A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of having lunch with my friend, author and trend/marketing expert Jane Buckingham. Jane is one of those people who you could talk to all day… She is not only brilliant and interesting, but she’s polite, poised and elegant. We’re not that far apart in age, but I want to be her when I grow up. I asked her if I could share one of her posts from “The Modern Girls Guide to Raising Decent Daughters” — Though I’m trying to raise a decent son (or mensch), I love the issues Jane raises and the insight she has to parenting…. Here’s a post about popularity, friendships, and how much or little as parents we should think about getting involved in this part of our children’s lives. (Thank you, Jane!)
We all know who the popular kids are. That golden 10% of the class who everyone talks about,; everyone likes; everyone wants to be like. They’re the ones whose hair seems preternaturally shiny and bouncy. They never get a zit or an ugly sweater. They were perfectly portrayed in the classic Mean Girls? These days they’re even the smartest kids in the class. They have perfect easy lives, right?
For the 90% of us who weren’t popular (I STILL feel like I’m going through an awkward phase), there seems to be a goal, almost as strong as getting your kid into college, to have one’s child be popular. But should we really want our kids to be popular? Well, there is a difference between being popular and having friends. Having friends is essential. Being the IT girl may not be.
Girls tend to create a small more intimate group of 3-4 friends or have a best friend while boys may have a looser but larger group of friends and not a notable “best” friend. Ideally, your child will have friends who support them, keep their secrets, help them have fun, have a similar sense of humor and passions. Not surprisingly, it is the quality of the friendship rather than the number of friends that is most important.
As early as the tween years, kids will seek the approval of peers by being “in” versus “out.” For them, being part of the Popular group signifies that they are “somebody.” To “not be” means they are “nobody.” And while today’s teens seem to be becoming increasingly more tolerant of differences and individuality, often meeting peer standards for dressing and behaving can a big deal to kids. This isn’t about not being invited to a party or being on an IM chat, it’s the risk of being cut out or badly labeled.