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How Bullying Begins

I think I'm finally ready to write about what happened the other day. In fact, I think I need to write about it now. It's long and emotional, but I could really use some support and thoughts.

Before I start on that, I want to mention that the Pookie been pretty sick. He has an ear infection in one ear and coxsackievirus (hand, foot, mouth disease (HFMD)), which is making him pretty miserable all over. Especially in his throat, where he has sores from the HFMD, and ear. He's been pretty miserable, which has affected the rest of us, of course. So that's been going on and keeping me in a pretty constant state of worry.

On to my story...

Londo had to work late on Tuesday and Wednesday, so I left work early to pick up the Pumpkin from school. When I got there on Tuesday, I knew that her group was outside. As I walked up the steps to the front door of her school, I excitedly looked around for my cute little girl in her red and white checked shirt and jeans. There she was, by the infant swings in the corner of the large play yard by the stairs I was walking up!

I noticed that a boy and two girls were standing around her in a semi-circle. Then, I saw the boy kick her in the butt.

I was surprised, and walked to the side of the stairs closer to the fence, trying to figure out what was going on. Were they playing a game or something?

Then one of the girls said, "Yeah. Kick her! She's little!"

(Give me a second, while I take some deep breaths.)

The girl raised her foot, and I immediately said loudly, "Hey! Hey! Hey! No kicking! Don't kick her! Why are you kicking her?"

The kids stopped and looked up at me. One girl said, "Because she's little, like a baby!"

When my daughter is taking in new information or a new experience, she gets a blank look on her face. I learned early on that she was still paying attention to everything. She is just processing what happened or what you are telling her and trying to figure out how to respond. She usually doesn't respond until later, once she's processed the experience and information and has had a chance to sort through her feelings on the matter.

That was look on my daughter's face during this incident. I realized that I could not go on my instincts, which were to jump that fence and show those kids who was really little! I needed to model the type of response I want my girl to have, so she could process that and see how to respond.

So I said, "She is NOT little! She is a big girl. And there is NO kicking!"

The kids then started talking about something else, I don't even know what because I was LIVID and not hearing well. I just gave some "oh really?"s while watching my girl and making sure the others were no longer circling her. The situation was diffusing when one of the Pumpkin's teacher noticed me standing there talking to the kids and came up.

When the teacher said something like, "Oh, it's your mom" to my girl, she took a couple steps towards me. But you can't go through the fence there, so I said to her, "I'll be right there, honey. I have to go through the building."

Now that there was a teacher there, I went inside. I immediately told the woman at the front desk that a boy just kicked my daughter and that another girl called her little like a baby. The front desk woman asked if a teacher was there, and I said she was now. Then, I hurried outside.

When I got outside, the teacher was off herding other kids. That's when I fully realized that she must not have seen what happened. I quickly went up to my girl, and the other kids were still in that area, and they started talking to me about the infant swings being for babies, and one girl liked my shows, etc. My girl was pushing one of the empty swings, still not engaging with the kids, and they weren't really engaging with her. But it was back to normal playtime behavoir.

Once I was sure everything was fine and one of the kids had run off, I told the Pumpkin that I was going to let her teacher know we were going, and then we'd need to leave. I went up to the teacher and told her what had happened. She hadn't seen it. We talked a bit about the name calling that's been going on in the Pumpkin's class and how they are working on it, and that we are working on it at home. Then the teacher (who is really a teacher's assistant) said that she's been working 70 hour weeks, that they don't have enough teachers (they've recently had a bit of turnover in the Pumpkin's class), and that the class had gotten large. She said it is hard especially on the playground to watch all the kids. So, there's that.

But, this isn't the first incident I've seen involving my child getting picked on by (slightly) older kids on the playground (it's in the Update section of this post), and neither incident was seen by a teacher. If I hadn't been there, would any of the teachers have noticed what was going on? It's very rare occassions that I'm at the school while her group is on the playground, yet twice I've seen her get picked on by more than one older kid, which the teachers didn't see. What else is going on that the teachers are missing?

This incident is especially pissing me off making me see red bring out the mama bear troublesome to me. It's not like this was simply a matter of one kid getting frustrated, not using words and hitting another. That has happened a few times, including my kid doing it. This was three kids around my kid picking on her.

