How to deal with a Playgroup Bully



I’m crying right now. It seems really silly… I think my 2-year-old son just got “bullied” for the first time and somehow it’s not about him, but about ME.


I remember being bullied when I was a kid. For me, growing up in Hawaii, I was bullied because I was white – or “frickin haole” as one boy called me as I stood in front of the class – skinny  – I was called “chopsticks” & “bones” by some of the mean girls – and because I was smart - or a nerd, geek, or as one girl bully said to me “you think you’re better than us?!” … it was so hurtful. It made me feel small, weak, afraid and unworthy.


Watching my son at playgroup today was…. painful. A 4-year old boy was taking the toy trains Jackson was playing with, telling him “I don’t want to play with you,” “You’re messing up the tracks,” “That’s mine” and physically pushed him away several times. And somehow it was all about ME – Jackson seemed completely unfazed, but I was feeling small, weak and afraid. I tried to facilitate the interaction letting the older boy have the trains he had taken and finding a “new” train for Jackson. I made a new track for Jackson. I asked them to take turns and tried to explain that Jackson was smaller he wasn’t trying to “mess up the track” on purpose and they could both share the track. “I don’t want to!” he would say… and I – the person that is supposed to be in charge in a situation like this – was at a loss. I was in shock and wanted to cry. My Mama Bear instincts did NOT kick in. It got to a point where I was afraid to talk to the parent, to the playgroup leader and even to the 4-year-old. I felt like a failure.


I took Jackson away from the situation to play on the swings, to play with play dough, to throw around a ball – all his favorite things – but he kept going back to the train tracks!! Didn’t he see how badly he was being treated?? Didn’t he feel upset about being pushed around?? … he did not.


I did. I felt it. I knew. He did not.


So I did the only thing I could think of in that moment. I left playgroup early. I couldn’t stand to see him go back to that situation time and time again. It was literally breaking my heart. Instead of sticking up for him, I gave up. The only thought going through my mind as I carried Jackson to the car… “We’re never coming back.” I’m really disappointed in myself… instead of confronting the situation, I ran. Just like I did in middle school.


Once out of the situation I “became an adult” again and realized how much more I could have done to help the situation and make it better. I called my mother-in-law (she’s an early childhood educator) for tools I could use in the future. The advice was basic and intuitive – I just needed a little reminder.


Playgroup Bullying Tips:

1) Have the kids take turns picking toys in the first place.

2) If they try to take each others toys, suggest that they trade instead.

3) Facilitate their interaction – “You can play with this and you can play with this. We are going to share/take turns…”

4) Let the situation play out as a learning experience. Victims need to learn to stand up for themselves.

5) Don’t let a situation escalate to where it is physically or emotionally harmful to the children.

6) Go to the parent – “We’re trying to figure out how to share this…”

7) Talk to the playgroup leader.


Next time, I’ll be better prepared. Though Jackson doesn’t yet recognize it… I’ve got his back.



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11 Responses

  1. Malika says

    Merci maman :)

  2. Malika says

    For the record, in no way did I mean to insinuate that the child is bad or the parents can’t parent… I feel like the child is still learning and the parent did what he could. He did say something to the child about sharing but was also preoccupied with another younger child at the playgroup. ALL the kids, including Jackson, need to learn to take turns and share. They all act out from time to time – it’s natural. It’s a part of growing up. I get it. This blog is more about how I felt as a parent about the situation, how I dealt with it and how I hope to deal with similar situations in the future. :)

  3. Emily Dudley says

    You’re a great mom lix, love you

    • Malika says

      Thanks Em :)

  4. Darin says

    Hi Malika…sorry to hear about your situation…i’m glad that you seeked out advice and are prepared should this happen again, as many would have left and lived with the fear and unknown, only to have it happen again and again and again…I hope and pray that these types of situations never happen to anyone, especially you and Jackson because you guyz are the koolest…i’d like to say you did what wuz right given the situation and Jackson will one day appreciate what you did for him…I wish you and the family the best, and keep on smiling…peace, love and aloha, braddah Darin

    • Malika says

      haha! Thanks Darin :) That’s sweet. I hope it never happens again… but I know it will so at least now I’m mentally and emotionally prepared! lol

  5. Sheena Beaudoin says

    hi Malika, Megan the playgroup leader is great at that. I took parenting class from her last year.

    • Malika says

      Hey Sheena!
      That’s what’s crazy about it… I knew that I had support but for some reason I totally retreated into my 12-year-old self. It was a kind of out of body experience for me! lol I feel much better now and I know that I’ll use Megan if it ever happens again and I feel like I need support. :)

  6. Winston Peterson says

    Hi Malika. I was bullied in school once and only once, because at that time, I was more afraid of my uncles telling me, “you goin get lickin’s if you no stand up for yourself!” I remember a classnmate calling me out and calling me names that one day. All I could think about was getting beat up by the bully or gettin lickin’s when I get home, so either way I was getting bullied. So basically I stood up to this bully, who now is one of my best friends since then. Let’s just say, he got the worst of it, cause I was relentless. Needless to say, that was the first and last time I got bullied. A lot of others thought about it and tried, but I made it a point, that when I heard about it, I immediately confronted it. Words sometimes have a greater affect then fists. So, this is a little bit of advice. Stand up for your beliefs and never be afraid to say or do the right thing. The next time your at play group with Jackson, be his champion, as well as your own and stand up for him and yourself. You will feel a lot better about it, whatever the outcome. Aloha.

    • Malika says

      Someone on FB had a really good point. They said something like Jackson kept going back because subconsciously he was making a point that he wasn’t fazed by the behavior and he wouldn’t let it bother him. I like that assessment :) lol They’re right, it was totally about me. Not him, he’ll be just fine. I just kind of reverted into my younger self and needed to be reminded of who I am as a mom.

      • Anonymous says

        Thank you for sharing your feelings on this.