Family life

Help! Is my daughter a mean girl?

Tara-Michelle Ziniuk is terrified that her daughter is becoming a mean girl.

1photo Tara-Michelle is a little concerned about Anna's recent behaviour. Photo: Tara-Michelle Ziniuk

“Mora and me are sick,” Anna tells me. “We ate too much food.”

This has become a daily occurrence, talking about “Mora and me” as the royal “we.” Mora is Anna’s new BFF from daycare. Sometimes these conversations involve false reports from the day, other times it's a statement of preference, for example: “Mora and me don’t like fish.” Sometimes it's tattling: “Mora scratched me” or “Mora said she’s not my friend anymore.” And that last one is the clincher: Anna has her first "frenemy."

I remember Mora clearly from the first day we brought Anna to the new daycare centre in June. She was riding a red tricycle around the asphalt of the schoolyard wearing a party dress. There was something sweet yet mischievous about her that reminded me of my daughter.

They didn’t become close until September, prompted by two major changes: the girl they were both closest to, Ila, was pulled out of daycare (leaving them with each other) and the kids older than them started junior kindergarten (leaving them as the oldest in their “class.”) I’m not sure if it was being the oldest, being so similar to one another or where they are developmentally, but it's undeniable that Anna and Mora are a handful together. They need to wear the same things, like the same things, and carry similar toys around with them. They took on “funny voices” (funny to them only, I assure you) followed by a two-week stint of “playing babies” (i.e. speaking in a high-pitched baby talk no one besides them could understand.) Rarely a day goes by that one of them doesn’t run up to me at daycare pickup to tell on the other. When I scrub marker off of Anna in the bathtub and she tells me Mora did it; I'm certain Mora’s mom is at home washing a different colour off of her daughter.


It’s not the general disposition that worries me. I’m fine with washing off marker or soothing some friendly scratches — usually all it takes for the girls to make up is to tell them that they won’t have playdates anymore if they’re not friends. The parts that do bother me, however, are two-fold: the meanness and the girl-specificity of it. Let me explain.

One of the staff at Anna’s daycare is also named Anna, resulting in Big Anna and Little Anna nicknames. If there is one thing a three-year-old hates it's being called “little.” I’d say 70 percent of Anna’s Mora-related meltdowns start with “Mora called me little” — which everyone at daycare does, for the aforementioned reason.

Her complaints sometimes extend to “Mora said my boots are for babies” (which they are — teeny feet run in the family) or “Mora said I’m a baby.” Mean? Questionable, but I’m going to go with no.

“Mora said I’m not a princess, but I am a princess!” What a very… princess-y thing to say (princess culture being its own topic.) “Did you tell Mora she wasn’t a princess first?” Of course you did! Irritating, but still not necessarily mean.

“Mora and me don’t like Esther’s hair cut. We only like long hair.” Wait, what? (Do Anna and Mora even have long hair? No.)


“Mora and me don’t like Benjamin because we don’t like green and Benjamin’s snowpants are green.” And so it begins — my child is on her way to being a bully.

My claim that Anna's becoming a bully is a joke, but it's a real fear of mine. I was a weird, shy kid. Now I’m a weird, not-so-shy adult. What would I do with a mean girl for a daughter? I could not relate. I think of the little girl at Anna’s first daycare who barely spoke and built forts of stuffed animals around herself, and I wish that was my kid’s quirk.

When Anna was the youngest in her daycare she loved being bossed around by older kids — usually girls. They treated her like a talking doll, and I think they were good for her development. So why is it that, given the same opportunity, my kid seems less likely to act caring towards her classmates and is more likely to tease them?

When Mora’s mother approached me at the daycare holiday party I knew where the conversation was going before it began: “Mora told me that Anna says they’re not friends anymore.” My defenses are up; I don’t want to take the full blame for this. The truth is, I’m quite certain the problem is both of them. I like Mora, and I also like Mora’s parents from what little I know of them — they seem like people I might meet with outside of my parenting life.


I’m sure that Mora’s mom and I have the exact same concerns — isn’t it a little early for a fraught friendship? The on-again/off-again girl friendship is all too familiar to me. Did we go wrong somewhere? Why are our daughters so mean?

Does your child have a “frenemy”? How do you handle it?

This article was originally published on Jan 23, 2014

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