Mean Girls Jr. – How To Tell If Your Child’s Bestie Is Really A Frenemy


My oldest daughter is in 1st grade this year. She still thinks everyone is her best friend. Sometimes it’s hard to watch her grow knowing it is very likely that her innocence will eventually wear off in favor of more stereotypical “adolescent girl” traits. One thing that has made it even harder is watching some of the children that she plays with grow up even faster. If you asked me a few years ago, I would have said that the “Mean Girl”  and “frenemy” phase was years away. But, looking a little closer, I realized that it is already here.

Even worse, from an outside perspective, some of the girls that she thinks of as her besties look at lot more like FRENEMIES.

Are you wondering if your child’s friend might actually be a frenemy? According to, a frenemy is: a person with whom one is friendly despite a fundamental dislike or rivalry. It can be hard for parents, and even harder for kids to tell the difference between a friend and a frenemy.

Your child’s bestie might be a frenemy if:

She insults your child and then says she is “just kidding.”

All friends disagree sometimes. But if you notice that a “friend” is often picking on your child, then laughing at her and saying she is just kidding, this person might be a frenemy. A little healthy disagreement never hurt anyone, but picking on another child just for fun is not a sign of true friendship!

She intentionally excludes your child (or other children).

Playing exclusive games is a huge red flag. A lot of the kids at school are really into making “clubs” and “teams” at recess right now, which is totally normal. These games become problematic when certain people are intentionally left out. Even worse are games where inclusive behavior is discouraged or punished. For example: you are also excluded if you play with Suzie. If you see a child intentionally excluding your child, or someone else, tread with extreme caution.

She brags excessively about her own achievements while minimizing your child’s achievements.

A lack of interest in your child’s passions may suggest that a “friend” isn’t exactly that. This behavior is especially problematic when the frenemy laughs at your child’s activities while bragging about her own skills. This can be extremely hurtful to a small child and, in extreme cases, even cause her to stop enjoying the activities she loves.

What can you do if your child has a frenemy?

So now you know how to recognize a frenemy. This begs the question, what can you do about it if your child’s bestie is really a frenemy? Well, I’m still working to navigate that one. So far, I’ve tried gently discussing with my child that everyone isn’t her best friend. That isn’t going so well (she still thinks everyone is her BFF). So if you have any better ideas, please share in the comments! Want to learn more about helping your child navigate the complex world of “frenemies” (known in the social psychology world as “relational aggression”) check out this post on helping girls manage cliques and conflict.