Couple of weeks back I had written about little boys- ‘snips and tails and puppy dog tails’. Now it is high time I write about little girls too…
Have you ever observed little girls playing together? Abuzz with lively chatter, sparkling eyes and shifting expressions they flutter, light on their toes creating their imaginary families. Pouting, scolding, frowning, chastising and then like quicksilver softening into giggly, smiling, nurturing little mummies. And if a reluctant boy is dragged in as their guinea pig, he soon gives up trying to be part of the verbal jousting and is soon seen sulking in the corner. The high level of repartee is too much for his boy brain.
Unlike what was believed earlier, there is nothing like unisex brain. Girls are born wired as girls and boys are born wired as boys. Girls’ brains have highly developed centres for communication, emotional memory and reading cues in other people. Consequently, they are much more empathetic, emotionally sensitive, perceptive with a greater need for connectedness, tending and caring. These little sprites have an amazing intuitive sense and radar for picking up the slightest changes in emotional climate around them. Like a sponge they can pick up slightest tightening of tones, thinning of lips or touch of irritation in the eyes.
A very interesting study done in New England (2005) assessed girls for the quality of their social relationships at the age of 4. These girls had earlier been tested in-utero for exposure to testosterone and oestrogen level. And the results indicated that girls with lower exposure to testosterone and higher oestrogen level were more successful in their relationships. What is fascinating about this study is that it claims that girls who are more “girlie” connect better with the others. So chances are higher that if your girl is a “tomboy” then she might find it difficult to make friends, as she is more testosterone driven.
But don’t be fooled by all that “sugar and spice and all things nice”. Boys might show their aggression through rough play, wrestling, mock fighting but girls are gentle wielders of aggression. Behind those sparkling eyes is a very astute political brain. She loves building her community of friends as long as she is in the centre of it. And now you can imagine what would happen if you have a group of girls all vying for the central position. Cliques, groups, exclusive clubs, each with its’ own code of conduct, secrets, special language and hush-hush affairs. And it starts really early. Just watching even nursery class girls at play can be an enthralling study on politics of relationships. “You can’t be in our group because you are dark”, “I will not be your friend if you talk to her”, “If you want to be my friend then you will give me your biscuit”, “lets just ignore her”. However they play these power games in such a way that despite the constant shifting of allegiances, loyalties they manage to stay connected. A delicate balance they continue to hold for a lifetime.
Now for some girls this power play comes naturally without causing much strain. But for many others it can become a source of major trauma. Everyday going to school is like getting ready for a battleground. For these sensitive waifs every taunt, sharp look thrown their way (remember their heightened emotional radars) can be extremely harrowing. And we as parents, with fading memory of childhood and hectic schedules just fail to connect to their pain at times. The pain of feeling left out. Ignoring the drooping shoulders, quivering lips and tormented eyes we lecture them to, “Learn to stand up to your bullies”, “It is easy to make friends, you just have to try harder”, or even worse, “You are such a cry-baby”.
Now for all those of you, who would like to do something about toughening up you little princesses….
- Tune into her feelings: Your little girl needs you to listen to her woes as at times just talking about her daily skirmishes can be soothing for her. Listening isn’t always easy – to really listen you need to listen with your ears, your eyes and your heart. She just needs to know that there is somebody on her side.
- Safety in Numbers: Sometimes girls get into very intense one to one relationships. And the powerful one can play havoc on the lesser powerful one through subtle Machiavellian tactics. Her yo-yoing emotions can really drain out the sparkle form her eyes. Dilute the intensity by helping her to make more friends.
- True Friends: It is quite interesting that despite getting hurt your little one might still keep returning to her tormentor. The other girl’s powerful personality or popularity might be irresistible. Help her to appreciate qualities in some other girls, which might lead to healthier friendships. Use examples from movies, books, her favourite characters to inspire her (Mulan, Matida)
- Build up her political skills: Let’s face it. She will need to learn to manage prickly relationships as she grows up and it is best to start honing those skills early. Be it a bully at school, scheming colleague at work or dominating mother-in-law at home. She needs to train herself to ignore the barbed comments, side-step the power games and not sweat over the blatant “put downs”. This can be done through open discussion, role plays, stories and keeping her sense of humour intact.
- Take Action: However, if you feel that she is getting too distressed then do not hesitate in speaking to her class teacher or the other girl’s mother. Counselling, mediating at the right time could nip the problem at the bud. The teacher could also get her a “buddy” who can provide her some support to stand upto the bullying. If a change of section will give her some peace then you could discuss that with the principal.