That is the start of bullying. I will NOT tolerate that, and neither should the school.

On the way home, I had the following conversation with the Pumpkin:
caramama: You know no one should kick you and you shouldn't kick others, right?
Pumpkin: Right. No kicking.
caramama: What do you do if someone kicks you?
Pumpkin: I say, please do not kick me.
caramama: That's a very nice and polite way to ask them to stop. But what if they don't stop?
Pumpkin didn't know how to respond.
caramama: You tell them firmly, do not kick me. It's not nice.
Pumpkin: Do not kick me. It's not nice.
caramama: But what if they still don't stop?
Pumpkin: I tell the teacher.
caramama: That's right! You tell the teacher.

We went through the same with hitting and name calling, although it got tricky with the name calling cause how do you explain the nuances of calling people silly names for fun as opposed to being mean? She currently likes to say "You're a pickle" both to be silly and when she's mad (though it's definitely an improvement over "You're a baby"). She's picked up the name calling and saying, "You're not my friend" from school. We are working on it at home, and I saw on her daily activity sheet that they are working on the "You're not my friend" at school.

But bullying? Especially physically bullying? Unacceptable!

The next morning, I looked for the Director, but she wasn't in. I called after I got to work, and the front desk woman said she was out for the day with her sick mom. I told her who I was and that I wanted to meet with the Director to talk with her. I'm absolutely positive that the front desk woman knew what it was about.

When I went into the school to pick up the Pumpkin yesterday (it was too rainy for the playground), the front desk woman told me that she talked with the teacher who had come up to the kids when I went into the school. She said the teacher said it was the kids from the next class up, who shouldn't have been out there with the younger class. She said that they will make sure that the older kids go in before the younger ones come out. She said this as if that solved the issue. It doesn't.

I told her that while one girl was from the older class, the boy (T) had only recently moved from the Pumpkin's class to the older class and the girl (M) was still in the Pumpkin's class. She said, "Oh really? I didn't realize that." I asked if they were going to file an incident report. She said that an incident report was only for if they were hurt, and the Pumpkin wasn't hurt. I was surprised and said, "Well, T did kick her! Besides that, they were surrounding her, picking on her." The woman said that they do have behavoiral reports, but I'm not sure if she said she would file one.

Then she said, "Well, I'll talk to M's mom about this." I said, "And T's parents?" She said, "Oh, yes. Them too." I said, "And I don't know the other girl's name, but her parents too." If it was my kid behaving like that, I'd sure as hell want to know! I'd make sure we immediately started addressing that and nipping it in the bud!

When I got to the Pumpkin's classroom, her other teacher asked me what happened, and I told her. She said she would like to address appropriate behavoir on the playground, which is fine. I suggested they also talk about bullying. We went on to talk about some other things.

This morning, I reiterated to the front desk woman that I wanted to talk with the Director. I told her I appreciated how she was handling it, but I wanted to be sure to discuss my concerns with the Director.

I know the teachers can't see everything, but I feel like too many things are let go or slide at the school. Is it unreasonable of me to expect that the teachers and staff are more on top of the hitting and name calling? That they nip this type of behavoir in the bud early, since it catches on so easily at this age? That they take the intiative to talk to all parents involved? That they should have immediately gone and talked to T at the very least when I said that he had kicked the Pumpkin?

What are other daycares and preschools like? Do you all have these sorts of issues, and if so, how are they addressed?

I do know that some of this behavoir is normal for this age. But... let me just say this:
If you saw your kid getting circled by other kids who start to physically abuse her and call her names, HOW WOULD YOU FEEL? WHAT WOULD YOU DO? This is an image I cannot erase from my head, and I'm very often on the verge of tears and rage!

As we neared our house after the incident, after we had been through what she should do if kids kicked, hit or called her names, we were quiet a moment or two, then she spoke up:

Pumpkin: That boy kicked me.
caramama: Yes, he did. And he shouldn't have.
Pumpkin: T kicked me.
caramama: Yes, he did. And that was not nice.
Pumpkin: He shouldn't have kicked me. That was not nice.
caramama: That's right.

