Mean Girling in Kindergarten! Change Schools?

Updated on June 04, 2018
A.K. asks from Simi Valley, CA
17 answers

My daughter turns six in sept 2018. She was in a private school this past year, where they moved her from transitional kindergarten to kindergarten because she was bored in tk and stood out as being more mature. She did great academically, but socially was mean girled a lot. Five out of seven girls in her class were a clique and tell her she can only play when they say it’s ok. The other two girls, one was absorbed into the main group and the other girl was friends w my daughter but moved. My daughter keeps her hopes up with any attention she gets but I don’t see any real friend she has made. Edit to say her teacher has known of my concerns since oct-nov but it hasn’t made a big difference. My daughter has been “tough” and has learned to play by herself but I am concerned that she always had friends before and this year none. She does have friends in her other activities and had friends in preschool, but she is younger than the girls in her class. She is still working on social skills from what I see in her activities, but not way more than other girls her age. She did go from being super social last year to less social more “I’m fine by myself” this year. I am trying to decide whether to keep her at the private school where she would be a first grader, or move her to public school where she would repeat kindergarten again. Edit to say she definitely would repeat k in public according to the district. She is way ahead of what they are teaching in kinder at our public school so she would again be bored academically, but she’d be the older of the girls and may have better luck on friendships. No other non religious private schools in our area. What would you all do?

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T.F.

answers from Dallas on

Before I complete my answer.... no you don't change schools due to mean girls. If you set that trend you'll be changing schools all her life. It is a fact of life, there are mean girls (and boys) and you have to teach your child how to deal with them. Once your child grows up and out of college and into the workplace, there will still be mean girls to deal with. Might as well start preparing now.

My college grad daughter said to me not long ago "Mom, girls never stop being mean, they just grow up and stay mean". Very true. I have a neighbor who is a POS and their 3 girls (daughter babysat a couple of times) are 3 of the worst that we experienced at our elementary school. I truly believe the mean girl types start at home.

That said. it is a shame IF the teachers and admin were not aware of the situation. I have been in the classroom a lot as a substitute for 17 years. At our school, which is a Blue Ribbon Nationally rated elementary public school, we keep eyes/ears open, watch behaviors, especially at recess, etc and when we see something, we stop it.

Someone else made a good point that your daughter may have been ready to move up academically but not emotionally and socially. That is something to seriously consider when you talk about moving a child up a level. Most children "even out" around 2nd to 3rd grade.

One thing that helped my daughter (now 23) a lot was being involved in several things and having different "groups" of friends. She was in cheer and martial arts. The martial arts was one that was SO worth the money because it teaches so much more than what people think. You also have options with things such as your church group, girl scouts, etc.

I am sorry you are going through it. We went through our share of mean girls and it is not fun but I do now that you grow through adversity and become stronger.

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D.B.

answers from Boston on

It sounds like the emphasis was on academics rather than on social development in the move from TK to K. It's always a juggling act.

If it's now the end of the year and this problem has been going on for the better part of kindergarten, that's a shame. I don't know where things went wrong, whether the teachers didn't intervene or whether there's some sort of entitlement felt by some private school families regarding their children's behavior. I taught in 2 private schools and saw some of this, although we teachers were on top of the "exclusion" thing like white on rice. It wasn't permitted. So why this continued for a year, I don't know.

But here's the other thing to consider. It's natural to see our children's strengths and abilities, and to emphasize their good qualities. But maybe your daughter wasn't exclusively "mean girled" all the time. Maybe she's lacking social skills and just isn't at the level of the other kids. Granted, they should still be kind and there should be no "You can't play" remarks. But is it at all possible that your daughter reports "you can't play" when in fact the message was that "you can't play like that, rudely or not following the game rules" or something similar? You really have to get info from the staff (teacher, recess monitors, bus monitors, etc.) and not just from your child. If no one noticed anything, that's a clue about your daughter's reporting (and it's normal for kids to inaccurately report). It's also common for some kids to totally misread social cues. If the staff noticed and never told you or worked with your daughter to help her socially, that's a red flag about the school.

The advantage to public school is that the classes are larger, there is usually more than one class per grade (so there is an even larger social group on the playground or at lunch), there may be time on a school bus, and there may be after school activities which offer your daughter a chance to work on social skills and give her choices about whom to play with. In my private schools, where there were anywhere from 8 to 14 kids per grade, you had to play with everyone there, period. Repeating a year would give your daughter a chance to be one of the older ones. As for boredom, public schools usually have various groups going on at any one time, plus paraprofessional aides to help. That lets teachers do a little customization of the curriculum based on kids' needs.

