If you follow me on social media, you may recall that my daughter had a hard time with mean-girl drama a few months ago. I knew I would deal with these types of situations at some point, however I was thinking it would be in middle school. I was not prepared for my five year old daughter to be confronted with mean girls in preschool.
Topic-specific children’s books are one of the tools I have found most helpful in addressing high-anxiety situations for my daughter. Not only did I want her to learn how to stand up for herself, but I wanted her to also be brave and stand up for others as well. Furthermore, I wanted to avoid her picking up mean-girl behaviors. In a few situations, I saw glimpses of my kind-hearted daughter excluding others and using hurtful words. In short, I knew we had to do something.
I set off to find age-appropriate books, thinking the choices would be slim to none. Imagine my surprise when I learned that I am not the only parent with a 5-7 year old dealing with exclusion and relentless teasing. We started reading the books I have listed below and having conversations about real-life situations that shared similarities.
The links for the books below are affiliate links which means I make a commission off of a sale at no additional cost to you.
Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev
This is one of our favorite books to read; she loves the story, I love the message. The story is about a young boy who has a tiny pet elephant. He takes his pet elephant to Pet Club Day and sees a sign that says, ‘Strictly No Elephants’. He meets a girl with a pet skunk who was also turned away from the club. They decide to start their own club. They make a sign saying ‘All are Welcome’. Their club attracts kids from all over with unique pets.
After reading this book we are able to discuss the parallels to playground drama. One of the things I have heard happens a lot during recess is that kids say, “I don’t want to be your friend, I am going to be friends with [insert name here]” or “You can’t be friends with her if you want to be friends with me” or other similar statements. Strictly No Elephants reinforces that in that situation, one should go and forge their own group/friendships. Even better, one where all are welcome.
I especially appreciate three lines in this book that allow us to discuss what good friends look like:
- “That’s what friends do: lift each other over the cracks.”
- “That’s what friends do: brave the scary things for you.”
- “Because that’s what friends do: never leave anyone behind.”
Not only do these lines help us address what my daughter should look for in friends, but also what type of friend she should strive to be.
How To Be A Friend: A Guide to Making Friends and Keeping Them by Laurie Krasny Brown and Marc Brown
My daughter loves to play by herself and this book does a great job at addressing why it is nice to branch out and play with others. There are pages that discuss how to reach out and ask others to play. Also, I love how it talks about diversity, and who can be a friend. It also discusses some of the social challenges of friendship; ways to be a friend– sticking up for others, playing fair, sharing, inviting them to play, etc.
We have been working with my daughter to have her reach out to others and invite them to play with her at the park. This doesn’t always go smoothly as sometimes they say ‘no’ (which we explain is totally fine and doesn’t have anything to do with her). This book discusses how you can go find another friend to play with in that situation.
The book addresses feelings that may arise when being excluded and how one can turn around these feelings. There was one part that I did not necessarily agree with, it was about trying to rejoin a group that excluded you by finding a way to “help” them. It may have not been intended to come across this way, but my daughter took away: that you can give them something so that they will let you play with them. This turned out to be a good opportunity to discuss how a friend that expects you to give him/her something or do something is not a good friend after all.
Other points that are brought up in this book: ways not to be a friend, dealing with bosses and bullies and how to make up with a friend after an argument.
Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun; Having the Courage to Be Who You Are by Maria Dismondy
This is an adorable story about staying true to who you are. Lucy is a young girl who likes to put ketchup on her breakfast toast and spaghetti in her hot dog bun. While discussing her unique tastes with her grandpa he delivers an important message, “It’s okay, not everyone likes the same thing, Lucy. It doesn’t mean one person is right or wrong. We’re all different. What a boring world it would be if we were all exactly alike…”
As the story progresses, we meet Ralph a boy who teases Lucy nonstop. Ralph makes fun of Lucy’s appearance and her love of spaghetti in a hotdog bun. When she has had enough she goes to tell him to stop being mean and finds him in a helpless situation where he needs help. She hears her grandfather’s wise words telling her to treat others the way she wants to be treated. She helps Ralph and he later thanks her in his own way. Lucy learns that it takes courage to be who you are.
I especially like the last page where ten points are reinforced from the book’s lesson.
The Juice Box Bully, Empowering Kids to Stand Up for Others by Bob Sornson and Maria Dismondy
This book has a few familiar faces from Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun. Pete is the new kid in class and has a bad attitude. After he picks on kids at the playground, the other kids from Mr. Peltzer’s class confront him and tell him about the promise they made to their teacher. They had agreed to solve problems peacefully and not accept bad behavior by standing up for themselves and others.
Ruby (one of the girls from Mr. Peltzer’s class) tries to include Pete, but instead he squirts a juice box on her shirt. She is angry and says she will make sure no one ever played/included Pete. The other kids step in and say they will not let her do that to him. Pete is shocked that kids stand up for him when he is the one being the bully. They tell him that when they made that promise to Mr. Peltzer to stand up for others/not accept bad behavior, it extends to everyone in the class. Pete is touched by this and makes amends with Ruby.
This book helped us discuss how important it is to stand up for others. It also helped my daughter see the importance of taking the high road. She wanted to start a “kindness promise”, as she called it, in her own school. I think every school needs a promise like the one in Mr. Peltzer’s class, don’t you?
Those four are my favorite books in addressing bulling/mean kid behavior. Do you have any other books that address these issues that you would recommend?