Or, purple monsters… For lack of better photo. Anyway, I’ve never seen the movie Mean Girls, but I can only imagine something similar to what I witnessed in high school. I was never a mean girl, but I witnessed bullying. I had my head unnecessarily shoved into a locker or two in my day. I turned out okay, I think. I certainly do not want my Mia shoving heads into lockers.
A mom from Mia’s school informed me the other day that the girls had formed some kind of “club” and they where periodically excluding girls from the group. Mean girls at age 3???
It wasn’t JUST Mia, but being part of that group is just as bad! I was in shock, and suddenly had that overwhelming feeling of… “Oh crap, I’m THAT mom whose child is going to act totally different when she steps out of the house.”
As I began to research, it seems that I should have caught onto the signs that this “club” thing was coming. Back six months ago, Mia was on an “Okay then I won’t be your friend” kick. To me, to her dad, even to the cat… yes, she was threatening her friendship with our cat.
Good news… There are many ways to nip this in the bud. I still have time to straighten out my closeted mean girl and so do you.
Here are some tips from the experts, aka not me:
- Make sure your preschooler gets plenty of opportunities to make their own choices and feel powerful in their life. Much like a toddler learning the power of ”no,” preschoolers abuse social exclusion more if that’s the only time they get to feel powerful.
- Help the child identify the cue they missed or mistake they made, by asking something like: “How would you feel if Emma and Jane didn’t want you to play on the tire swing with them?” Instead of lecturing with the word “should,” offer options the child “could” have taken in the moment.
- Sensitize your kiddo to other people’s experience by constantly commenting on how others feel so they see things from other people’s viewpoints. Make comments like… “Look, that boy is crying. I wonder why?” or “Laura seemed so happy when you hugged her.” It’s crucial that children develop this skill, not just so they turn out nice, but because reading the social cues of others is the only way to function in a complicated social world.
- Create an imaginary but similar scenario where the child can make the right choice. For example, you could say, “If you and Danielle were playing in the sandbox and Samantha wanted to play too, what would you say?”
- Lastly, give the child “social homework” by asking they practice this new skill, saying: “I want to hear about something you do to include everyone in school tomorrow.” Resources for my research:Bullying Prevent Begins At Home (A recent Babble article)