What I think is critical is that you and your daughter not view school as an academic exercise only, mastering facts and figures and vocabulary, but as a place to learn life skills as well. Life skills include gross and fine motor skills, social skills, working in a group, and reading others' body language (who's alone? who's angry? who's sad? who's lashing out but really afraid inside? who's verbal? who's not? who am I annoying with my chatter or my bossiness?).

That applies to kindergarten, but to all grades through 12th. The unhappiest kids in my son's class were those who focused too much on academics and never developed social relationship skills. My son didn't have the highest grades but he got into a better college than his "academician" friends because he had strong social and leadership skills. These came from "reading" others' reactions and needs and being able to communicate and work well with a wide variety of people. He was the kind of kid the colleges wanted because they knew he would function well in a dorm and teams/clubs. So think long-term, don't sweat the small stuff (spelling tests or math facts, for example), and recognize what her needs and weaknesses are. Teach the whole child, not just the brain.

Good luck! Maybe you can find some good readiness activities this summer for her. Do have a solid sit-down with the teachers before the end of the year and, if necessary, ask the school psychologist (even a small private school should have one on call) to sit in on class or recess to observe your daughter and give you some objective data and guidelines.

5 moms found this helpful

S.T.

answers from Washington DC on

it's weird how people have seemingly forgotten that children, like all humans, demonstrate a spectrum of behaviors. small children do not all come in one flavor, however much we might want them all to be 'kind.'

i'm glad the kindergarten teacher isn't micromanaging the friendships. kindergartners are still mostly feral beings and behave impulsively and instinctively. that doesn't mean we shouldn't guide and demonstrate kind and courteous behavior for them, but it does mean we shouldn't expect kindergartners to behave like professionals at a board meeting.

go ahead and move your kid. and when she encounters cliques at her new school, move her again. then homeschool her because you've made her too fragile to deal with the world, and what will you do when another kid at the homeschool co-op tells her she can't play with her?

parent your child. work with her on handling people who are sometimes rough, and don't do too much of it. trust your child to have some degree of resilience, for the gods' sakes.
khairete
S.

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W.W.

answers from Washington DC on

So you are paying for a private school but NOT telling the teachers NOR administration what is going on? The problem is YOU.

You need to advocate for your daughter. You need to teach her to step up for HERSELF. The world is FULL Of mean people. She needs to learn how to deal with them NOW.

She needs to learn how to deal with brats. We have brats all around us, every day. People LOOKING for ways to be offended or upset or a reason to be mean.

Teach her that she DOES NOT NEED the "mean girls" and she can play where she wants and WHEN she wants. SHE CAN STAND UP. The teachers and administration NEED to know what is going on so when your daughter says "YOU MAY NOT TELL ME WHEN TO PLAY" - they aren't side-swiped by it.

It's JUNE!!! Why the hell would you wait ALL SCHOOL YEAR to tell them this? I don't get it.

I'd keep my daughter in a private school where she can be academically challenged and succeed and teach her how to deal with the kids who are intimidated by her brains.

4 moms found this helpful

T.S.

answers from San Francisco on

Your daughter WILL encounter mean girls in every setting, not just school but sports, scouts, even at church. So please don't base picking a school (or even a grade level) on that.
What about the 2 out of 7 girls that are not being mean to her, does she play with them?
If not, your daughter may just be more of a loner by nature. I've worked with kids long enough to witness this, especially in children who are very bright. They can be lonely and it can be hard to watch, especially for a parent. But the good news is they tend to find their people, and form stronger friendships, it just takes longer.
As far as repeating K, are you SURE she would have to do that? Do they have split classes? A K/1 split would probably be ideal if that's an option.
Also keep in mind that by third grade most kids are basically on the same level, academically, socially and emotionally. At this point the playing field really evens out and these things that seem like such a big issue now may be totally insignificant in a few short years.

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B.C.

answers from Norfolk on

My sister started kindergarten when she was 4 and turned 5 in October.
While she was fine academically - socially and emotionally she was a mess.
I think she would have been better off waiting a year.
Throughout all her school years she was way too concerned with pleasing others and as a result she couldn't walk away from a few friends who were a bad influence.

Your girl is at the right age for kindergarten.
Most of the time kindergarten is about learning to work with a group, raising your hand, walking in line, playing with others.
Academically there is a wide range of what passes for normal.
The boredom problem isn't going to go away no matter which grade she goes in.
The class will always travel at the pace of the slowest student - and many kids get very bored with the endless repetition.
I think she should try kindergarten in public school.
While it will be easy for her, she'll be a bit older and will be better at relating to the other kids especially if they are a little younger.
Once her work is done find other ways to keep her engaged with her learning process.
Do museums, aquariums, zoos, science museums - anything that interests her - find a way so that she can learn more about it.
Being a little more mature in middle and high school will work out well.
It did for our son.
Where he went to school you had to be 5 yrs old on or before Sept 30th to start kindergarten.
His birthday is end of Oct - so he was only 5 yrs old for a few months before turning 6 in kindergarten.