She is taking it in, processing it, storing it for later. Though I can't erase the image from her head either, I hope that she is able to learn how to stand up for herself. I hope she is able to learn empathy for kids who are younger, smaller or being picked on. I hope that she remembers how I stood up for her, the way I remember my mom running up the street to yell at two boys who were throwing acorns at me.

I also hope that the school will learn something from this and make improvements in some ways that will benefit all the kids who go there. Meanwhile, I'm looking into other pre-schools.


nej said…
E is not in school yet so I don't have anything but sympathy for you and for Pumpkin on that front. I wouldn't know where to begin.

However, we were at an indoor kid's place one time and I flew across a trampoline because a very big kid was roughing up E (who had no idea what was going on) and I got down an inch from the kid's face and said something along the lines of "I'm sure you are not trying to be mean but what you are doing is not ok because he is little and you are big." The expression on the kid's face gave him away. He was trying to be mean but if he'd been my kid, I would have wanted the other parent to give him the benefit of the doubt, so I did. He skulked away and E just kept right on jumping. My heart didn't stop racing for the rest of the afternoon.

On a semi-related note, I would recommend "The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child," if you're looking for something to read with all your free time and whatnot. It sounds like you've already picked up on a lot of her tells, but even though I'm an introvert myself, I had quite a few aha moments reading the book. E gets the same blank look and takes all day to process events. It comes spilling out of him at night so we've structured bedtime so that we can talk about his day.

Anyway, I'm getting totally off topic. I'm interested to see what others with more experience on this front have to say. Thanks for sharing your story.
electriclady said…
Holy hell! I would be LIVID if it were my kid. One kid kicking another is bad enough, but 3 kids ganging up on one AND the teacher not seeing it AND them making excuses (I get that it's hard for them and they can't see everything, but the response should have been "I'm so sorry, I should have seen that" not "We can't watch all the kids") AND them being all vague about how they were going to handle it? These are 3 and 4 year olds. They need the adults around them to watch and set firm ground rules and not stand for ANY hitting or name calling.

I think your reaction in the moment was right on. Of course you wanted to rip those kids' heads off, but it sounds like you did a good job modeling a good response for her.

I struggle with this right now with our daycare situation--it is great that BG is learning how to interact with other kids but I feel she's also picking up those kind of bad verbal habits that you mentioned and also, for lack of a better word, "sass" that she doesn't learn at home. And they don't have daily report sheets or any formalized parent-teacher communication beyond notes, so unless we can grab a few minutes to talk to a teacher in the bustle of pick-up or drop-off, I really don't know what's happening day to day. Hopefully it will be better next year at preschool. Sigh.
mom2boy said…
I don't know that I would have had it in me to be the mature adult in the situation. I think you handled it very well. I'd be pretty disappointed in the response of the school administration, though. I guess it is a large school? I see the owners of Tate's daycare almost everyday and they are available and very responsive by email. Play ground time is just asking for situations like that it seems. I've on more than one occasion gone to pick up Tate when they are outside and invariably the teachers are grouped together talking and the kids are spread all over. They do only let them out by age groups, but still. Tate fell off some piece of playground equipment and ended up with a big scrape on his eyelid and a bruise that turned into a black eye. They strangely didn't see it happen.
Jac said…
I have no advice, because DS is not in pre-school yet by I would be SO. FREAKIN'. MAD. OOOOO - I get angry just thinking about it. And it's heartbreaking. You want to protect your kid and some little asshole comes along and does that! I might be a little meaner than you were with the school - like threaten a big stink if they don't immediately arrange a multi-party meeting with all parents and staff concerned.


Burgh Baby said…
That would be enough for me to find a new daycare center. Kids will do things they shouldn't, but it's up to the paid adults to make sure that it's caught, addressed, and prevented from reoccurring. I would be concerned that they are not in line with regulations requiring appropriate student to teacher ratios (if they are a licensed facility). And working 70 hours a week? There is something very fishy and disconcerting about that. :-(

I hope it ends up being just a tiny blip and no big deal, but MAN. That soooo sucks that you have to deal with it.
Charisse said…
oh man Caramama, sorry you're dealing with this!! I would definitely be upset too. Probably most concerned (aside from the actual hurt to my child) about the 70 hours per week/reduced ratio and secondly about the inappropriate handling of different ages. Just separating them so they only pick on people their own size isn't enough.

