The wisdom of a 5 year old.

You would have more friends if you weren’t so bitchy.

Said by my 5 year old daughter to the girl at the McDonalds playground asking why none of the kids would play with her.

According to Mrs. Dalrock, the little girl in question had previously falsely accused each of the other kids of pushing her down and had generally behaved like a brat.  As you might have already guessed, we’ve since advised our daughter about when this kind of honesty is appropriate.

It really is interesting to watch young girls and boys play though.  Contrary to the myth so often sold in our culture, little girls tend not to be very nice to each other. Susan Walsh hinted at this in her comments to Old School Cinderella:

I’ve read a lot of criticism of the sanitized fairy tales that Disney produces – they create a set of expectations that is quite harmful to young women. The original Cinderella, for example, told the truth about female intrasexual competition in a way that Disney just glosses over.

We were at a local kids themed pizza parlor for our daughter’s 5th birthday not too many months ago and I saw exactly how this can play out.  Our daughter is very friendly and excited to play with other kids, and unselfconsciously went up to the other kids her age and introduced herself.  The little boys were delighted to have another kid to play with, and they invited her to play on the giant monster truck or crawl through the suspended tunnel system.  But the little girls were very snotty.  My wife has wisely advised our daughter not to take this kind of attitude to heart, and to find a nice boy to play with if this happens.  This is what our daughter did without skipping a beat.

She started kindergarten this week, and today told us of a bratty girl who came up to her and told her her necklace was ugly and she should throw it away.  According to our daughter, she just shrugged it off and went to build things with blocks with a little boy.

This seems like the best strategy to me, but it has me wondering what she should do as she gets older.  I think this is easier for a son than a daughter.  They don’t offer classes in bitchy jujitsu, and with a boy the dangers will come not from his friends but his enemies.  For girls it is her female friends she has the most to worry about.  And this doesn’t really get better with age, at least not for quite a long time.   One thing she has going for her is a mother who isn’t blinded by delusions of some grand sisterhood (of either the yaya or traveling pants variety).   After all, my wife was the president and founding member of the no girls allowed club in grade school.

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35 Responses to The wisdom of a 5 year old.

  1. Justin says:

    So very true. I just saw this on my kindergartener’s all-girl soccer team. Not like it ever changes. Girls don’t grow up, they just get older.

  2. Conrad says:

    I hope you’ll have a follow-up post on any conclusions you reach, or good resources you find. I only have a son at the moment, but since we want more kids a girl could come down the pike at any moment.

  3. J says:

    It’s the real girly girls who do the “frenemy” thing. Usually, the less girly grils find each other and have their own small cliques where they are more direct and less snipey with each other. They tend to be better friends.

  4. Gorbachev says:

    I’ve noticed this with women and girls, too. I’ve never seen more bitterness, avarice and calculated cruelty than I have with my nieces. My nephews aren’t paragons of good behavior, but their malfeasance is obvious and identifiable.

    But the sneaky, conniving, manipulative abilities of my nieces are profound. And they have no moral compunction. They talk about right and wrong, but are utterly ruthless. The boys vie for dominance and fight; and their crimes appear related to the hierarchies they establish.

    The whole “frenemy” thing and the jealous repartee they get into is novel for me.

    As adults, too – adult females are capable of the worst, most amoral punishing behavior I’ve ever seen. It’s never males doing it; always there’s some woman scheming.

    The men who do this are often domineering and abusive, but there’s a different quality to how they do it. It’s blunt and abusive, but obviously related to power. Often sociopathic.

    But the females, … it’s not just sociopathic females who do it. It’s just mean.

    No innate sense of “fairness” : Just “what I Deserve”.

    All men know this. They sense it, they feel it, they understand it, even if they can’t identify it.

    It’s why many of the women I’ve known have consciously chosen male companionship over female companionship: even when it’s trouble, at least you know where you stand.

  5. y81 says:

    It does seem like girls are meaner. On the other hand, their rates of actual homicide etc. are much lower. Possibly what upper middle class people like us are seeing is that many characteristics, good and bad, are more widely dispersed among males than among females: more mentally retarded males, and also more male Einsteins; more homeless men, and also more in the Forbes 400; and more boys end up in prison, but the upper middle class ones are nicer, whereas the girls cluster about the average human level of meanness.

    I mostly like hanging out with women better, though. Men are very competitive, and I find that wearing.

  6. Gorbachev says:

    This is true, … but women are mean in a qualitatively different way.

    More judgmental. More, … actually, their political hierarchies are more complex and their social tactics are more subtle.

    But also more vindictive and vicious.

    There’s a parallel among dogs. it’s dangerous to keep female dogs together; male dogs may fight, but they’ll establish a dominance hierarchy and then largely stick by it (with occasional testing). The females seem to harbor resentments and might suddenly, without warning, attack to kill; males will rarely do this.

    So there’s a grudge-thing going on, and a deliberation that’s both colder and more calculating.

    I see a lot of that sort of thing in work environments.

  7. Lily says:

    Yes, girls can be vicious. I’m never sure why people think otherwise, every tv show I’ve seen set in an american high school shows this and I went to a girls school so you can imagine that 10 x.

