3 Year Old Bully at Childcare

Updated on March 12, 2013
C.S. asks from Beaverton, OR
7 answers

My son has been attending the same Child Care center since he was 12 weeks old he is now 3.5 years old. There has been an ongoing problem with a child that has been in his class or 1-2 years now. This kid is flat out a bully. I feel like 3 years old is much too young to have to deal with a bully on a daily basis. The last straw happened yesterday and then this morning. As I was picking my son up yesterday this bully ran up to my son and bit his hand as I was putting on his coat. The teacher was right there and immediately acted on it. Told the child that this was unacceptable behavior, asked him to say sorry, put him in time out etc. My problem is not with the center they seem to be dealing with the child in the best way they can. This morning as I was dropping my son off the bully ran up to my son as he was throwing away the remains of his breakfast and pushed him into the garbage can. Once again the teacher was right there and immediately acted on it. They seem to try to do positive reinforcement with the child and keep him away from the other children as much as possible but the behavior seems to be getting worse. I talked with the director of the center about this and how I did not know how much longer I could continue to pay for my child to get beaten up each day.

I feel like the next step is to write a letter to the parents and tell them how I feel about their child hurting my child each and every day. How my son when I ask him how his day was all he can tell me is how this bully, bit, pushed, hit him etc. I know that like any 3 year old he may not be always truthful about how much the child hurts him but after seeing him attack my son twice I am now not so sure. Have any other moms out there had to deal with a young bully? How did you deal with it? Did you go to the parents? Should I just let the center work it out? I am concerned that it may be time to find another center if this behavior continues like this. I love this center both of my children have been there since they were bitty babies. I have come to know and love most of the teachers there. We have to use child care, staying at home is not an option for me or my husband and we have no family near by. I had a pretty bad experience with an in-home setting so I am not too keen on doing that. This morning I actually told my son "Don't play with xxxx today. He is having a hard time being nice." It broke my heart to say it but I need to be able to keep my child safe. I don't want to have to say this every morning.


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answers from Portland on

It seems to me that the childcare providers are not teaching this child what kind of behavior IS appropriate. It sounds like they are only punishing him for negative behavior. It sounds as if this child needs help to express himself in more positive ways, and the current staff is not professionally trained to do so. Most child care centers have staff that have no training or education regarding knowledge of child development. The requirements in this state for childcare certification are one of the worst in the country. Kids like him need more interactions to learn social behavior, not isolation. Isolation is what will create a true bully. It sounds as if the care providers are consistently isolating him, instead of helping him. This child may have a learning disability,(lots of disabilities cannot be seen with the eyes and cause children to be aggressive) he might require more physical activity to be able to calm during close contact times, he might have a vision or hearing issue, he might have high stress at home, the center environment may stress him out etc...everyone is different and reacts differently to the same environments sometimes...PLEASE do not label this child as a bully...he is a 3 year old for pete's sake.
I think instead of blaming the parents, the child etc...ask the center director what steps could be taken to HELP the child. If you get an answer that shows you that he/she does not have a knowledge of child development, you might be better off finding care that will protect your child and help the other child in these situations. Ask the director what the plan for keeping your child safe is. Ask the director how they have successfully helped children like him in the past be successful.
At my center, if this was happening, we would most likely:
Assign an adult to shadow the child all day, everyday. The child would still be able to interact with other children, but have undivided immediate attention to prevent the child from hurting other children. The adult could also closely model and promote alternative behaviors. The adult would also play alot one on one with this child to model behaviors and get to know the child very well to be able to determine his personality and what he needed during the day to meet his needs. After a while, if no improvements were noticed, a professional screening and intervention might be suggested. Has this center and it's teachers/staff taken any steps like these in the past several years? Even though you have loving relationships with the staff, you need to look past them and view them as professionals. Are they dealing with things in a professional manner? Are they using knowledge of child development to help him learn social behaviors in a positive way? What kind of training/education does the staff have? Have they taken any kind of guidance courses? I think that the problem SHOULD be with the center, as they are the adults in this child's life who in all honesty spend most of his waking time with him every week, and are in the greatest position to help him be successful.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

