A 4-Year Old Bully?

Girls can be mean. I didn’t think it could happen this young, but I feel like my youngest daughter is being bullied at preschool. Perhaps it’s unintentional, or partly excusable as normal behavior for this age as kids learn to assert their dominance. All I know is my little Elizabeth never wants to go to school, comes home deflated every day, and is obsessed with whatever this one particular child does or says to her. Yesterday she came home sulking, “Everybody was mean to me today, no one wanted to play to me, it was the worst day ever.” Once we sat down and talked about it, I realized it wasn’t “everybody” but just this one girl. “Well, what is she saying or doing to you Elizabeth?” I asked. “She’s stealing Amanda away from me and then won’t let me play with them.” Hmmm, the usual guilty suspects with women - exclusion and the silent treatment. Some would argue this isn’t bullying. But I see it as a spectrum and in my book anyone who makes you feel shameful is a bully. So, we talked about what her responses have been and what the teachers have told her to do, e.g., call her out on it, remind her of playground rules, tell the teacher, go find someone else to play with. But what really seemed to resonate was when I asked her, “So Elizabeth, what do you look for in a friend?” She replied very quickly “Haley”. “Well, what is Haley like?” “Fun, kindful (an Elizabeth original), adventurous, likes to do what I want to do first.” “Well, great then” I said. “Now don’t you want to play with someone who makes you feel good instead of bad?” “Yes.” Then I told her a little story about when I was younger (not as young as 4, but nonetheless.) I said, “When I was in junior high school, all of the girls who I thought were my friends decided that I wasn’t cool enough anymore and wouldn’t hang around with me. It was hard and it made me feel sad. But you know what? That’s when I found my new friends. And those same girls are still my friends to this day.” When I finished my story, Elizabeth just wrapped her arms around me and gave me the biggest bear hug ever!