Mean Girls In Kindergarten? Are You Kidding Me?

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I have four kids – my boys are 15 and 13, my girls are 9 and
5. While my boys nearly drove me into the ground as toddlers with their endless
physical energy and constant running around, the girls are currently winning
the race to dig me an early grave with their ongoing girl drama and emotional
highs and lows.

If I had to choose, I’d take the physical exhaustion of boys
over the emotional exhaustion of girls ANY DAY.

I wasn’t expecting the girl drama to start at such a young
age, however. This morning, my 5-year-old stopped me at the door of her Kindergarten
classroom with tears running down her chubby little cheeks. She told me that
she was scared to go to school, that her friends weren’t being nice, and that
she wanted to go home.

Oy vey, I thought. Could the girl drama be
starting so soon? She’s barely out of pull-ups.

I fully acknowledge that my kindergartener is no saint. She is
the youngest of four siblings, so she has learned survival skills to help her
to be seen and heard in a family of six. She’s got a strong personality (she’s
been called a “force of nature” more than once), which is both her greatest
strength and her biggest weakness. She makes friends with everybody and is
always up for fun. She’s also had more time-outs than my other three kids
combined. My husband and I have worked hard to keep her on the straight and
narrow – to prevent her from becoming the stereotypical spoiled youngest child.

So, when she told me she was having problems with her
friends, my first thought (which I kept to myself) was, OK, what did you do
to those poor girls?

I listened to my daughter and comforted her about her
friendship problems. I talked to the teacher, who was completely on top of it
and promised to talk to my daughter and keep an eye on the girls.

Five minutes after I left, I called the school to make sure
my daughter was OK. As stubborn and strong as she is, she is still my baby. She
rarely cries about going to school, and I was worried. The teacher reassured me
that she was fine and that this was all part of growing up – learning how to
socialize and be a good friend. That’s what school is all about, especially kindergarten. But why, oh why, do girls have to be so darn complicated? 

I grew up with two older brothers, so I always felt more
comfortable around boys. In many ways, I felt like “one of the guys” through
most of my grade school years. I wore my brother’s Levis and hung out with the
neighborhood kids – mostly boys – almost every day after school. It wasn’t
until late middle school that it occurred to me that boys were interesting for
things other than games of Monkey in the Middle and flashlight tag.

 I didn’t
experience “girl drama” until the 6th grade, when my threesome of best friends
imploded. Two of us would inevitably talk about the third girl when she wasn’t
around. Play dates were arranged with just two of the girls, leaving the third
feeling sad and left out. It just didn’t work.

Girl cliques were very much part of the scene by 6th grade.
The “queen bee” of our middle school did her best to instill fear in others,
thus securing her position as head of the hive. I remember the moms getting
together to discuss what to do about this girl, who was taking girls down left
and right with her acerbic tongue and policy of exclusion. I was fortunate
enough to not be part of it all, keeping busy with my schoolwork, ballet and
orchestra. I had my friends, and the cliquey girls didn’t bother us.

While I am by no means an expert on girl drama, I have
learned a few things about girl friendships from my years
of being a friend, as well as from observing the friendship ups-
and-downs of my two daughters. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

Groups of three, let them be

Translated:
friendships that involve a group of three girls rarely work well. I used to run
with a group of three girls back in middle school, and one of us would always
feel left out. There was a lot of talking behind the back of the third person
who wasn’t around. With girl threesomes, expect tears and drama. Somebody is
bound to get hurt.

School teaches kids socialization. 

School
is not all about reading, writing and arithmetic. Teachers are there to help
kids learn how to get along and play well. Ask your child’s teacher for help if
she is experiencing friendship problems. Teachers are trained to deal with the
social stuff, and schools are required to intervene if it becomes a bullying
issue. 

While “relational aggression” peaks in middle
school, it happens in preschool too. 

Consider yourself lucky if so-called
relational aggression (“mean girl” behavior or bullying) is manifested at a
young age. This gives you an opportunity to nip it in the bud. With luck and
some age appropriate discussions about friendship, you can coach your child
about proper behavior and treatment of friends. Don’t hesitate to involve the
teacher if it’s happening at school.

Teach empathy. 

Talk to your child every
day and emphasize how important it is to think about how *everyone* feels. Is
anyone sad? What can you do to make it better? How can you stand up for
yourself when someone is being mean to you? How can you stand up for someone
else? Work on her empathy skills. As my husband says to my girls, “Are you
using your powers for good?” This will help your daughter develop a conscience.

With girls, emotions run high and logic is
often nowhere to be found.
 

If you have a daughter, you get it. I don’t need
to say more.

Most girls are both the instigator and the
victim at different times. 

It doesn’t help to label your child or another
child as a “victim” or a “perpetrator,” a “queen bee” or a “mean girl.” Most
kids play versions of each role at different times. Rather than labeling or
judging, do what you can to curb the behavior and remind your daughter what
friendship is all about.

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