When my girls were 3 they always came home from preschool with stories about how a certain kid pushed or hit or bit someone, sometimes he even did those things to them. It was always a good opportunity to talk to them about what kind of things are appropriate or not, and what the best ways are to talk to people without hurting them, and what to do if someone treats you in ways you don't like. I talked to the director and learned that they do have lots of problems with this kid and he was being evaluated for disabilities. That helped me understand that his behavior was not necessarily his fault, or the product of bad parenting or teachers who were not reacting the right way, but some underlying problem that was manifesting itself through anger and aggression. I believe it is up to the child care center to try to help integrate these kids the best they can, and know when to let the child's parents know that he needs to find some help elsewhere because he is too disruptive and harmfull to other children. Keep talking to the director until you are satisfied that everything you think should be done is being done. And keep talking to your son about the best strategies for dealing with kids like this, as this certainly won't be the last "bully" he'll come across in his life.

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answers from Portland on

Hi C.,

I've been working with children and families for more than 16 years as a preschool teacher, Nanny and now a parent coach.

I understand your instinct to talk to the child's parents, but it is truly the center's job to deal with the issue. The parents should know about the situation, but they cannot directly stop it from happening, because they are not there, the teachers are.

The center needs to talk to the parents and create a workable plan. If the parents are unwilling to help or if the child does not obey, then the center needs to ask the parents to find a different situation.

I suggest you talk to the director again asking directly WHAT they are doing to about the bullying. Also tell them that if the situation is not solved, you will find another child care provider.

The state of Oregon has a great referral network at oregon.gov to help parents find quality child care.

Good Luck- This is a tough situation.

R. Magby

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Do not change child care. Doing so would be giving in to a "bully." I would talk with the mother. Try your very best to not pass judgment. Start by sympathizing with the difficulty in parenting children this age. Assume that she knows about his behavior and is also concerned but doesn't know what to do. Before talking with her talk with the teacher about doing it. The teacher can tell you what they've done with the mother and may even suggest an approach for you to use. They may even be glad to set up an appointment for the both of you to have a conference with a school person. They may also have an idea if this would even be a good thing to do.

While talking with the school, keep in mind that they have to respect her privacy and may speak in "code." Listen for nuances. Sometimes I get frustrated when talking with "authorities," even tho I've been one, because it's up to me to figure out what they're trying to tell me without saying it. It will help you learn more if you're able to remain calm and non-accusatory. Speak the truth but assume that with co-operation you will find a solution.

Writing a letter would be the last resort and may not even be wise since you don't know the parents. Your letter could increase the tension in the home with the result that this child would behave even worse. It could, worse case scenerio, cause the parents to find ways to "attack" you. Letters only work when both the sender and the recipient want to find a solution and are capable of working towards that end. At this point you don't know that about the parent's. I would work first towards having the child care staff be a part of finding a solution.

Although what you saw seems most definitely an attack. This other child was not already involved with your son and didn't seem to have a reason to charge at him the dynamics are most likely to be more complicated and more subtle than that. The staff person immediately and appropriately responded and if they do this consistently, even when you're not there, it would seem the situation would have improved.

This is why I suggest that the staff should consider a different approach. What sort of training do they have, individually? What sort of resources do they have that they could call upon in this situation? What are your resources other than changing day care?

I think that telling him to not play with this child is a good thing to do. We all need to learn to avoid people who hurt us. Isn't that why you're considering moving your son to another facility? Teaching him how to live in the real world is part of parenting.

That said, in my life I want to find ways to get along before I leave a relationship of this sort. Other than this other child you are happy with the day care. Your son has been there is whole life. Moving him would be upsetting to him. Your main concern is what is best for your son. I believe that staying in that child care location, even with the "bully," would be best. I'd start with a serious conversation with the director, as you have done. Then I'd ask for her/his help in resolving this situation. Because I do not know the people involved I cannot make specific suggestions but I know that there are less drastic things to try before moving your son from a facility that you know and love.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

My usually thoughtful and cooperative grandson went through a biting period at his daycare, and although my daughter and son-in-law heard about the incidents and coached him at home as much as they could, there was nothing they could actually do when the incidents occurred, because they were not there.

They agonized over the bites, and getting a letter from the victim's parents would have possibly increased their emotional burden, but it would not have improved the situation any faster. And I can imagine a scenario in which a letter would only have increased bad feelings all around, perhaps even prolonging the biting.

