Q | Two of my kindergartners drew X’s through the photos of less popular classmates. How do I address this?
A | Peer-rejecting behaviors like this are important to monitor and prevent. Speak individually with the students involved, sharing your disappointment in a calm and noncritical way. Engage each student in telling you why the behavior is upsetting. If the students have trouble articulating why the behavior is problematic, explain why it is, in a developmentally appropriate way. Ask how they would feel if a classmate drew an X through their picture. The goal is to enhance empathy for the students targeted.
Next, take the opportunity to remind your class about your expectation of respect for others. Give specifics about verbal respect and showing respect through actions. Engage the children in giving examples of respectful and disrespectful behaviors in various situations.
Finally, let your students know that you want them to be on the lookout for classmates’ respectful and disrespectful behaviors. Both types of behaviors are important to report to teachers so the former can be celebrated and the latter can be addressed. Teach your students that you expect them to stand up to any disrespectful behaviors they witness. They should practice saying “Stop” in a confident manner so that they know how to respond should they observe a peer engaging in behavior that could be hurtful to a classmate.
Question for Dr. Fernandez?
Melanie A. Fernandez, Ph.D., ABPP, is board certified in clinical child and adolescent psychology and is director of the Parent-Child Interaction Therapy Program at the Child Mind Institute (childmind.org).
Image: Adam Chinitz