I know positive self-esteem is not just an issue for girls, but when it comes to friendships and the way students treat each other, it is most visible with girls. Practically everyday, a different little girl will come up to me, upset because of how her “friend” treated her. Yet, without fail, she will be back attempting to play with the same girl at the next break.
So, why do girls repeatedly try to befriend people that are not nice to them? Self-esteem seems like the obvious answer, but I feel like there is more to it than this. I can’t help but wonder if there is also something attractive about the challenge of getting others to like us, or maybe even a love for the drama of things not being easy.
As much as I recognize the absurdity of these unbalanced relationships, I’m not immune. Even as an adult, I find myself chasing certain friendships that are not reciprocated. I share that detail not as some sort of passive aggressive jab at anyone, but because I genuinely do not understand the desire. It seems simple, if someone does not reciprocate a relationship, whether they’re just aloof or actually mean, move on. That’s what I tell the girls, but sometimes I don’t even do it myself.
Fifth grade is just the beginning of it all– girls figuring out how to treat each other as their hormones really kick in. I remember the end of the year with my first group of fifth graders during my residency program. Talk about catty.
Knowing what likely lies ahead for the girls I care about in my class, I cannot help but try to understand the psychology behind these relationships. We model how to treat people, do not accept malicious behavior, and facilitate problem-solving discussions, but when it comes down to it, life isn’t the ending scene of Mean Girls where everyone bonds and the mean girl learns her lesson.