    It always surprises me when guys say they like really girlie girls. Or worried about women with a lot of male friends (saw example on Roissy about a month ago).

  8. Gorbachev says:


    I used to think boys were brutal. They are: They can beat each other almost to death.

    But their contests, while animal and brutal, are also direct and to the point. Even when it’s just about humiliation. But I’ve never seen wholesale manipulation and savagery as I’ve seen with young girls. My nieces are utterly ruthless. My nephews are, … more or less clueless.

    I agree with you, Lily: I like women who are feminine, not girly. And if they have male friends, I like it.

    I’m not put off by potential rivals. I was, at one time; now, I rise to the challenge, as it were.

  9. dalrock says:

    I’m afraid I’ve pretty well shared what I have. But if I have an epiphany I won’t hesitate to share it. In the meantime I think simply being aware of reality will help us both understand what she is facing as well as curb any bad habits she might be developing herself. This is what we do for boys, right?

    My wife had one middle school girl in class she taught at a private Christian school who was amazingly well behaved. She complimented the mother on her daughter, and the mother said something to the effect of “We try to make sure the girl in her doesn’t rule her”. At first that really struck me, because such things just aren’t said. That’s sexist! But if it had been a boy the equivalent statement wouldn’t ring an alarm at all.

  10. y81 says:

    But among humans, males kill each other a lot more. (Not, admittedly, in my own social circles.)

  11. grerp says:

    One thing I’ve read about lately in the manosphere is the fact that men tend to take breakups harder than women and fare worse emotionally after a divorce, for instance. This is usually given as evidence that all women are cold-hearted. What no one seems to consider is that women are better at dealing with breakups because they’ve been doing it since grade school and with far more emotionally manipulative partners and in more public settings. Girls break up with girls all the time, often for no reason but to demonstrate that they can, that they have the ability to drop one girl friend and pick up another without missing a beat. This is the reality of many young girls’ friendships – a constant renegotiation of terms with the threat of being discarded if you don’t conform or not conform or predict what the next trick will be with real accuracy. Girls relationships with other girls are a practice ground for their relationships with boys later. They can be very emotionally intimate, and many girls will be devastated when they break up.

    In the past decade a certain type of female literature has become popular: the four friends novel. [See: The Saving Graces, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, etc.] In this novel women form a core group friendship and assist each other through difficult circumstances such as cancer or adolescence. They are always there for each other. They never judge. They give selflessly. I have never experienced female friendship like this, and in fact will go out of my way to avoid group friendships because the gossiping, backstabbing, and social power shakedowns can be brutal.

    I remember elementary and middle school as being one long quest to find the girl best friend, like they describe in all the books. I never did. It was always, “You were my best friend yesterday, but now I’m best friends with Jill.” If I hadn’t decided to chuck this model and hang with boys in later high school, I might have gone insane. I watch Buffy, Veronica Mars, or Mean Girls and just nod and nod.

    My way of coping became: show as little vulnerability as possible, tell no secrets, draw no attention to yourself. I wish I could say I trust female friendships, but I don’t. I’m lucky I have a sister I trust completely. I keep my friendships with all the other women I know at a strictly superficial level.

  12. Hope says:

    I had a single good girl friend in high school, but we drifted apart when we went to different colleges. She was also nerdy like me, but she was less conventionally attractive due to being rather overweight. Ultimately the friendship was unsustainable for the long-term, which I feel sad about — but she is also much more extroverted than me, and so she has had many more female friends.

    I was best friends with guys for most of my life. But now, out of respect to my husband, I only try to socialize with other women. I often feel “left behind” socially because most of my interests are shared with other nerdy men, and I don’t know much about some of the topics that women discuss (TV shows, female-oriented books, etc.).

    However, it is very nice to get to know other married women and women in stable long-term relationships. Prior to this, the women I knew were single or had the single “mentality.” Now, I know three or four women with young kids; one of them just had a baby, another is pregnant. They don’t really wear makeup or spend a lot on fashionable clothes.

    They’ve been very helpful and supportive after I told them about my pregnancy. They were also able to keep a secret, because after they found out they didn’t tell my boss or anyone else until I told my boss personally. I’ve only known them for less than a year, so there is always the possibility they might turn weird. So far, though, married women with kids who aren’t harpy wives seem to make good female friends.

    I also have a great relationship with my mother-in-law, with whom I get along very well. In this past year I’ve gotten over a lot of my old emotional baggage about female friendships, because I’m meeting a more mature and emotionally grown up crowd of women.

  13. J says:

    Yep, when women are at their worst, that’s what they are like. As I said before, the girlier they are, the worse they are. The women you probably regard as more masculine (and less hot) don’t do this. They tend to be more direct and more like men in their expression of anger. And they tend to get over their anger more easily.

    A good part of it is cultural. Women’s anger, even today, is not really accepted. The “arsenic in the sugar bowl” approach to expressing anger is an attempt to dominate from the bottom of the heap, to still be perceived as sweet while asserting one’s self . I find that more assertive, career woman types tend to be fairer, less gamy, less entitled, better team-players and more inclined to take no for an answer if taking no means a reasonable solution to a problem.

