On Thursday I was excited to pick up my daughter early from preschool. After spending the previous weekend in the hospital with my son we were planning to keep the kids home on Friday and have a fun, family day. We all needed it.
I walked outside to the playground and saw her walking up the steps to the slide by herself. Something looked off. She was walking like her legs were too heavy to lift and her head was down.
I walked out on the playground and the director and a few other kids yell to her to tell her I was there. She appeared at the top of the slide, her face was red and splotchy. She has one of those faces that gets all red the second she is upset and by the look of her face I knew something was really wrong.
She let out a little cry as she slid down and the director ran to her. By the time I got there I could hear that they were discussing two of her closest friends. I already knew what the discussion was about.
“They said they weren’t my friend,” I heard her say as I got closer and saw some tears run down her cheeks.
She had told me about these incidents with them before. The three girls were like the three amigos, but often she was an amigo singled out. At only 4-years-old she was already experiencing just how mean girls could be. We had been having this problem on and off throughout the year with these two that, most of the time, are her best friends.
I had given her some advice on what to say in these situations but I had never seen the hurt so fresh on her little face. I had never seen the direct aftermath of the statements and the hurt in her eyes, the tears on her cheeks. My heart broke into a million pieces.
I hated her hurt and I hated the other girls for making her feel this way. Maybe it’s not proper for an adult to say that about kids, but the fact is that they were being assholes – whether they knew it or not.
Since we’ve been going through this for some time now, I’ve given my daughter advice on what to say to her, “BFFs” when they are treating her like this. I want her to feel empowered to fight these fights when I’m not there and I know that as a little person, she is not going to know what to say or how to act. I don’t want her to feel like a victim or like something is wrong with her. I want her to know they are the ones acting wrong and that you treat all people in life nicely and with respect. Maybe that’s idealistic of me but I truly believe if we spend more time teaching our kids these lessons, especially the girls, this world will be a better place for them.
Here’s the advice I’ve given her that I hope will serve her well throughout her entire life as she applies the same ideas to future friends.
Say: That’s not nice. You’re being mean.
I want my daughter to tell her friends this just in case they don’t know. I’m giving the girls the benefit of the doubt at this point that they don’t actually understand the ramifications of their words and instead are possibly emulating some behavior they’ve seen. I don’t know if that’s true, but just in case, these words make it clear.
Say: I don’t need mean friends.
This is true. I want all our daughters to believe this. I want all our sons to believe this. I want all of you to believe this. None of us need the mean girls (or boys) as our friends. Take away the idea that you need them and you take away their power.
Say: I’m going to find/play with nicer friends.
When they are treating her this way, I don’t want her to sit there and try to get to the bottom of it. I don’t want her going off to some corner of the room, or the playground, to cry by herself. I want my daughter to know there are nicer people out there and that she can be friends with them instead. In fact, I want her to know that she should be friends with them. I also want her to reinforce the fact that their behavior isn’t nice.
Do: Walk away and play with someone else.
I tell her to do this because I want to reinforce the words that she says. I will usually name off some of the other girls in the class that she can go play with too. There are about five other girls in the class and she doesn’t have a problem with any of them but sometimes it’s like she thinks her clique is the only one that exists. I try to remind her that this isn’t true and that these girls actually might make better friends if they are nicer people.
Do: Tell an adult
I don’t tell her to do this so that she can be a tattletale. I tell her this so she tells me. I want to know when things like this are happening so we can talk about them and I can help put everything into perspective for her. I’m also hoping this will continue as she gets older. There are so many ways out there for kids to hurt each other nowadays and if she and I can keep an open dialogue now and through elementary school I’m hoping it will continue when we reach middle school (AKA the meanest years) and high school.
Now I also want her to tell a teacher
When I saw her up on that slide by herself I wondered exactly how often she was this sad about the mean girls and I wondered if any of the adults on the playground (there were three) would have noticed if I hadn’t shown up right then. On Thursday, the director went and talked to the girls. She actually made one of them cry, which I have to say, made me feel better. (I know, I know! I’m mean.) But, I don’t think this is the norm. I think most of the time it goes unnoticed, especially if it happens on the playground. I’m done with it going unnoticed.
I see so much of me in the way my daughter behaves and reacts to situations. She craves approval and wants to be loved. I remember feeling the same things when I was her age and I remember feeling lonely and empty when I had these experiences with my friends. I know she feels that way too and while I don’t know if I can fix it, I can give her the tools and help develop her confidence so she knows there is more to life than one or two mean girls.
