I was talking to a mum about her little boy. He had been very happily attending Nursery until this new boy started. The rumour was that he had been to several schools before this one, but no-one knew why he had had to move on. Boy 1 suddenly became quite unhappy and didn’t want to go to school. He cried, curled up in a ball, had to be lifted into the car etc. But he didn’t, or couldn’t explain why. He was subdued when he came home too, wouldn’t talk about everything he had done and who he had played with.
Finally Mum went into talk to the teachers. It seemed that her son had been having a bit of difficulty with the new boy [that's how school put it]. The new boy had been nasty to him: he had hit him and pushed him, taken toys from him and generally been mean. Mum was both upset and angry , she cried at school to think that her son had been victimised like that and asked what school were going to do? Well: they had spoken to the new boy. One of the things that a lot of people don’ get is that it is not good enough to say ‘Play nicely’ or ‘Don’t be mean’, you have to be explicit about what that means. If the naughty boy has no other understanding of how to make social contact but has learned that by behaving like this, he can ensure adult attention, then hen eeds to learn just how to make a different sort of relationship.
Mum and school determined and agreed a way forward and Mum went away. Things seemed to improve. Boy 1 was now able to talk about his feelings. His Dad suggested that he could hit the naughty boy back – but he didn’t want to, he is sure that hitting people is not kind [though he makes an exception for his brother and sister]. In the end he decided he would just keep out of his way. This has been fairly effective for Boy 1 and he is back to being his happy self about school.
But the naughty boy is now unpleasant to other children. He goes up and shouts in their ears, he ‘strangles’ them, he tries to trip them up. Mum of Boy 1 worries – chool have said to her that Boy 1 seems happy again but the school have not done what was agreed and the little bully will only become bigger and less happy [as well as making some others very unhappy indeed]. I suggested that for the sake of all of them, she goes back to school and nags them into fulfilling their part of the bargain. It is relatively easy at Nursery to gloss over difficulties and allow the child to leave for the next school. But they have an obligation to all the children including the naughty one, and should meet this obligation by doing whatever necessary to improve the situation.