I know a few young parents whose children have sensory integration disorders, and/or Asberger's Syndrome, and can be rough or thoughtless with other children. While this can look like malice, I've watched these kids, and am convinced that they are usually not out to harm others. They can't control their impulses, can't calculate consequences when young, and are most likely to act out when there's a lot of excitement, motion, noise or other distraction in the room.

It's a perplexing problem, but I don't think the impulsive kids or their parents are necessarily at fault, and finding solutions is really a challenge. The parents of such a child probably need daycare so they can work. They are probably as nonplussed as the parents and children of "victim" families." Other options, as you probably know, are expensive and hard to find. And driving an aggressive child out of one daycare center will probably only drive him into another, making another group of children his new victims.

As Betty observed, your daycare teachers are the ones who need to handle this problem. Shadowing a child who can't control himself, interceding consistently and gently before a problem occurs, redirecting the impulse, is possibly the most responsible, effective and kind approach for all involved, and the kind of guidance that has the greatest chance of eventually changing the problem child's behavior. At best, change will not be immediate, but the incidents can be dramatically reduced.

Talk to your daycare providers. Ask them to assign someone to shadow the impulsive child. Find out how they are responding, or are willing to respond to the situation, before deciding on any other changes.

Good luck. I know I would feel upset if my child was being repeatedly hurt. This isn't an easy problem, and it's probably not the last time you will be concerned about other children's behavior.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

I am having a similar situation at my sons school. I saw a boy targeting my kid pretending to shoot him. Then we went to his birthday party and he refused to sit next to my son. At school he said to me that my kid is "bad". We went to his birthday party in hopes that the mom would maybe intervene and see that our son is nice. Nope. You
Wonder what makes kids this age mean??! Answer: someone treats them that way. I decided after feeling awful that this kid doesn't like my kid that its his loss. I told my son to stay away from him and ignore him. ignorant parents stink. Keep doing what your doing. Your child will find his fit and this bully will not be liked by most kids.



answers from Las Vegas on

I find issue in that everyone here is immediately labeling a small boy as a "bully". Each child is different, develops differently and at different times and in different ways. The moment you label a kid as "bad" or a "bully" the adult (be it a parent or teacher) adds fuel to the fire. I can certainly understand not wanting to have your child hit by another, I have been upset each time my child was hit, but take into account a moment that perhaps the child isn't the one the problem should be focused on. My son is 3 1/2 and is big for his age. He's an only child and is both very intense and agressive, but also highly sensitive. His pre-school teacher (perhaps even unwittingly) is treating him as a bully. I know my son is not perfect and that hitting others is wrong, however, the problem he is having at school is being negatively reinforced in behavior by his teacher who is labeling him as such, making him feel bad in front of everyone (he cries and tells me "I'm a bad boy") and the teacher takes the side of the "little" kids. It's just as bad for a small child to hit as it is for a large/tall one. Small kids can be bullies just as much as any other. I have seen first hand my son be pushed, kicked, bitten, hit (etc) for no apparent reason, but when he is on the receiving end the teachers takes on a mien of he is derserving of it because he's a "bully". He's 3 1/2, being a bully isn't possible. The adults create the bullies by the way they handle a situation. Perhaps the unjustifiably labeled boy who is hitting your son is being reinforced with these negative behaviors by the adults. When you tell your kid to stay away b/c this ones a bad egg, you don't help the situation. My son is a good little boy who hasn't learned yet how to react when something upsets him - this is a situation I am well aware of and concerned by (I don't want him to hit others either!) and I'm working diligently on how to solve it appropriately, while building back his self esteem. He retaliates in a very common way that many young kids do, with hitting. He feels immediate remorse afterwards, but his confidence has been crushed by his teacher and by parents telling their kids "just stay away from xxx". Perhaps the adults should stop and reevaluate the situation rather than saying a 3 1/2 year old should know precisely how to behave. They're children for crying out loud! We can't expect them to behave like an adult. The teacher, school director, and all of the parents, especially that kids are responsible for making sure they help that child learn to react appropriately, to enforce positive behaviors and build up his self esteem. It sounds like the adults are the ones creating the "bully" here.

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