Teasing and Bullying… in Kindergarten?

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?