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R.K.

answers from Appleton on

This is a difficult decision. You want her to be accepted by the other kids in class but never to be bored academically. You should have addressed this with the teacher earlier in the school year. The teacher should have been made aware of the situation and taken care of it. No child should ever be excluded from the group.
I would try to talk to the teacher now to see if she/he can intervene and explain to the class that everyone is your friend and everyone should play together.
I would leave her in the private school for now and see what happens next year. If you see the same situation starting again talk to the teacher in the beginning of the year. Hopefully the new teacher will address the issue and correct the behavior. If things do not change you can always move her to the public school.

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M.P.

answers from Portland on

I reread your post. I see you're talking about keeping her in private school or moving her to public school. I suggest that in public school she will have an advantage because there are more students and will be in a school with more resources. I suggest the public school may have a different focus than a private school. Public schools in my area are helpful in providing help with social skills. I've experienced this with my daughter and grandchildren.

I would send her to a public school. Perhaps you could visit the new school to see what it's actually like. Call the office. Tell them you're considering their school after having your daughter in a private school. They will make an appointment for you. In addition to getting to know the school better, ask questions about your concerns for your daughter. More information will help you make an informed decision.
*****************

There will always be mean girls. Help her find a way to deal with them. I'm surprised the teacher apparently hasn't helped. Have you let her know this still ongoing? Have you talked with anyone else in the school? What did you tell the teacher and what has teacher said?

She transferred after school started? It"s possible the girls were already a clique. Did they also go to preschool together?

1st grade will be different in who is the teacher, who will be in the class, will have more students and a more active playground. Public schools have a counselor and more resources.

Your daughter is more mature academically but perhaps not socially. If she's easily bored, there are other ways than changing classes and school to help her. What else have you or the school tried? Is your child quiet and have difficulty breaking in to a new social order?

I suggest that you focus on helping your daughter learn social skills and relate to the mean girls. Every classroom has them. You can't change the mean girls. You can help your daughter learn how to manage them.

Most importantly be upbeat about starting first grade. Please let her know by your attitude and words that the experience is will be positive.

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M.6.

answers from New York on

Is your daughter really being "mean girled" or are you just simply too sensitive to allow your daughter to handle real world situations. 5 - 6 yr olds just don't have the drive or capacity, generally speaking (especially a group of them), to set up a "mean girl" situation that could be so ongoing that it lasts an entire year. At that age, you still see kids go "this is my new best friend," and when you ask them what their name is they don't even know.

I think the issue might lie more with you than your daughter. Move her if you want, but your issues will only carry through to the new school, and that only tells your daughter that if mommy has a problem, moving is always the answer.

Good luck.

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M.D.

answers from Pittsburgh on

It sound like she was academically but not socially ready. It's a shame the teachers didn't realize that before they recommended accelerating her a grade - grade acceleration is usually something that is taken really seriously.

And are you sure that she'd have to repeat? Education is mostly governed by state law, so it could be different in CA than in my state, but here, if you complete an accredited private K program and then transfer to public school, you go to 1st grade, regardless of your age. With this in mind, I think you should make an appointment to talk to the public school principal to make sure of your options. If indeed she would have to repeat K (or you choose to have her repeat, even if she doesn't have to), then ask what opportunities there are for enrichment in the public school classroom since she's already completed a K program - a good teacher can work enrichment into the regular classroom for kids who finish their work quickly. Also ask what reading and math curricula they use. It's possible that the public school and the private school use different curricula, and at least some of the material will be new, in which case repeating might be really good for her academically and socially.

On the other end of the spectrum, is there a reason why she couldn't develop good friendships with the 2 other girls who were not a part of the other group?

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M.S.

answers from Washington DC on

Does she play with the other girl that is left out? You said 5 of 7 were mean.

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N.Z.

answers from Los Angeles on

Kindergarten isn’t just about learning the academics. It’s also a time to learn and grow in the social/behavioral areas. So it couldn’t hurt to go public and have your daughter do another year of kinder. She will be more mature and confident, which would help her to deal with these uncomfortable social situations better, not just in the next school year, but in the years to come.

At the same time, the situation you describe is not uncommon for this age group. My daughter is turning 6 in July and I see/hear of these sorts of things happening a lot.

I know school’s almost over so it may be pointless now, but next time something like this happens, I would talk to the teacher. From my experience, when parents bring up these issues, the teacher talks to the class about being kind and inclusive, which helps a lot.

