Karine is the mother of a boy who is entering the first year of primary school at the start of the school year. In kindergarten, her son began to replicate behaviors he experienced in school — “hurtful words, pushing, hitting,” she illustrates. She wrote to us because she would like to know how to teach her child, who is passive and shy, to react to bullying.

According to Julie C. Boissonneault, a doctoral student in psychopedagogy at Laval University whose research focuses on bullying in schools (also associated with the Quebec Committee for Young People with Behavioral Difficulties, the Well-Being Research Chair at the school and prevention of violence as well as at the Synergia joint research unit), there are several essential strategies to teach children from an early age.

And in his opinion, taking advantage of these last weeks before the start of the school year to prepare will allow both children and their parents to start the school year on the right foot.

“In kindergarten,” she explains, “children have not yet acquired cognitive and social maturity; we are much more impulsive in our responses. For example, we will push, shout or use strategies that are not very good socially. But it’s early to call it bullying. On the other hand, if the child tells us that physical and verbal aggression happens often, over a period of time, it is a sign. In the first year, we will already see that some children will camp themselves in the role of victim or aggressor because this is the way they have found to respond to a situation. »

One of the most important strategies to teach a child, she says, is to be assertive and confidently articulate their discomfort.

The child must also avoid counterattacking, since responding with fists or shoving places him in an aggressor role which risks diminishing the empathetic response of his peers and teachers, she notes. “They might say, ‘He’s pushing too.’ He may have less support and feel more isolated. »

It is also necessary to make him understand that he is not obliged to undergo these acts in silence. “As a parent, you can say, ‘You have the right to change places, to report, to seek help from a friend or an adult.’ »

And finally, helping him develop his personal confidence – by identifying his strengths and what makes him unique – as well as his social skills will allow him to feel more comfortable expressing himself with confidence.

“Going to the park will help him learn to start a conversation and play with someone he’s never met, to know his limits, to adjust… These are all social skills that will make that it will be easier, when he goes into first year, to read others, to associate with those who are a little more like him and to have good relationships. »

The parent also has a key role to play, underlines Julie C. Boissonneault. He must remain calm and open and let the child describe the situation to him, his emotions, his thoughts, what he wants to do and what he has already tried to do in this situation.

“If we ask him what he wants to do, we give him the power,” she insists. Decide with your child what actions to take and which adult you will inform. »

It should also be included, as much as possible, in meetings with school officials. The parent, for his part, is responsible for maintaining close contact with the environment so that he is kept informed of whether or not the situation has improved.

“As a parent, at any age, you have to know what’s going on with your child, but without becoming too intrusive. You have to be able to talk openly about your relationships with your friends, that way, you’ll have a little clue of what’s going on. If he doesn’t want to talk about it right away, that’s okay; do not push, but wait for it to be ready. He will very often come back on his own to talk about his difficulties once the mom or dad has deciphered the problem. »

Concerned about your child’s well-being or development? Write to our journalist, we will try to answer it with the help of an expert.