    I personally am like that IRL. And as you might predict, while I have many platonic male friends and a good number of careerist/intellectual female friends, I have no real “girly” friends. I don’t play bridge; I’m not a PTA member–mostly because I don’t get along with women who do those things. Instead, I sit on boards with the guys and the career gals.

  14. J says:

    Yes, it’s heirarchical. Unlike men ,whose battles stay won, woman are always jockeying for position. If you can’t be the queen bee, you want to be her BFF. Women who don’t kowtow to the queen bee are shunned by the group. Non-conformists are ostracized. Any woman who rises above the pack by being smarter, better looking, or whatever will cut down to size. Any woman who doesn’t meet the pack’s standards (by having an ugly necklace for instance) will also be cut from the group.

  15. J says:

    In this novel women form a core group friendship and assist each other through difficult circumstances such as cancer or adolescence. They are always there for each other. They never judge. They give selflessly. I have never experienced female friendship like this, and in fact will go out of my way to avoid group friendships because the gossiping, backstabbing, and social power shakedowns can be brutal.

    I have. But I stay away from the “popular” gals and hang with the other “outliers.”

  16. J says:

    Motherhood can give you something in common with other women that you didn’t have before. OTOH, I got bitched at La Leche League.

  17. J says:

    It always surprises me when guys say they like really girlie girls.

    I don’t think all men do. My husband hates them in his personal life, hates supervising them at work.

  18. Lily says:

    I read a great article last year in the papers about a study on this exact subject. Girls who had been friends with regular girls throughout their entire time at school came out by far the happiest. Any link up with the popular group and you’re basically screwed. I wish I’d read that article at age 11.

    I’ve found it much easier to find female friends past the age of 28 or so. I’ve got some really good ones now.

    Though I’m actually dreading the female interactions during pregnancy & motherhood, it’s all breast/bottle disposable/cloth, sahm/work blah blah blah.

  19. grerp says:

    I stayed away from the popular girls too, but I found the dynamic was the same with other girls. I have known very nice women, many of them older, or shy, or somehow different. And if I didn’t have my sister to rely on, I’m sure I’d have kept on trying and maybe would have found a solid girlfriend core. But I can’t seem to make myself venture out because the trust is just gone. This is more of a reflection on me than on the character of every woman I’ve met since I left 10th grade.

  20. J says:

    Actually, the equivalent has traditionally been “boys will be boys.”

    When I was teaching high school, I had a male student who was constantly rough-housing in play and picking fights in anger. I wouldn try to curb these actions in my classroom in fear that one day there would be a serious injury. Because the young man was a star athelete, he and his paents were catered to by the school administration. They parents, no doujbt feeling “empowered,” started a campaign among the other jock parents, saying that I hated atheletes, favored girls, etc.

    I was called on the carpet and informed that I had a bad understanding of young males and that “boys will be boys.” Once I assertained that should an injury occur I would not be held personally liable, I backed off. Three months later, star boy broke his arm in a fight down the hall from classroom–right before the college scouts were supposed to come watch him play. Pity….

  21. J says:


    Ah, the mommy wars…Enjoy!😉

    Never have so many known so little, but felt so strongly.

  22. dalrock says:

    Denying reality and letting bad behavior go is really damaging when done to either boys or girls, not to mention everyone who has to put up with them.

  23. namae nanka says:

    “It does seem like girls are meaner. On the other hand, their rates of actual homicide etc. are much lower.”

    as noted elsewhere, women don’t have the balls to follow up on their anger.

  24. J says:

    Perhaps female anger has evolved not to eliminate the competion but to subjugate it in service of the queen bee. The vaquished woman or girl takes her assigned place in the hierarchy at the end of the fight. The point really isn’t to kill her. That’s why girl on girl homicide is rare and shocking.

    Or perhaps human male anger is a case of evolution gone wrong. Man is one of the few animals, if not the only animal, to kill within his own species. What you are calling balls is often maladapted. Men not only kill male competitors; they kill women and children, most often their own women and children. They obliterate their own genetic futures.

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  26. vasafaxa says:

    I found social situations with boys growing up just as hard, but different. While the girls would play emotional pranks, the guys would play physical pranks. Sometimes their playfull teasing would bridge into very insulting as well, especially because as I girl I was constantly trying to “be one of the boys” as a kid, especially with the athletic kids that i like to hang out with.

    I think social situations are just hard, boy, girl, man woman. etc.

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  30. Blablabla says:

    Fuck you, animals kill eachother of their own species and eat their own offspring all the time.

  31. Tinderbox says:

    Don’t contradict those geniuses among us who know everything.

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  34. kcmaleescort says:

    My grandmother who spent her career teaching in the one-room school houses told me one time that it was always the girls she had to watch out for. You could discipline a boy and it would be over and done, but the girls would be the ones waiting to get back at you.

  35. Farrow says:

    I take it none of you have ever been a gay male? Say what you want about female nature but roving gangs of women generally aren’t going to stomp your ass into the dirt.

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