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Mean Girls On The Playground

2181559194_c772afa507_mMean girls. Those pretty, popular, cool girls who use their social power to hurt those less blessed by social fortune.

The specter of a popular, predatory prom queen taking down the class nerd with a cutting remark or vicious prank is the stuff of legend, many popular movies, and sometimes a sad fact of real life.

That kind of cruelty isn’t just for prom anymore. An article in the Boston Globe explores how girls are practicing “mean girl” tactics on the playground.

Girls are forming popular cliques and cutting other kids with mean comments, pranks and exclusion from play as early as preschool.

Experts debate whether or not preschoolers bullying each other and forming popular cliques is really new. But parents know it’s a real trend, and a real problem.

I have two daughters who are five and two.

My five-year-old sometimes comes home from school talking about girls who won’t let her sit with them at lunch, or who shut her out of their playground games. Since my kid is made of awesome, it’s clearly those other girls who are losing out, but that’s small comfort when you’re playing alone in the sandbox.

The two-year-old is another story. She began her day today by shouting at a friend, “I don’t like you. You can’t come in!” and slamming a door in his face when he tried to join a game she was playing with another girl.

It’s kind of funny to hear her barely formed, cooing baby voice saying such mean things. But it’s not funny to her little friend. And it’s not a one-off incident. The kids in her playgroup have been forming shifting cliques for months, with two or three banding together and making up elaborate games to exclude one of the other children. Sometimes it looks like the goal is to make the shunned child cry.

I was a nerdy, unpopular kid myself, so it fills me with a special horror to see my toddler playing the part of the popular diva.

It’s easy enough to correct her at this stage. I can open the slammed door, distract them all with a story or a craft and break out my well-traveled copy of You Can’t Say You Can’t Play.

Which apparently is what I need to be doing. The Boston Globe article cites several recent incidents of middle school girls committing suicide over taunting and bullying from popular cliques at their schools. Massachusetts is working on legislation to address bullying in schools, but critics say it doesn’t go far enough.

What do you think? Can names be as bad as sticks and stones? Has your child been bullied in preschool? Have you caught her practicing her mean girl moves on the playground?

What have you done about it? And what should the schools be doing? Whose fault is this problem anyway?

Photo: Pink Sherbert Photography

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