It's true that the line can be hard to draw in preschool, but it's really really important. In my mind, a little teasing, a little bossing, occasional shoving, and competition is par for the course; no hitting, no kicking, no pinching, no spitting, no biting, no ganging up, no persisting with namecalling if you get called on it. Period.

One dominant kid getting into a bullying mode can drag kids with them into ganging up and then it gets really bad. Keep at it until you see the director for sure. You are a great mom and you're doing the right thing!
Anonymous said…
Wow-I would be pissed-I mean concerned-(no I mean PISSED). PP has two daycare arrangements, three days a week he goes to a home day care and two days to a center where I work. While I agree, a teacher cannot see everything, I am sure that the center he goes to would notice a cluster of four kids. When they are outside, the ratio is 5:1 (they do have higher ratios inside for the three year olds-but they are very careful outside). There is a morning and and afternoon teacher for every classroom with lots of overlap between the two and there are a lot of permanent full time floaters that go where they are needed including serving as substitutes (so the kids don't have to have substitutes they don't know).

I am so excited whenever we go there, all of the kids (18 months through kindergarten) know each others names and they are taught to look out for each other. Bullying, name calling, and general mean behavior are dealt with immediately (gently from what I have seen, but immediately and effectively). Up until age four parents get daily written reports on what went well and what went poorly during the day.

So, no-I don't think that the school's reaction is normal.

Hmmm...I just made PPs situation sound is great except he and his morning teacher have some weird personality conflict that I don't understand and can't figure out how to get him to work with it, so I do have squidgy feelings about that!

Sorry for the novel!

ImpostorMom said…
Oh, poor poor Pumpkin. And poor poor you as well. This makes me soooo sooo mad.

We have had our fair share of bullying behavior to deal with in Boog's class but never more than one kid at a time ganging up on the others.

We have one problem child in his class and he seems to be an equal opportunity abuser. Boog has been victim to his behavior as well as most of the other kids and the teachers. The teachers and director have done their best to deal with it and he has gotten better. His last day is next week and I can't say I'm too upset. I know he can be a sweet kid but more often than not he's lashing out.

We had another child that lashed out as well but always at the teacher. I found this to be especially puzzling because I have known this child all her life since we have been friends with her parents for years. I've only seen her behave that way toward the authority in the room and not the other children but still it's not acceptable behavior.

The "friend" thing must be a developmental thing because we have the same issues in Boog's class, as well as name calling. Crazy how we are so many, many miles away yet the same things are going on in our kids' classrooms.

I don't blame you for getting upset, it would have been all I could have done to not scale that fence and teach those kids exactly who was small like a baby. And you are totally right to not let this go. That is some potentially serious stuff.

And my god, bullying, physical bullying this young. I mean geez, that is just completely unacceptable.
Charisse said…
& I forgot to even say that Coxsackie virus su-hucks and I'm so sorry that is going on too. Hope Pookie feels better fast!!
Anandi said…
First, thanks for stopping by my blog!

I think your mama-radar is right on that this is a weird situation. The 70-hours a week thing sounds borderline illegal (if they're licensed) or just not smart. It doesn't make sense to overwork people in a demanding job like childcare, so not surprising things like this are slipping.

*Definitely* meet with the teachers and the Director - I think I'd also be looking for a new school on the side, because some of this sounds so sketchy. 3 and 4 year olds unsupervised outside? And then all the handwavy excuses when you bring it up??
meggiemoo said…
This is awful...I think you definitely handled it well. I would be really concerned with any physical or verbal bullying happening that the staff is unaware of.

My son is in the 4-year-old class at his preschool, and while there's a fair amount of "You're not my friend" (GOD, I can't wait for that stage to be over), I feel confident that the teachers are really aware of anything that happens beyond that. The classes only go outside by age group, and they get along fairly well.

Of course, I have a very sensitive kid, who cries often because so-and-so has said he won't play with him, etc.

I think your instincts to look for another situation are right...staff turnover is usually not a great sign. We're lucky in that the owners of our preschool are on-site every day and the vast majority of the teachers have been there for over 5 years. But I know that's unusual.

