and your DS can feel comfortable at school again.
 

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Oh goodness - yes this is definitely bullying, it's awful but you mustn't let it sit, speak with not only the teacher but the director as well, let them know that you expect them to speak to the boys who are involved. My dd went through hell and back and it wasn't until we put forward a united front that something was done - the schools here in france don't really having a bullying programme at all. At the moment it's words next week it'll be pushing, the week after kicking punching until it gets really horrendous. We taught dd the hand up and stop thing but it didn't really work and she's not really that forthright, I got her to practice shouting to leave her alone but that didn't really work either, she eventually did get the hang of protecting herself but it took a while and she did need the help from adults to get her through all the torment and torture - and I'm not exaggerating it really was torture for her.
 

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I would totally speak to the school - and not just the 1 teacher... are they not supposed to teach manners as well? You're paying them money... kids should be learning to behave, weather in a private, public, or other school... this happened to us in preschool (though, not a mixed age) - the kids were picking up all kinds of bad behavior, and I almost pulled them out. sadly, some teachers are better at handling this than others...
 

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I think I would be most worried about the fact that a teacher didn't notice and/or didn't intervene. Its unfotunately the many kids will try out "bullying" behavior at some point, but its the teacher's job to nip it in the bud and teach them how to nicer on the playground. I would definitely go to the teacher first, explain what happened and ask what advise she would have for your son in those situations. That will tell you a lot. Then ask how teachers generally assist with these situations.<br><br>
Then I would go to the director and ask about playground supervision. One of the things that I loved about our preschool was that all children could be seen by at least 1 staff member at all times and the staff were alert and intervening any time there were problems. So find out about what the plan is and, if it allows children to do this sort of thing unobserved, ask for a plan to make it better. If a teacher should have seen/intervened in the situation, then explain what happened and ask for the director to follow up with the teacher about supervision and intervention into problems.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks for your replies. So yesterday my son tries to take a stick to school to protect himself from "the 6-year olds". <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/greensad.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="greensad"> (He hid it in the car)<br><br>
I gave my son a huge pep talk on how to handle things with his words, and told him to yell for help as loud as he could (we practiced all of these things), but reassured him that me and DH would be talking to the teachers and the school (I showed him the letter I wrote too) and said we would keep talking to them and would make sure that they would talk to the boys, and that we would keep going in there until it stopped.<br><br>
He promised he would tell me if it happened again. He was scared to go in, so he stayed with me while I talked to the teacher. (Annoyingly, the director is away for 2 weeks. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/irked.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="irked"><img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/smile.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="smile"> The teacher listened and I would say responded "appropriately", but I don't know that she took me seriously. When I asked her what the policy is on bullying, she said that "at this age, it doesn't really happen" !!! but that if the kids are kicking or hitting, they are removed. I said I didn't want it to wait to come to that!! She promised to keep an eye on him in the playground to make sure he was not getting picked on. I also asked her to get him a buddy; someone his own age he could play with. She took him in to the class and had her 12 year old daughter who was there help him with a puzzle. Only one of the four boys was there this week, but there is a "new" older boy.<br><br>
I went and spoke to the office manager, the only other person there (other than the teachers) and she at least took it very seriously. I gave her the letter and said I would be following up with the director when she was back. She said that it needed to be "nipped it the bud" right away and agreed that it was the opposite school experience they were aiming for, (their motto is "what school should be").<br><br>
It looks like she must have spoken to the other teachers, because I got a full update from another teacher when I went to pick him up. The teacher (a diff one than from drop off) said that he had a really good day, that they had been watching all day and there were minor "boys being boys" incidents, but that it was dealt with. Just then, an older boy "punched" the ball from my son and then knocked his baseball cap off and laughed <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/irked.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="irked">: and the teacher went right over and dealt with it - having them speak to each other (my son saying what he wanted the boy to stop doing; the older boy to apologize and say it won't happen again, say how he thinks my son is feeling, etc.). They ended up playing nicely together for a few minutes before we left.<br><br>
That made me feel better, but we stayed for a few more minutes so I could watch how he was getting on with the kids and it seems that the one six-year old who was there from the prior week (who had picked on him) had gotten the other older boy (a 5 year old) to be part of his "gang", as when we were leaving my son told them we were going to a restaurant with his friend. The two automatically started saying, "is he your girlfriend?" "Is he a baby, you like babies!". And then they started saying, "Be quiet, that's boring" whenever my son spoke, and the two would laugh. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/irked.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="irked">: The teacher was on the other side of the playground and couldn't hear.<br><br>
So now I am struggling with whether to keep him here, knowing he'll always be with older kids and will likely continue to get picked on, but where at least the teachers are willing to try to address it (when they hear), but where the playground is large with pockets where he can be picked on unseen.<br><br>
OR, move him to public school - not knowing what the heck I'll do with him during the summer, but knowing he'll generally be the oldest (and less likely to get picked on by younger kids?)...<br><br>
OR, try to get him back in to his old daycare, which goes to SK. He had lots of friends there and was the "big kid", but he'll just have to move again for grade 1 to a new school, and it may happen again at his new school in 2 years, but I will be less likely to hear about it (or able to address it) in a huge public school with no enclosed playground.<br><br>
Ugh. Thoughts? Am I better to leave him in this environment, knowing he's scared to go, will likely continue to get picked on when out of teachers ear-shot, but keep trying to address it? <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/greensad.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="greensad"><img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/greensad.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="greensad">
 

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That sounds awful. I think the unknown (different school) might be better!
 