However, I also don’t expect her to handle this completely on her own. There are some things I am doing now to try and help her through these situations. I would suggest these for you too.
I practice saying the words with her and reminding her of the actions.
- “That’s not nice. You’re being mean. I don’t need mean friends. I’m going to find someone else to play with.”
- Walk away and play with someone else.
- Tell an adult.
My daughter is young and practicing this with her just reinforces it so that when this happens again, and I know it will happen again, she will remember what to say and do. We practiced on the way home on Thursday and again when she told my husband about it at dinner.
I’m talking to the teacher.
I haven’t done this yet but I will be doing this when I drop her off at school tomorrow morning. Since I hadn’t seen her this upset before, I just assumed she wasn’t that upset. I was wrong. I now want to make sure her teacher is aware this is happening and see how she handles it or will handle it in the future. This isn’t public school and my husband and I have worked very hard so she could continue to attend and learn here even though we are one income down now. The very least I expect is that the teacher will notice and tell the kids not to treat one another like that. I’m not going to send either of my kids to a preschool where they continually have their feelings hurt.
I’m reaching out to the other kids’ parents.
I also have not done this yet but I am planning to get their email address from the director tomorrow and email both parents so the three of us can have a discussion about this. I know people get weird about doing this, like they’re overstepping somehow. However, if my kid is acting like an asshole I want you to tell me so I can correct the behavior. I’m not planning to raise kids that are jerks and if they are acting like it and I find out, they will be in trouble. If no one tells me, I can’t fix it.
I am guessing that my daughters’ friends’ parents are also not raising their kids to behave this way and I am telling them so they can fix it.
There is also a chance that my daughter has done this to one of them and if that’s the case, I want to know. She and I have had discussions about how you do not tell people that you aren’t their friend and that you are to treat all friends nicely. If for some reason she is not doing this then I have more work to do and there are more conversations to be had.
Remind your child that they are loved.
Give them a hug. Tell them you love them. Tell them they are wonderful and that they deserve to be treated nicely. You have a short window of time when your children will believe these words coming directly from you. You have a short window of time where they will find comfort in your arms. Give it all to them while you still can. Hope that when they no longer believe you, you have made them strong enough to withstand the hurtful words and actions of others all on their own.
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Ugh! I was picked on a lot in school, so it’s hard, but you have some great advice. I was always told to ignore it, but that didn;t make it hurt less.
It is a learned behavior unfortunately . These kids are being mean sadly because that is what they see at home. Adults need to step in and help kids learn appropriate ways to treat others and other adults need to be role models.
wow I wish my mom had this information when I was little. I hate mean girls!
This is what I talk to my oldest son about. To ignore kids who are rude or what to talk garbage. Walk away and tell an adult.
Isnt it sad how early these types of “friendships” start to happen and how girls (anyone) needs to manage the hurt feelings? So smart to just let her be empowered to find true friends… its the simplest way and the best way.
I think, its just not the girls. Boys also need help with dealing with bullies or mean kids. I have two boys and sometimes I get confused on teaching them the right behavior.
Oh bless her that is awful and especially since she is so young. I know what it feels like to be the one left out and it is not nice. I agree that encouraging them to stand up for themselves is a good shout x
Its crazy how early this starts but the good thing is that when it gets really intense in middle school…you would of given her the tools to cope with it! Good Job!
I worked at a private school before I had kids and was shocked how early kids behaved like this. It’s absolutely heartbreaking. It’s great that you are giving her some tools to start handling it. Letting adults know is super important because they don’t always see what’s going on.
It makes me sad that we have to start worrying about this so young. I never remember dealing with mean girls as a young kid, and it hurts my heart that one day my daughter might have to deal with it. But it is important we let them know they are loved and how to stand up to a bully.
How I wish we could guard them all the time and shield them from the bullies. We can only do our best and I honestly think these are great options to teach your child. It’s also important that we teach them not to engage or start a fight.
Having been bullied as a child this couldn’t be more true! Teach them that hurt people hurt people. I wish that had been ingrained in my mind!
I have two little boys and my oldest just turned 4 but this all holds true to boys and girls. I was surprised to learn of how mean children can be – often I don’t think it’s entirely intentional but a learned habit from home (which can be even worse). I try to tell my big guy that there’s enough room in his heart to like and love all people, even those that are mean to him. That no matter how mean someone else is to him his reaction should always be kindness and love – that’s a tough lesson for an adult, let alone a child. I love this and think parents can learn a lot from your sage advice.