I hope you get some resolution soon! Hang in there...
paola said…
How awful for you both!!

I think I would look into alternative care too. It is just not on that one teacher works 70 hours! How can someone give quality care working such long hours. That would be enough for me to look elsewhere.

In Noah's first week at kinder ( he had just turned three) he came home with bruises on his neck. I asked him about them and he told me the name of the child that had inflicted them. I know exactly how you must have felt, because I had that sinking feeling you get when you reaise all is not right. I spoke to the teachers, they pulled out the boy in question ( 2.5 years older)and spoke to him in front of Noah and I and he explained his side. In this case the boy was just 'playing' rough and was just over enthusiaistic with his new little friend, which Noah did confirm, but still this form of play must hvae been really rough to inflict bruises and therefore not appropriate at kinder. Of course in our case there are 28 kids and two teachers so how can you watch all kids at all times.

Noah is a docile child and gets rather than gives. I may be generalising here, but Italian kids are often taught that the best defense is actually giving what you get.We teach other techniques, like walking away from conflict or if necessary some self-defence strategies, like blocking with an arm, but the kids is only 5!! As a result, in his first two years of kinder Noah constantly came home with stories of kids picking on him, pushing him or hitting him. At one point he didn't want to go back to school. Again we spoke to the teachers who said that they didn't know about this and would talk to the kids responsible. Now that he is older he has wokred out his own way to deal with one on oen bullying. What ever he does, it seems to work as it has been a while since he came homw with stories of being picked on by others. I suspect he has learnt to 'hit back', but I am of the mind, that a kid has to defend himself somehow. As long as he doesn't instigate anything himself.

But group bullying is f...g scary, and needs to be nipped in the bud on germination!! Our school is doing its part to teach kids about the importance of repecting one another and what behaviour is acceptable and what isn't. Certain behaviour is followed up with a punishment, but what kind of message are you sending kids when at home parents actively encourage there children to hit one another.
I'm so sorry! Le Petit isn't in school yet, so I can't give practical advice, but I agree with Charisse that the 70-hour week is a HUGE red flag for me. You've witnessed repeated incidents, the teachers are making excuses, the handling of different age groups seems sloppy... that would be enough to make me look for another school, one that a) seems more generally responsible and "with it" and b) fosters an environment of mutual respect between kids. It isn't easy, though.

And I'm shocked to hear that children would hurt another child and say that it's "because she's a baby." I thought one thing most kids understood was that littler kids were more fragile, and on the contrary, needed gentler treatment. Maybe I'm naive... and maybe it's a good thing I don't see all that happens on the playground...
Melba said…
Caramama I've got to say... I've seen this kind of thing among preschoolers at my daycare, and they handled it completely differently than your preschool. I'm not liking how they handled (should I say DIDN'T handle) your situation and I can't imagine how angry you must be that they seem to thinks this is no big deal. Its a huge deal. What is with this front desk lady who seems to just sweep it under a rug? Does she have kids? Did she ever see her child get kicked? Geez lady!

Anyway, one day I went to pick up Rosie from daycare, and there was a little boy (from her class of 2.5-4 year olds), explaining to his dad that he was holding another boy down while a third boy punched him. This boy was SO ASHAMED as he explained it to his dad. The teachers walked him through it with leading questions, but they made him tell his dad and he also told his dad why it was wrong (because it is hurtful to the other boy, because it made him feel bad, because he wouldn't want anyone do that to him and make him feel so bad, etc.). I could tell by the conversation that he'd had a LOT of talking with his teacher and that he did understand why it was wrong and he really was ashamed and sorry. I don't know what that teacher said to make him truly understand, but whatever, she did it and this boy got it.

Whenever something like this happens, there's an incident report that has to be signed by the parents of all the kids involved. Twice I've had to sign incident reports when Rosie got bitten. Both times it was a tug of war over a toy, and the other kid bit her on the hand to get her to let go. I was NOT impressed, but I also know how the daycare handles it with the "offending" kid and parents (i.e. they actually handle it, don't just sweep it under the rug).

Anyway, there's a right way and a wrong way and I think you are totally right to look for another preschool, or at least discuss it with the director and see if they are willing to change some policies to better deal with this. Meaning they should actually have a policy!

