How kindergartens will prevent bullying

Bullying and harassment among children appear in many different forms. Kindergartens that are successful in preventing this, usually have some traits in common.

Text: BÅRD AMUNDSEN / TRANSLATION: HANNE HERRMAN

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Is it always the same child who has the same role in the play as the dog obliged to lying still on the rug while the other children are playing?

Åsa Söderström has led the work of collecting the results from a study on bullying in Swedish kindergartens.

The starting point was a big study on bullying in Swedish schools. Later the kindergartens came along because one assumed that what worked in schools also might work in kindergartens.

THREE FEATURES IN COMMON

Some kindergartens are clever in counteracting harassment and bullying between children. The researchers have found that they share three common features:

  • The staff collaborates more than in other kindergartens
  • The employees dare to examine themselves
  • The staff acknowledges in a positive way that children are different

Söderström concludes:

“In kindergartens that are good at counteracting bullying, the staff has made the following question:” ‘What is life really like for children in our kindergarten?’

THE CHILD HAS TO FIGHT FOR ITS OWN PLACE

The children are in general aware that the kindergarten teachers expect or see it as a rule that everybody is to be admitted a part in the play.

“Exclusion within a group is not always apparent. Seen from outside it might look like everybody is playing. But if one has a closer look, there might be children who always are given a role out of sight,” Söderström tells. Thereby indicating that staff in Swedish kindergartens might have a challenge because they consider it a prevalent ideology and belief of children being socially competent human beings.

“But in the kindergarten, children have to fight for their own position all the time. That is a natural part of being human. It’s not the same as being bad,” she says.

During the work with this study, she clearly saw that the staff is rather unable to see it that way. They don’t see the real relationship between children in the everyday life of the kindergarten.

And she underlines that this is the daily life the children themselves are experts in dealing with.

“Consequently, they don’t discover who is deciding among the children, nor the child who always have to be the silent, resting dog while the others can take part in the funny and active play

“The children are in general aware that the kindergarten teachers expect or see it as a rule that everybody is to be admitted a part in the play.”

OLDER CHILDREN HAVE MORE POWER

The Swedish researcher reminds us of the importance of age in the kindergarten.

“Free play and multi-age groups are good as long as the older children help and act as role models for the younger ones. But in the kindergarten, old children often have much power over younger children.”

Söderström thinks the adults shouldn’t intervene whenever they see something which is not quite good, for instance a situation between older and younger children. Often it is more important to observe.

“Conflicts between children always represent a dilemma to the staff. But children learn from conflicts, and the adults shouldn’t intervene to stop them each time. At times they are part of the relation between the children. Still the staff has to keep an eye on the conflicts between them in order to help them sort out disagreements. It is equally important that the staff’s knowledge about the relationship between the children in a group is good enough to enable them to intervene in a conflict.

IMPORTANT TO SEE THE CHILDREN

An important discovery from the study shows that the staff is good at examining themselves and their responsibility as employees in a kindergarten. The following subjects are often discussed: how colleagues learn of each other, norms and values among the staff, their relationship to the parents and the staff’s pedagogical work.

“It’s all right, but where are the kids? The staff actually forgets to turn their attention towards the children.”

Söderström encourages the staff to be better at noticing the friendships within the group of children. In that way they can discover when someone is excluded or bullied by other children and acquire valuable knowledge they can use in the work against bullying and harassment treatment in the kindergarten.