I was shocked when my daughter started preschool that “mean girls” started so young!!! It’s sad and almost gives me flash backs since I was picked on up until senior year of high school!
These are such great tips! As a teacher and a mom it is so important that children know how to handle mean kids.
These are great tips which I wish I had when my daughter was bullied. It will help all parents.
Girls of any age can be so inconsiderate. My daughter was bullied a few years back at day camp and it was traumatic for her my husband and me. I like many of your ideas in handling this serious problem.
Mean girls have a way of really ruining a girl’s day. Thanks for these great tips to help them out.
It’s hard to say this, but some kids are aholes. Whether they are learning the behavior at home or from older siblings, it can be hard to deal with. Teaching your kids to stand up for themselves and then remove them from the situation is very smart.
Some kids can be cruel. I have my girls homeschooling now because the bullying needs to stop. It’s ridiculous that schools don’t do anything about it and the victims are punished more than the bullies.
It breaks my heart that kids can be so mean and unfortunately it’s something we have to deal with all of our lives. I think it’s really important to start teaching our kids to manage it at a young age. I remind my son, still even now that he’s 12, to try not to let it be a reflection of who he is if someone is being mean. He has the power to control how he reacts to these people and how much control he gives them over how he feels. There are good people out there, no point in giving the attention to those that don’t deserve it and don’t treat you well. This is really a great post for parents.
This is amazing! It’s so heartbreaking knowing that little girls go through this. I’m glad that you’re sharing tips on what to do when it happens.
My daughter hasn’t started school yet, but my son has encountered plenty of mean children in elementary. These are wonderful tips!
Interesting…girls can be mean but I have mixed feelings about some of these suggestions and referring to this incident as bullying. As of mom of two young girls this stuff starts early for sure. I always suggest to them to spread the friendship net far and wide so when a friend is having a bad day you have other friends to play with. Sometimes kids are mean but it’s not always about the person they are taking it out on.
It’s so sad that girls are being taught to behave this way at such a young age. I firmly believe that this type of behavior is learned at home.
My best friend is having a dificult time with her daughter and school. I am pinning this to share with her tomorrow!
I agree with with everything you said here. My daughter is 5 and thankfully she hasn’t had such a problem but i try and prepare her just in case and i would do and react the exact same way. Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could oversee them from a distance all the time lol. Yes yes i know it’s helicopter parenting but it’s also ensuring that your child isn’t bullied or going through something they feel too uncomfortable to talk about. I try to talk to my daughter to keep dialogue open but she is still only 5.
This is a post that I think every mom should read. It’s disheartening to witness how kids can be so cruel to other kids.
Thank you to the mom that wrote this. One of the hardest things is not being able to bewitch your child 24/7 out the day. I get so frustrated and annoyed when my daughter tells me how rude or mean girls are to other girls. After reading this I am glad I am not the only one but I will also know more how to approach.
I like the way you are teaching self advocacy skills to your young child. That is a huge skill for all kids to learn. I would, however, say that it’s unfair to assume that teachers are going about their day not noticing what the children are doing. The thing about social issues like tricky friendship issues where kids act like assholes go unnoticed because they are not being reported to the teacher. I love how you made it a point to teach your girl to report these incidents to a teacher right away. Teachers, I feel, are expected to know and do so much when their reality is to keep track of and care for all of the kids while the rest of us get to focus on just our own children. I am not saying that not knowing about the social issues happening umongs children is ok, but I am saying that us as parents need to teach our kids about reporting so that teachers could be more aware of the covert social problems happening in the class.
I always want to teach my daughter just how important it is to stand up for herself. I’m shocked that there are cliques and means girls already in kindergarten. So sad.
I went looking for an article to help me deal with this before it’s a major issue with my daughter – and I am SO GLAD this was the first blog I happened upon. Thank you for your empowering words and guiding advice to all the moms who don’t know what to do. THANK YOU!
This article really hit home for me. My daughter has been dealing with this with one of her little friends for almost 2 years now, in preschool last year and now in kindergarten. We too, have been encouraging her to make other friends, and to confront said child when she’s being mean, even going as far to say to her that she doesn’t need a yo-yo friend. (Friends one day but not the next.) We’ve been working on it for awhile now and it seems to be going well. She’s happier, and when we ask who she played with at school, we’re happy to hear a lot of names, instead of just the one. I didn’t think that we’d need to deal with these situations until the teenage years, so it really came as a surprise when this happened. Little girls can be so mean.
