I knew my daughter would eventually face mean girls and unkind behavior from friends. I just never imagined it would be when she was 4-years-old. Even though I faced countless mean girls during my childhood, I don’t remember girls getting mean so young. I figured my daughter might start talking about friend issues in middle school, not preschool.
I first heard about Regan after a game of “Family” went wrong. “Regan said I couldn’t be the Mommy,” my daughter told me. “She said she was going to be the Mommy and I had to be the Cousin.”
When I asked my daughter if she wanted to be the Cousin she said, “I wanted to be the Mommy, but Regan said no.”
“Well, why does Regan get to choose what you are?” I asked. “Why can’t you all take turns being the Mommy or have more than one?”
My daughter shook her head and said Regan got to choose who played what because Regan wouldn’t play if anyone else chose. My daughter likes Regan and didn’t want her to leave the game. So she played Cousin while Regan bossed the other girls around.
The next day my daughter came home with another story about her friend Regan. This time, Regan had taken a toy from my daughter’s hand. When my daughter asked if she could please have it back Regan told her no and walked away.
So when I asked my daughter why she didn’t tell her teacher she said, “I just went and played with someone nicer.”
The first few times my daughter came home with stories about Regan, I winced; 4 is just too young to have to deal with mean friends. But when I heard how my daughter was dealing with the situation, I realized that I’m totally okay with her having a mean friend in class. In fact, I’m sort of glad. Here’s why.
1. She’s learning how to stand up for herself, and that’s a skill that she’ll need to draw upon throughout her life.
2. My daughter is learning to make better choices about friends. Her interactions with Regan are teaching her that you can choose mean friends or nice ones. And it’s a lot more fun to choose the nice ones.
3. She’s learning there are consequences to unkind behavior. My kid isn’t the only one who’s been treated poorly by Regan; like my daughter, the other kids are choosing to play with nicer friends. So if my daughter ever decides to become a mean girl herself, hopefully she’ll remember the days when Regan played alone because she wasn’t kind to others.
4. My daughter is learning how to resolve conflicts. I always want my kids to know they can come to their parents or teachers with any issues or questions, but I like that my daughter can stand up for herself. When something major goes down, I hope she’ll tell the teacher. But for petty mean girl stuff, she’s wise to speak up and move on!
5. She’s learning that not everybody wants to do the right thing. By witnessing Regan’s lack of empathy for her friends, my kid is learning that you can’t fix things or people by changing yourself. What a valuable lesson to learn. It took me years to get that one!
So while I’m not grateful for my daughter’s mean friend, I’m not as panicked as I was when my daughter first started to talk about her friend’s unkind actions. My daughter is handling herself better than I ever could have. She’s proud of herself and I’m proud of her, too!
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