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Mean Girl Mentality in the classroom

  • 1.  Mean Girl Mentality in the classroom

    Posted 12-06-2019 09:25 AM
    Any suggestions on how to handle a mean girl mentality in a pre-k classroom (4/5 year olds)?  To be specific, including others into their play, constant togetherness during free play, dirty looks given to the teacher when seperated or told to be kind and include other in their play?  There are not a lot of girls in this classroom which makes it hard to navigate separation.  The parents of the two girls have been addressed about the situation so we are hoping behaviors will improve soon.

    Mary Swartz
    Trinity Methodist Preschool
    Richmond VA

  • 2.  RE: Mean Girl Mentality in the classroom

    Posted 12-07-2019 07:37 AM

    I think you've already taken some great steps! Perhaps you could take a week to promote friendship/kindness! There are a lot of really great children's books that you could incorporate. You could do a week long group project where the two are actually paired with someone else! It could be a project where they trace each other's bodies using a large roll of paper. They can help color it and then (all with lots of hep) write kind words about their friends on the cut out of their friend. Make their shirt and pants have kind words! It could create a bond...then you can group all the girls together on the wall!! Reiterate that they can ALL be friends, point out the sweet smiles and kind words! 

    Just a thought! 

    Elizabeth Lane
    Kids on the Rock
    Palmetto FL

  • 3.  RE: Mean Girl Mentality in the classroom

    Posted 12-07-2019 08:01 AM
    If you were enjoying one friend's company and some told you that you had to play with someone else how would you react? You can't force friendship. It will only make this more important to them. If there is a specific child they are excluding try watching to see when and why they are excluded. Maybe they need support with their social skills. Is tuere a reason why boys ajd girls don't socialize  in you group? Help this child understand that sometimes people just want to play exclusively and it isn't about them. Help them find alternstives. You may find that when you give them permission to choose their own playmates the situation eases on its own. Those dirty looks mean you are in a power struggle.

    Emily Hefko
    Pardeeville WI

  • 4.  RE: Mean Girl Mentality in the classroom

    Posted 12-07-2019 08:42 AM
    I've always called 4 years old "the adolescence of early childhood" and some of what you're seeing is typical developmentally.  A couple of thoughts:  Might the adults redefine the norms of play for themselves?  It's natural that people choose their own friendship groups.  Do adults need to define it for them?  Perhaps teach these children how to talk more kindly when other children want to to join their play and.  "We want to play this alone for now but later we'll play with you."  Their friendship isn't the problem.  They're probably feeling like they're being told they're doing something wrong by wanting to be together.  Could the focus be shifted towards guiding them in changing their response, rather than changing their play?

    You can have a small group discussion with the children involved.  "It seems like we have a problem.  Other children want to play with you because they like you a lot.  When you don't let other children play with you it hurts their feelings.  What do you think we can do so that you get to play together but other children's feelings don't get hurt?"

    Could you come to some agreements about letting children play exclusively for part of the day, and more openly for part of the day?  That might loosen things up.

    You might think about having some open discussions with all of the children about classroom norms and what would help the classroom community feel safe, fair, and comfortable for everyone.  Children have deep feelings about fairness and often the ability to articulate this.  The role of the adults in these discussions would be to take notes, ask clarifying questions, make sure every child has the chance to be fully heard (including the quieter ones), and ask a question that might lead to further discussion--"what about when two or three children are playing and don't want to let anyone join them?  Should we let that happen or try to change it?" Their answers may be surprising; they may disagree; they may be able to come to some understandings that take the charge out of the current situation.

    I agree with another poster that a friendship theme might be fun and helpful.  There could be a lot of activities done in pairs--partner painting, storytelling, etc. and children who don't often spend time together could be paired together.

    I'm mainly advocating for an approach that includes curious inquiry and including the children in problem-solving.

    Aren Stone
    Child Development Specialist
    The Early Years Project
    Cambridge, MA

  • 5.  RE: Mean Girl Mentality in the classroom

    Posted 12-08-2019 02:44 PM

    The September 2019 issue of Young Children contained an excellent article; Two's Company, Three's a Crowd: Peer Interactions in a Preschool Social Triangle (Voices) by Christopher Robert Taaffe. Though it deals with triad groups I believe the information pertains to this situation as well.
    I agree with Aren Stone's comment. The children need to be taught how to integrate others into their play. 

    Nancy Craighead
    master teacher

    Sand Springs OK[