Normal Pre-school (3-4 Yr Old) Behavior?

Updated on March 26, 2008
S.C. asks from Dallas, TX
7 answers

Since starting pre-school last fall, my daughter has been pre-occupied with who will and won't be her friend each day. The kids tell each other things like "I will be your friend today" or "I will not be your friend today!" I figured the children are young and are learning what "friend" means and how to socialize with each other so I haven't worried about it. But after school yesterday, my daughter got in the car and started crying. She said one of the other girls in her class called her stupid and a baby. We never use the word "stupid" in our home, so I was surprised to hear her say it.

I am a room parent and have attended some of her classmates' birthday parties. I've noticed this particular girl and two others are very standoffish with my daughter both at school and outside of it. For example, at a recent birthday party, my daughter went up to each of her classmates to say hello and one of the female classmates turned her back on my daughter. My daughter came back to our table very upset and confused.

Pre-school seems a little young to start this type of behavior, but maybe I am just unaware of how children act at this age. If you have experience with something similar, I'd love to hear how you've dealt with it. I am trying to figure out the best way to explain differences in people that will make sense to a 3 1/2 year old.


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answers from Dallas on

I have 3 kids, one is in preschool now. My two older kids didnt deal with this type of behavior until Kindergarten. Kids of preschoolers thru approximately 2-3rd grade are still learning social skills and how to deal with anger and frustration. "Johnny" is usually friends with "Jack" until "Jack" does something that "Johnny" doesn't like and then for that moment, "Johnny" is not friends with "Jack" any more. This only lasts an hour or so, maybe a day but by the next day "Johnny" and "Jack" are friends again.
"I'm not your friend any more" is just thier way of expressing that they are mad at the moment and need some time away from that person. They generally get over it by the next day. When someone tells my kids that they are not their friend any more, I just tell my kids that the person is just angry at the time because they did not get their way or whatever, and that they will get glad in the same pants they got mad in, so not to worry, just give them some time to cool off. By the next day, they are friends again.

As for the two little girls that are behaving so rudely to your daughter, Some people are just rude and snobbish. I know of a few kids this way. I would just explain to your daughter that those girls are just being rude and that she does not need to be friends with people like that because a true friend would not treat her that way.



answers from Dallas on

I don't know if there is a right or wrong answer to this question. You just have to help your daughter deal with it the best way you can.

Unfortunately children can be very cruel to each other, especially girls. I've volunteered at school several occasions and witnessed girls being mean to each other.

Personally, I think it stems from home. If the parents are not correcting their kids when they see this type of behavior, the kids will continue to act that way.

Just encourage your daughter to continue to do the right thing and be nice to everyone because it's the right thing to do. I tell my kids when someone doesn't want to play with you or be your friend, to go find another one.




answers from Dallas on

Yes I see this alot as I am a mom of 3 girls 8,7 and 3. I do not however fell like Tam who said...

"Personally, I think it stems from home. If the parents are not correcting their kids when they see this type of behavior, the kids will continue to act that way."

I have a dd who sometimes is mean to other girls and we have a no-tolerance rule about that behavior. The no-tolerance means that she is disciplined and loses her tv time or time with friends or other priviledges(sp?). It is not a reflection of me or my parenting or lack of as Tam suggests. I talk to her every time I see the behavior and the teacher is suppose to inform me of it happening at school. I have taught my girls better and the choices they make, even at 8 and 7 and 3 are their's. All I can do is if I am privy to the bad behavior then I correct it and dole out the punishment but if I am not around I have to believe that I taught them to know better and to treat people better. Remember that all kids to some degree selfish and so are some adults for that matter. When I talk about being a good friend I also include the different levels of friendship. There are the friends that you only see at school, there are the friends that you would go their b-day party, and then there are friends that you would have over to play on the weekend. I know that is a lot for a 3 yr old to understand. I would just express that we should always treat others like we want to be treated and if someone is mean to us then we do not have to play with them, just try to find someone else to play with. It gets a little easier when they are n elementary but I know middle school and high school are not so easy. I hope this helps.



answers from Dallas on

I'm sorry I can't offer any advice on this subject. I'm trying to figure out how to deal with the same thing when it comes to my 8 year old having to deal with "fair weathered" friends in third grade as well.

