It didn't take the movie Mean Girls for most of us to realize how ugly girl-drama can get. And sadly for those of us with daughters, cattiness and cliques are no longer reserved for the high-school crowd. Research has shown that girls as young as 3 or 4-years-old use peer pressure and manipulation to get what they want. Here's how to help your daughter navigate the shark tank and develop healthy friendships.
Realize that Some "Meanness" Is Normal
When your kid comes home from preschool whining about how "mean" another child was that day, try to take it with a grain of salt. "All four-year-olds are mean -- including yours,” says Polly Young-Eisendrath Ph.D., psychologist and author of The Self-Esteem Trap: Raising Confident and Compassionate Kids in an Age of Self-Importance. "They're still learning how to be polite and cooperative, so they say and do all sorts of unkind things. But when your child gets her feelings hurt, she thinks it's because someone was intentionally mean to her." Turn the conversation to how the situation made her feel (angry? frustrated? sad?), and talk about the best way to deal with those emotions -- which she'll feel again and again -- instead of focusing on the situation itself.