Teasing and Bullying… in Kindergarten?

The shirt in question, courtesy of Mini Boden
The shirt in question, courtesy of Mini Boden

Earlier this week, my 5-year-old son came home from kindergarten rather upset. When I asked how his day had been, he said that it was “half good, half bad.” He loves his new school, likes his teachers and has made fast friends, so I was surprised to hear that his day hadn’t gone all that well. When I asked about the “bad” part of his day, he said that a group of kids (including his new bestie) had been teasing him throughout the day about his shirt, which featured a ketchup bottle.

What could they have had to say about a pretty innocuous shirt, I wondered? Especially from kindergarteners who most likely love ketchup just as much as my son? Apparently they had spent the day making squirting and slurping noises. I dunno. It seems totally silly, but my son took it very seriously (he’s definitely on the sensitive side) and looked at me teary-eyed, declaring that he would never wear that shirt to school again.

My husband and I were pretty mystified by the whole thing. We get it–yes, kids tease each other. And we as a family (gently) tease each other as well. But it seems to morph very easily into something else at school, when a number of kids join in on the teasing. I don’t think that this qualifies as bullying (or does it?), and it’s not like my son was afraid to go to school the next day or anything, but I was dismayed to see that he could be made to feel so poorly by other 5-year-olds, including ones he has become very friendly with.

He’s our oldest child, so we’re feeling a little clueless at the moment–more surprised than anything by how different the dynamics of kindergarten are than pre-K. I spoke with my son about how silly it all was (don’t they all love ketchup too? didn’t you love the shirt when you picked it out?), but I know that this is likely just the beginning of these kinds of episodes–and I have no doubt that my son will also be guilty of teasing someone else over something silly at some point.

Did your kids experience similar teasing or even bullying as early as kindergarten? If so, how did you handle it?


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Melanie Monroe Rosen is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer and mom of two boys, ages 3 and 5, who is currently expecting her third (and very much final) baby in early 2013. A former senior editor at Parenting.com, Melanie was surprised to discover that all of her experience breastfeeding, homebirthing, babywearing, co-sleeping, and cloth diapering actually counted as professional experience. She’s a big fan of reading both Scandinavian mystery novels (to herself) and favorite chapter books from her childhood, like those by Roald Dahl (to her kids).

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5 Comments on "Teasing and Bullying… in Kindergarten?"

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My son was having a problem with a larger boy pushing and kicking him ( and many other kids too) He goes to a private Lutheran school and they are taught to turn the other cheek. While I believe that to be true you don’t have to be a punching bag. My husband and I told my son that if he is being hurt he should defend himself , and even hit the boy back after giving sufficient warning. Fortunately, the teacher has addressed the problem well but I firmly believe in empowering kids and not creating victims. No one… Read more »
My son was teased over his purple Keen sandals even before he entered kindergarten! His favorite color was purple and he begged to get the purple shoes, and even though I foresaw a problem like this, I got them for him. Some kids at a summer camp (through our recreation department) teased him and told him it was a girl color, and after that he refused to wear them, no matter how many times I assured him that boys can wear purple (and pink!). He’s in 1st grade, and still is scared to wear anything with purple. What makes me… Read more »
Elizabeth N
Wow I could of written this very same post myself. My son is also 5 and is in Kindergarten. A week ago it was wear your own clothes day ( he goes to a private school which required a uniform). He wore this Paul Frank jacket Vest had a picture of Julius the monkey all over the vest. He said as soon as he walked in the classroom everybody laughed at him. After school I asked how his day went and at first was very upset, finally I got him to open up and he told me he got teased… Read more »
My daughter was bullied last year in her Kindergarten class. This little girl decided to form a group by taking away all my daughter’s close friends in class. Once she got them onto her side, they began to alienate my daughter from everything and telling her to get away from them. My daughter’s previous friends were kind of going along with it, but their was clearly a leader of the pact. I spoke with her teacher and the “leader” parents about it and soon after we were able to turn it around and they began to play together. I think… Read more »
Rochelle L
My son used to bring prunes in his lunch – he doesn’t eat much fruit, and he likes them – but some of his classmates teased him about the unusual fruit and said they looked like deer poop. He didn’t tell us about this until we noticed he didn’t want to bring prunes anymore. He has also come home with stories about boys who got teased for wearing pink (it was even an older boy) or having long hair (they got called a girl), and he is sure to not do any of those things. I hate that he is… Read more »