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A.S.

answers from Los Angeles on

From working in preschool I think that it is important that the teachers are aware of the situation but definitely give the school some time. However teachers need to be aware to make sure that nothing escalates to something worse. Mean girls are everywhere, a few of my students will be mean girls without really meaning to but we always try to help the students work things out or try to move on and play with someone else. Slowly the students will learn to work with each other and to live semi-harmoniously but definitely not every day. Switching schools might actually make the transition even more difficult for your child so I wouldn't recommend doing it unless you have a specific curriculum you want her to go through.

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T.N.

answers from San Diego on

Get her out of that school. My daughter had gone through something similar. The teachers and principal were made aware. In fact, some of them made me aware of the situation. The mean girls don’t change. This is learned behavior, most likely from parents. While I agree with khairete chick that you need to teach your child to stand up for herself, I disagree that she should stick it out. Once these cliques are formed and the child has been ostracized, she has been put in a box of which she will not be able to break out of. Talking to teachers about repeated offenses soon gets labeled as tattle-telling by mean girls parents and soon, you too, will be ostracized. My daughter was pretty good at standing up for herself but started not saying anything at times because she wanted so badly for these girls to like her. She started begging to go to another school and I knew I had to do something. Moving to another school was the best thing I ever did. She is now happy, popular and her confidence grows more and more. It’s been 3 years at a public charter school without problems. Mean girls need victims to maintain their power. Don’t waste years at the cost of your child’s self esteem and self confidence. Best of luck to you and your child.

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T.H.

answers from Kansas City on

This is so tricky and there are so many what-ifs. I'll start with the mean girls. I too was shocked at how early this starts. For my daughter it started in 1st, but I think that was because her K experience was truly amazing with one of the best teachers I've met. It was a special group. In 1st when it began, with similar things to what you've mentioned, I did get full support of the teacher. I know that hindsight is 20/20 but if you had notified the teacher of the issues and you didn't feel it was getting better, you really should have revisited the issue with the teacher and possibly the principal. I would suggest you do this in the future if you see more issues. But the reality is there are gonna be mean girls everywhere and for the rest of her life.

Both my kids are the older kids in the class, both with Sept birthdays. I love having them older. It's hard to focus on the future when you're really in the moment of her academics/socialization right now, but you really must. If she's the youngest in the grade then remember she will be peers with kids who are up to 12 months older. So that means that when in middle/high when kids start going through puberty, hormones, driving, having sex, becoming exposed to drugs, etc. she could be significantly younger than her friends. Personally I think that is a factor that deserves consideration. And even though we all hope that OUR kids are the ones that are smart/know better/would never, that's naive and we can't let that be the basis of our argument.

That being said, her Sept birthday only makes her a few weeks older than kids who meet the deadline with August birthdays, so maybe it's kind of a moot point, but this is what you have to figure out first, aside from her academics, because social and emotional development is important too and could affect how they approach situations for the rest of their life.

Additionally you need to consider what programs the public school has to meet her needs academically if she is performing above the standard. If they have programs in place, maybe it's worth a try. And you've probably done this, but you do need to make sure that she really is performing 'far above" the public school. Have you actually seen the work, been in the classroom, spoken to parents and teachers? Sometimes state standards and the reality of a particular school could be different. Also, there are kids at all points of the spectrum in public school and teachers are well versed in handling kids with different needs, both high and low.

At the end of the day it's still a super hard choice and you can point and counter-point all day long, but you have to listen to your gut and do what you think is best.

C.T.

answers from Santa Fe on

I noticed this happening a lot at age 5 with the girls my daughter went to school with. Hang in there because they all get much more mature as they get older! I worried for my daughter for a while because she was always playing alone and the other little girls had these cliques going. I advise you to invite over a kid she likes to play or do something fun regularly. My daughter was in 2nd grade this year and there were only a couple girls still doing the "You can't play with us, or you can't be her friend" thing...but most girls are not doing that kind of thing anymore. And don't forget about boys too. My daughter has some really good friends that are boys this year as well. Now she has a lot of great friends...boys and girls. She still doesn't have a "best" girl friend, but she is friends with many girls. And that's ok. She's happy. My vote is hang in there at your current school and encourage her friendships with the nice girls and boys. Also, some kids are just better at playing independently and are perfectly happy doing it that way...so keep that in mind and don't feel bad for your daughter if she is happy.

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D..

answers from Miami on

I agree with Marda regarding public school having more resources and a different focus. However, if she is academically ready for first grade and one of the older ones in her class, I don't know why she would be going into kindergarten at this age. Have you had her tested by the guidance counselor at the public school? I think that you need to have a conversation with the guidance counselor about her school readiness test results, and tell her what has been going on at the private school.

Did you ever talk with the current school's guidance counselor and principal about what was happening when you realized that the teacher wasn't going to hold these girls accountable? You have a right to do that. Don't just sit back and let this happen to your child.

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