Keep pushing that annoying front desk lady until you get a meeting with the director!!

And I'm sorry you have to deal with this with such a young child. Not fair. You're totally doing the right thing though. Good luck!
hush said…
What everyone else said!! You handled yourself so amazingly well, particularly in that first moment you saw the kids encircling Pumpkin.

Now about that absentee, non-communicative Director and that front desk woman setting policy for you & trying to get you to basically go away with your concerns... Look, sometimes we have to be a bigger bitch than perhaps we are comfortable being in order to be HEARD in certain situations where "nice & understanding" doesn't work. Is this one of those situations? I don't know. Probably is. I do tend to think it sounds like there are leadership and follow-though issues within the school staff. That would be **their** problem. **Your** family's problem is you no longer have a care environment where you can feel 100% at ease with leaving Pumpkin. That's the real problem I'd focus on first. Again, I just want to say how awesomely I think you handled everything.
Geeks in Rome said…
Bullying and being mean is unfortunately sooo damn normal that it sucks. Like you said, you can make them not say "You're a retard" and then can still say "You're a pickle" with that evil sneer that makes it a bad word.

You are doing great. You're daughter will always remember you sticking up for her and telling off mean people. Seeing that will give her courage. Role playing, too, like you did is so helpful.

But this phase is soooo long. I remember bullying didn't get old at my school until middle school. Well, being really bratty. People didn't kick, but they did yank hair and act like jerks. I always made fun of a girl in my class because I had been bullied for 2 years previously by an older girl. It's totally: the abused becomes an abuser.

The girl I picked on just put up with it, cried or ignored me. It made me feel bad, but the other kids loved it and THAT made me feel good. As soon as other kids stopped thinking it was fun or funny, then I stopped (5th grade! and that girl is a saint because she never hated me!! We are still friends.)

Anyway, having experienced this firsthand on the giving and receiving ends I know it sucks for everyone and how you're never going to escape some subtle form of it. Physical abuse is easier to catch, but emotional abuse is just as awful and it's hard for teachers to gauge its severity when they don't witness it.

I finally saw what my son puts up with at preschool: two bratty kids were bothering him on the way to this field trip and the parents didn't intervene. I did ASAP and it was like they had never been told to have boundaries. Now I get why my son gets fed up with school and why he will pick on little sister at home to take out his frustration.

We have had very similar talks like you have had and do scenarios... Also I found (from Elizabeth Pantley) it's been helpful for a kid to work through his aggression (when they're at home and need to process a bad day) through make-believe either with a drawing about how mad the kid makes them or pretend back-and-forth about what you would do to help the kid learn his lesson that it's not right to kick... ("I would have 10 giants tickle his bare feet with pink feathers!" "I would have angels dip him in magic that would make him become super nice and he would use his kicking feet to play soccer!" basically the dumber the better.)

Agree that a smaller class will help, but my kids are in a class with 15-20 kids (2-4 teachers). The teachers catch the physical attacks, but they can't hear the mean stuff a kid whispers on a playground.
Charisse said…
BTW, caramama, I didn't mean by my comment to say that ages shouldn't be mixed - if you're looking for a new preschool it's worth looking at ones with good mixed-age programs. We absolutely loved Mouse's, which was a mix of 2 3/4 - 5 3/4 in one group. They took care to set up interactions between big and little - I have a cherished picture of just-barely-3-year-old Mouse on a field trip with this 5 1/2-year-old boy, D, as her walking partner. He was waaaay bigger than her, and old enough to have a personal style, and he did tease her a bit with riddles she couldn't answer and whatnot. But he also helped her open her lunchbox, taught her the best seat on the train, helped her keep up with the others...etc. And when Mouse's turn came to shepherd along a new 3-year-old, she was so proud and serious about her responsibility. I thought it was fantastic for her.

And yes, there was also a share of 4-year-old nastiness to each other - the teachers had to nip a spate of exclusive "clubs" in the bud if you can believe it - but they were right on it.

Hang in there caramama!!
MommyEm said…
I spoke to another mom about this incident and I loved what she said - "you feel so angry because each incident steals more of their innocence." She has four children and has seen it all, but she said she never stops getting angry and defensive when she sees her middle school daughter completely defeated by mean or bullying behavior.