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<div style="font-style:italic;">So now I am struggling with whether to keep him here, knowing he'll always be with older kids and will likely continue to get picked on, but where at least the teachers are willing to try to address it (when they hear), but where the playground is large with pockets where he can be picked on unseen.</div>
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A very unfortunately part of the world of children is that you cannot protect them completely from older or rougher children. Well, I suppose you could but I'm not sure raising kids in isolation would be the right thing to do. And even then, eventually they would have to venture into the world. I was a camp counselor one year for a 15 YO girl who had always been protected -- private small school, only church friends, no boys, no socializing without parents, etc. Then they sent her to camp for diabetics because she was newly diagnosed and parents thought it would be good. She had so much trouble dealing with more worldly kids, eventually she tried to kill herself!<br><br>
I relate the story because I think we, as parents, need to do two things. We certainly need to advocate for our children with school/groups to ensure they are taking bullying seriously and protecting our kids. But we also need to teach our children to handle the world because they will have to deal with this sort of thing off and on forever.<br><br>
Seems like you have done a good job on getting the school to pay attention. Continue to document what your son and, more importantly, what his teacher says. If she is uncooperative or unconcerned the director will need to work with her response. If the director is also un-responsive/unconcerned, then I think you need to consider a school change. There is no guarantee that the exact same thing won't happen in another setting, so I wouldn't do that before exhausting other options.<br><br>
You have also done a good job at starting you child down the road to handling himself as well. Keep encouraging him and giving him tools to deal with it. Some other things you might tell him is to play near the teachers for a while. Its not "fair" that he needs to take steps to protect himself, but it is sort of "life".<br><br>
They probably won't ever tell you how they are handling the bigger boys from a discipline standpoint (privacy laws), but they should be able to assure you that they are taking action.<br><br>
The thing that really worries me is that the director is away for a bit and you won't get any real action until she comes back. Any chance you have a backup option that you could put into place until that happens? Who is supposed to be in charge while she is away -- they must have designated someone as acting director. What does that person say? And if they won't tell you who that is or say there isn't anyone, then what would they do in an emergency and what does it say about the school?<br><br>
Of course, this is all predicated on the assumption that the school will acknowledge that this is an inappropriate situation and is willing to address it. And that they want to be proactive in teaching children to be good playmates. If you don't get that sense, then I would think you wouldn't want your child there whether he was the one getting picked on or not.
 

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The inattentiveness, "boys being boys" [I really dislike this descriptor!] and "it doesn't really happen at this age" would concern me.<br><br>
I've had stepkids in a Montessori setting where they used a specific program on how to deal with conflict. I don't remember the name of it now, but the thing was, the school contemplated that conflicts and bullying can occur, and was proactive in helping give children the tools to interact well together, as opposed to waiting for a heads-up from a concerned parent then promising to 'watch' for a problem.<br><br>
Dd goes to public school, and we have found the school very responsive with bullying issues of any kind. This includes having a stated policy, responding to problems as they occur, giving children tools to resolve their own difficulties where possible, ensuring they know how to get an adult to help as needed, and having clear rules about interacting that they all know and understand (like no contact games on the playground).<br><br>
What you are facing sounds very lackadaisical to me.
 

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I would give it another week or two, with daily follow-ups about whether he's being bullied, how they are responding etc.<br><br>
I would present the morning teacher with a list of critical incidents (i.e. examples of things that actually happened - the ball incident and the name calling when you left), and ask her how she would deal with them.<br><br>
I agree with a pp - find out who the acting director is, or who the 'lead teacher' is, and meet with them. Ask them to come up with a concrete plan for making sure your son feels safe AND a school-wide policy/program to deal with this. The teacher who said "it doesn't happen at this age" either has her head in the sand or is being willfully blind.<br><br>
Our dd was in a mixed age class this year, and while I think the teachers handled it beautifully, it was a bit hard on her. She WANTED to play with the older kids, but she didn't quite have the skills to do it (in the fall, she was barely 3, they were 4 1/2), and they weren't all that interested in playing with her. It took a lot of conscious grouping by the teachers to get dd a set of kids she felt comfortable playing with (there were other 3 year olds in the class, but dd didn't want to play with them!). And it took a lot of work by the teachers to get rid of the the social exclusion (girl-bullying - the older kids were all girls). This year she'll be one of the older kids and we'll see how it goes. So, while I understand the value of mixed age classes, it's sometimes a bumpier road.<br><br>
For the OP: Are they going to admit any more kids for the fall? Will he always be the youngest in a mixed aged class or will other 4 year olds join him?<br><br>
Factors for whether I'd keep my son there:<br>
1. Response of the administration/team -- are they willing to work with you NOW?<br>
2. Do you see continued improvement over the next 2-3 weeks? Not only around the teachers, but when the teachers aren't directly present.<br>
3. How your son feels about going to school. If he's getting more and more reluctant, I'd think hard about keeping him there.<br><br>
I know a lot of parents are fearful of sending their kids to public school. Honestly though, the experience depends much more on the school and the school personnel than on whether it's public or private.<br><br>
Our ds attends our local public school. If you go by the numbers, you'd probably freak out: 76% free and reduced lunch, 58% ESL, close to 500 students in grades K-5. And yet, the school is a safe, inviting place with an excellent and effective discipline/anti-bullying program. Why? Because the principal and the teachers have worked hard to make it so. The principal has made some smart decisions and created a great atmosphere. For example, she used federal anti-poverty money to hire a full-time counselor who visits each class at least once a week to work on social skills, problem solving, anti-bullying, etc. I know of small, exclusive, private schools with horrible bullying problems because the administration won't acknowledge/won't work with it.<br><br>
So, all of that is a long winded way of saying: If the culture of the school allows bullying, you're going to get it no matter whether it's a private or public school. Private schools don't always have more resources to deal with this kind of thing. Instead, they tend to rely more on kids coming from families where behavior issues are less common, and recommending that 'problem' children go somewhere else for school.
 
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