Mean girls have a specific look. Their eyes are cold, blank and ready to roll at any moment. Sarcasm runs across their smiles accentuated by posturing that’s half peacock; half pit bull.
What’s surprising is seeing the mean girl look on a 4-year-old holding a lollipop.
When most people think of mean girls they picture tweens or high school-aged girls like Lindsay Lohan’s character in the iconic movie Mean Girls. Yet, I’ve watched the bewildered look on my daughter’s face as she has encountered more than one mean girl in a variety of preschool settings.
The psychological term for mean girls is relational aggression, which is covert bullying using emotionally abusive tactics, psychological control, and manipulation. The added kicker is that not only you as an individual are attacked, but your peer relationships and social status are undermined. Relational aggression occurs more among girls than boys.
Today’s mean girls are like the past generation of passive-aggressive women on steroids and it can start as early as 4 years old.
According to a study out of Brigham Young University reported in the journal Early Education and Development, preschool-aged mean girls use tactics like: excluding a child from playing with the group; telling other kids not to play with that child; withdrawing affection and friendship if their demands are not met; and completely ignoring someone they’re mad at.