I did want to say, however, that while I don't remember having to deal with this issue at such a young age when my daughter was in pre-school, my son, who is almost 3 1/2 has recently been saying things like "Are you my best friend?" and "You're not my best friend anymore!" when he's upset with one of us. I can only assume he's learned that from his playmates at the drop off playcare center we take him to 2-3 times a week. I figure, after hearing of your situation, this behavior is not unusual for this age now. Sad, but true.

I'll be watching for responses to your question to see if I can get any ideas on how to handle it with my kids as well. Good luck!



answers from Wichita Falls on

My Step daughter just turned 5, she is in Pre K this year, last year at 3 and 4 she was in Headstart... She would often be upset and tell me, that ,"No one wants to play with me", or "she doesnt want to be my freind".. She is very big for her age, and is sometimes intimidating to the smaller kids. But I have noticed alot of teenage "clique" behavior from these small kids. I was so totally befuddled by how this could be until one day I was watching the Disney channel with them. The things that they are putting on the disney channel, Nick, etc are teaching this behavior too them.. So here my husband and I have been monitoring alot more closely what they are seeing on TV, but I am afraid that this generation is coming up with alot of little girls that think they are teenagers at the age of 7-10 years old....

Am I the only one seeing this?




answers from Dallas on

I have been a Pre-K teacher for 10 years and this is one of the hardest issues I deal with--and I deal with it almost every year. Children at this age are learning to socialize and they don't understand appropriate social cues. Sometimes they misinterperate actions. For example, if a child doesn't want to play with them on the playground they think "she isn't my friend." I do a lot of explaining that we don't all want to do the same things at the same time. This doesn't mean that someone doesn't want to be your friend. I encourage them to find another friend to play with and go back to the first child some other time and ask to play again. Children are fickle and their emotions change often. The child may get a different response the second time. If the problem persists I would certainly talk to the teacher--she may be able to give you some insight into the situation. At the very least you are making her aware of a situation she may not know about. She can watch and try to help you figure out what is happening. I wish there was an easy answer. Just wanted you to know that this is typical behavior.



answers from Dallas on

On Friday the teacher sent home a note that one of my twin 4 yr old girls tried to dig under the gate to the playground to escape. After much coaxing and assurance, I managed to get her to explain to me why she tried to crawl under the gate. She told me, "Mommy, nobody likes me; nobody wants to be my friend." Of course, with kids, "everybody" could be a total of 2 or more children...anyway, she was so upset that she was going to go home; she pushed and pushed on the gate and when it did not open she was going to crawl under it. I have witnessed and/or discussed somewhat similar behavior by both of my daughters; telling this or that person they could not be their friend, and yes, whenever I tell them something they don't like, I am subject to being informed I am no longer their friend or that I made a bad choice. I certainly do not teach my daughters to say such things, and I encourage friendships with all people at all times. I think their teacher does the best she can to also discourage ugly behavior and they are currently learning citizenship. Unfortunately, sometimes there are just more students than teachers and stuff happens. I have seen some of the shows on Sprout and Nick Jr that, in an effort to teach appropriate behavior, sometimes give my children ideas about bad behavior they might not have thought of on their own. For this reason, Caillou has been banned in this house. I think the writers had good intentions but the situations were just more than my girls were ready for. We have to be realistic and know that these are some of the difficult situations our children will face throughout their life and rather than protect them from it completely, just give them confidence and reassurance so that they can learn to deal with these situations. We can't stop people from acting negatively around us, but we can change the way that we react. So I encourage my girls to act appropriately, I listen to them and I talk through situations with them. When a girl is ugly to my girl, I remind her how she acted that way recently and show her how that feels, remind her that she was not a bad person and she did not really mean to hurt that other person and assure her that the unfriend would likely be a friend soon. I also encourage that they don't have to be everybody's best friend, etc. But in answer to your question, as far as I can tell, that is completely normal behavior in 3 to 4 yr olds. I see it more with the girls than the boys - the boys instead hit, kick, pinch and then laugh and play together. So maybe just work to build your girl's confidence and help her see that she is not defined by how someone else views her, and at the same time suggest that maybe that other person just had a bad day or made a bad choice and that all will be better soon, or else just find another friend. In my case, I have convinced my daughter that if she ever feels that badly again, she needed to go tell the teacher and if necessary call me on the phone to talk about it. She has felt much better for several days now. Good luck.

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