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The Girls' Clique Snubs My Daughter

By Dr. Stacie Bunning, clinical psychologist

Question:

My daughter complains that some girls do not play with her or do not let her participate in their games. I spoke to the teacher, and she said that there are two girls in class who, like to play together and decide who will play with them.

My daughter is very social and plays with all the children, but I don't want her to feel intimidated and sad when these girls push her away. Sometimes she says: "They didn't want to play with me so I played by myself because I like to play by myself."

I don't know what to do and what to say. I suggested that she play with other children if these girls are mean to her and tell them that she doesn't like the way they treat her.

They are just 5. Do they have cliques at this age? Could you please give me advice of what is the best way to deal with this situation?

Answer:

Although most adults can easily call to mind the cliques in their high schools (classifications such as nerds, jocks, burnouts and preps), it can come as a shock to learn that even as early as preschool and kindergarten, certain children are favored as playmates by their peers. When children begin to pair off to play, others may feel left out. Feeling excluded is an occasional experience for most children, and depending upon how it is handled, most children come through unscathed.

To succeed socially, children should be able to get along with peers, express their needs, share with others and play well in a group or alone. It sounds as if your daughter is well equipped in all of these ways. As you mentioned, she is social and is quite capable of playing with other children or simply entertaining herself.

You might want to consider arranging a few after-school or weekend play dates with some of her classmates, however, to boost her social skills and help her develop new friendships.

Finally, be careful not to project your own feelings onto your little girl. You may be much more bothered by this situation than she is. Avoid inadvertently reinforcing her complaints by asking her about the situation every day. Children quickly learn that whining and complaining get a parent's attention, so they will often come home with a litany of complaints just to get that feeling of concerned attention. Instead of focusing on the negatives, ask her to tell you two positive/good things that happened at school that day. Soon, this will become a habit and she will be less apt to focus on the negative.

Dr. Stacie Bunning is a licensed clinical psychologist in the St. Louis area. She has worked with children, adolescents, and their families in a variety of clinical settings for 20 years. Bunning also teaches courses in child psychology, adolescent psychology, and human development at Maryville University in St. Louis.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.