My daughter comes running up to me on the preschool playground, tears streaming down her face.
“She was MEAN at me, mommy!”
Oh dear. It’s started already. I was anticipating it being an elementary school thing, but apparently it happens in preschool too. Girl drama. Friendship drama. Not that it doesn’t happen to boys too, but girl drama is different. It’s a constant, she said/she did back and forth. Boys tend to lash out physically or laugh at each other and then 15 minutes later, it’s all good.
We’ve had multiple incidents in our classroom this year, none of them remotely major, but good teaching moments nonetheless. Most of the time the issues are innocent and not malicious, although sometimes someone’s bad day becomes a bigger problem.
The biggest issue seems to be “who’s in charge?”. Someone picks a game (usually Frozen or My Little Pony) and someone else doesn’t want to play. Then chaos ensues, feelings of being left out and not being heard run rampant. “She said I can’t do this. She said I’m not allowed to…”
It’s a tough parenting space to be in.On the one hand, I want my daughter (who is a little timid and not aggressive) to stand up for herself. We practice saying “I don’t like how you’re treating me.” and “I’m going to take a break from you.” She knows to walk away. I’m working with her on the fact that her friends are not “in charge” of her and no one has the right to make her feel bad about herself.
On the other hand, she needs to learn that you don’t always get what you want. Sometimes you get to pick the game and sometimes someone else does. Just because someone doesn’t want to be Anna or play the bad guy doesn’t mean they aren’t your friend. She’s just as guilty at this at times and I need her to know that’s not okay. I say “how would you feel if” and “remember when so and so did that to you?” a few times a month. I know she doesn’t quite get it yet, but at some point she will and I’m just going to keep at it until she does.
I want to make sure I’m validating her feelings. They are hers and she is entitled to them. But I also want her to learn that friendship is a two-way street. If she or the other person doesn’t want to play, that’s okay. You can do different things and still be friends. I have no patience for the “you’re not my friend anymore” thing that girls do. It drives me batty.
Friendship is tough at four. Heck, it’s tough at 37. She might be fighting some of these battles her entire life.
I just hope I’m giving her the right tools. Some of the hardest years of friendship for me was during middle school (6th and 7th grade) and I want her to be prepared, at least as much as she can be. Is that even possible?
This post was originally posted on the BabyCenter Blog.