We’ve also been working with our daughter to make sure that she doesn’t do these same things to other kids, and trying to teach her that everyone wants friends and that if she sees someone playing alone, that she should try to befriend them as well.
This worries me so much. My 4 year old twin grandchildren will start school this year and my daughter decided to separate them. My granddaughter is very sensitive and I worry how to try to keep this from happening even though I know it’s virtually impossible. I’m glad I found this today.
This is tough. Girls can be rather cruel. Natalie has encountered some and I’ve told her to just walk away. Thankfully she talks to lots of people, so she has others to turn to.
Some kids are so mean and it’s sad when I hear this happen. I was picked on in elementary all the way through High School so it’s sad to see that it’s happening to other kids. I want to be able to educate my kids that it’s not nice to make others feel sad. I love all the tips you gave. With school already around the corner it’s good to sit down and talk to our kids.
Great tips. The fact is girl’s can be mean and caddy. I would encourage my girls to still be kind to them but keep a distance and make friends that are loving.
It’s sad that bullying even exists but it’s really sad that it begins at such a young age. I’ve always said that bullying usually begins at home. These are great steps!
As a school principal, I have seen this played out over and over. It is the saddest situation. We started a group of third grade girls who vowed to always say, You can play with me. It was a wonderful year!
This has been a struggle for us in the past. Mean girls then compete bully which is a whole other story. This is such a helpful post to nip it before it gets too bad!
I always tell my kids to let an adult know if something bad is happening at school. I never advocate violence or having my kids stop to the bullies’ level.
These are really great tips. When I was a teacher, I found that one of the things the kids would tell me is that when someone is being mean they just don’t know what to say. That was one of the key things we taught them – words they could say. It seemed to help them feel empowered.
One of the reasons I decided to homeschool was because of mean girls. And sometimes they grow up to be mean adults, which stinks, too. I think you gave your daughter good advice.
It is crazy how early these things happen now – my son talked about bullies in kindergarten. 🙁 I never know what to do so this is helpful for me as well.
Bullying is such a common occurence these days. These are great tips for helping young girls deal with it.
i def remember bullying in middle school and hs and these are great tips that im sure ill be using in the next few years as my daughter gets older
I am SO sorry your daughter had to go through this, and I thank you for sharing this solid, spot-on advice with practical, actionable tips! We have had far too much of this over the years, to the point that (for this and other reasons) my eldest is leaving public school for a private school in the fall. I hope your daughter can rise above it, and I esp. like that you have role-played possible responses with her. This is so important for young kids, rather than just telling them what they should do the next time it happens. Good luck to her, and brava to you, Mama! 🙂
Great post as a mom of girls this is important to read!
My niece is in preschool now and we always tell my niece to ignore and walk away when some of her friends are mean.
This is such a wonderful post. I’ve learned a lot from it and thank you a lot for sharing it and your story with us!
It makes me so sad that we have to teach young girls this, but if we don’t do it early, then they won’t know how to deal with it down the road. It’s just all sad, but these are great tips!
Ugh, I’m so sorry your daughter went through this. One of the hardest part of being a parent is watching our kids hurt. These steps are such powerful ways to deal with mean kids. I’m going to start this with my 3-year-Old!
We must not always blame the child’s parents or home life for this. Peer pressure plays a huge role! We should teach our children to not even hang out with mean friends because those kids will have a definite influence on them. And when those mean children find someone more popular to join the group, they will often dump our own little ones. This sad situation plays out over and over again.
It’s so hard, my daughter has not experienced this yet. However, my son has experienced some of this and these tips apply to boys too!
I’m sorry that your daughter is having to deal with this. It is never easy to see our kids hurting, but it seems like you are giving her some good advice.
It makes me sad to know that bullying happens so often these days. I’m glad that you are giving your daughter some great advice!
Its so sad how young these kids are bullys and mean girls/boys. I had a niece going through that and we told her that don’t try to continue to be her friend if she continues to be mean and controlling.
Kids can be so cruel at times. I wish I knew what to say to my daughter when she went through this years ago. I felt so helpless.
It is sad that we have even think about all of this, but is so important that we do. My oldest has been dealing with mean girls since she was in Pre-K 🙁