1. Naturally, the book assumes that all children will be immersed in a classroom environment that, by its nature, is less supervised and consists of a lot of peer dependency. I know my kids won't be in that kind of a situation on a daily basis, but I suspect this book is talking about how group dynamics play out in general with little girls.
2. My almost 4 year old is already experiencing this to a mild degree (whether she fully realizes it or not) when I have to drop her off for functions and she is put with several older girls. My daughter's personality can mislead people because she is VERY outgoing to adults, but she has certain follower tendencies around kids she perceives as older. I watch her back down quickly when an older girl rejects her ideas as "dumb" or tells/implies her ideas are not important. Honestly, it's hard for me to know what to do when I see it because my daughter can't put the pieces together yet for herself or even express what she's feeling. My other daughter is much more physically aggressive and physically active. I wonder what to make of that as she gets older. I want to show grace to other children, knowing that my daughters could easily do the same thing.
3. The book's title talks about cutting off this "mean girls" mentality (whether it's intentional or not) in elementary school because the longer those tactics and attitudes persist as a strong influence in a girl's life, the more it contributes to low self-esteem as she heads into that mishmash of hormones known as middle school (which is a time in our lives I'm sure we can all recall with less than fondness).
On to the book...
In the first chapter called "The Rise of Social Cruelty" the authors (both of which are moms who have a Ph.D in developmental psychology and two daughters) assert that many school anti-bullying programs tend to target boy tactics (physical aggression) and largely ignore more subtle girl tactics (relational aggression).
"Despite the blossoming of bully-proofing courses around the country, issues of girl meanness and female friendship struggles fall outside the scope of a majority of programs...It's one thing to prepare yourself against the backstreet bully, but what do you do when the bully is your best friend?" (11-12)The authors insist that elementary age is the time to start dealing with these issues because a girl is old enough to be independent, but young enough to still be influenced heavily by adults.
My two cents so far: Readers, I think you all will be surprised by what behaviors the authors consider girl bullying. Things like certain girls making "exclusive clubs" or hurtful whimsy like being someone's friend one day and not the next (known as a yo-yo friendship). The authors say that usually in the K-2 years girls unintentionally hurt one another, but that the behavior still can't be dismissed by adults. Too many of us write off these things as "what little kids do" when they're trying to find their way or that our kids should just "shake it off" and find another friend, but if you go here to this blog you might rethink those platitudes. The blog shares the author's personal perspective as mother when her daughter, Kylie, was tormented by her best friend for close to 2 years. This started when Kylie was in 1st grade:
"Sherrie was Kylie’s closest friend, and—at first—her strongest ally. But a destructive power dynamic soon developed. It was amazing the hold Sherrie had over her—the power she had to take something wonderful and make it dark and fearsome to Kylie. Kylie was an avid believer in fairies, and (in the beginning) the 2 would laughingly imagine they were visited by fanciful fairies in the backyard. But when things changed, Sherrie took Kylie’s passion for fairies and used it to terrify her—telling her about fairies that were evil and would harm her...
Kylie tried to speak to her teacher about her struggles midyear and was met with disbelief (“She’s such a nice girl; you must be misreading her intent”). When she persisted, she was told to “thicken her skin,” which left her feeling more confused and alone. It was only when I happened upon a scribbled note of loneliness that Kylie opened up and shared her isolation."Let me tell you, the scribbled note she found is heart-breaking for such a young girl to have written. Have any of you been victim of or have you witnessed your children going through some of these things? How did you handle the situation?
Stay tuned for Part 2...