As others have said, I feel that the teacher turnover at the school is the biggest indicator that something isn't right at the school. I would look at other schools and make sure that you get in to meet the director, even if it is weeks later.

Good luck and I hope that everything gets better. If not, you could go the "Karate Kid" way and sign her up for martial arts..."wax on...wax off..." :-)
Jan said…
Oh, caramama, this is so awful. I know exactly what you mean about the raging anger that boils up when your kids is being threatened. I think you did great remaining calm, although I'm of a mind that it wouldn't hurt at all for those kids to get the kind of reaction out of you that indicates they seriously crossed a line. (I suppose, "I don't give a flying fuck how big or little she is, kicking is wrong and I hope your ass gets expelled," is a little over the top, but it's what popped into MY head. heh.)

Any daycare situation worth its salt should have an official policy for dealing with bullying. There are legal limits on class sizes, and they're not so big that one teacher should be monitoring more than 6 or so kids. The teachers know which kids are likely to engage in this type of junk, and they should be watching them especially carefully. Bullying behavior doesn't start with physical stuff like kicking OR with goading another child into doing it, so I find it very hard to believe that this was a one-off incident with either of these kids. The teacher should have been watching them.

If it were me, I'd make sure I had the conversation with the director. Some of what you're describing is unacceptable in a daycare (70 hour workweeks, preschool-aged children more than a year or so apart playing together on the playground). She may be able to reassure you that she finds them unacceptable as well and that they are temporary. I know you've said in the past that you really love your daycare, so you might choose to give it a little time.

For what it's worth, our daycare (which I loved) teaches the kids to put up a hand (stop-sign fashion) and say, "stop, I don't like that." Repeat with increased volume a couple of times, then tell a teacher. I'm trying to imagine the shit that would have hit the fan at our place if a situation like you've described occurred. It would have been a HUGE BIG DEAL, I promise you that. As, I believe, it should be.

Sometimes kids are horrible to each other, aren't they? I'm so sorry your Pumpkin had to go through this. :(
That sucks. I'd be so pissed if I were you. Obviously you did the right thing, but what really concerns me is that they clearly don't have enough people on staff. The stuff you mention sounds like a center falling into disarray -- the 70-hour weeks, the director never being there. I think you're right to look for another preschool ASAP. And once you yank her out of there, if this stuff is still going on, you should sic the inspectors on them for any one of a number of the things you noticed.
Clementine said…
Wow, that almost made me cry to read it. I know our kids will eventually be out in the big world on their own, but in the meantime, I cherish their innocence. The world seems so much meaner now that I am a parent.

Good luck working this out and finding a new spot for your Pumpkin. Follow your gut. You're doing a great job.
Cloud said…
I'm late to comment (we were on vacation last week), but I want to chime in.

First of all, you should look for a new preschool if you will no longer be comfortable with the current one. You don't need any other reason than that. This isn't school. Pumpkin is too young to have to learn how to cope with mean kids on her own.

Even if you didn't have any other concerns, I'd be nervous about their staffing situation if they continue to be short-staffed for long. It is hard to find good child care workers- the pay isn't all that great- but they should make sure they aren't short staffed.

Our day care has a big outdoor playground where the kids mix across ages, too. I have never seen anything even remotely like what you describe. I don't think it would be tolerated AT ALL at our place. There are always plenty of teachers outside with the kids, and they are paying attention to the kids- not chatting amongst themselves or anything like that.

The mean name of choice at our day care is "poo poo baby". When we first heard it from Pumpkin, we were pretty amused by it, and mentioned it to one of her teachers. She launched into a detailed description of how they handle that and what they do to teach the kids that name calling is unacceptable. They clearly took it very, very seriously.

They've also been working with the kids on saying "no, no I don't like that" and calling for help from a teacher since the kids were barely verbal. I've never heard of any aggressive behavior that was anything beyond the "she took my toy, and I want it back so I'll bite her" sort of thing. Those sorts of incidents don't really concern me- I like how the center handles them and they seem fairly unavoidable in a group setting. Bullying like you describe WOULD concern me, though, and I'd expect a detailed plan from the director about how they will handle it. And I'd expect progress reports detailing how the plan is going.

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