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Web Connections: Helping Kids Understand Cliques

The topic of this weekʼs Web Connections post is cliques. Within the Kidtelligent program , under the category “Tips for Being Best”, we discuss cliques in more detail. Now that the new school year is under way, we felt this information is timely and important for parents to discuss with their children. Please comment below on your experience with cliques. If after reading this post you found value in it, please share on your social networks.

Ashley came home from school in tears. She had been best friends with Sara for three years. Suddenly, Sara decided that it was more important to be part of the in-group than to be friends with Ashley anymore. According to the unstated rules in the clique, members could not have friends outside of the group. Sara wanted dearly to be part of the popular group and was willing to behave just like the other girls even if it meant losing her best friend.

What is a Clique?

It is important for children to connect with a group of friends who have similar interests. It boosts their self-confidence and security to feel wanted and included in social activities. Groups in themselves are not a problem until they become nasty to anyone who is not part of their group. Then they are considered to be a clique.

How Do Cliques Work?

A clique is usually run by two kids, known to sociologists as the Queen Bee and her Sidekick. They like being the center of attention and thrive on using power and control. They are typically deemed to be popular for any number of reasons: charisma, money for name brand clothes, good looks, and social finesse. They decide who is in and who is out and act like they are better than everyone else.

Cliques have lots of rules. Leaders decide what is cool to wear or not to wear and what members can and can’t do. They have the ability to argue anyone down, and are prone to seek revenge for those they dislike. It is not unusual for them to ridicule or tease outsiders, called Targets, even to the point of bullying.

Wannabes are those who will do anything to stay in the clique. They are always trying to please and prove their loyalty. They lose sight of their own opinions and values deeming those of the group to be more important. The more they sacrifice self to accommodate the clique, the worse people treat them. Messengers are members who are always trying to resolve conflicts. As they go about trading gossip, they are often used and manipulated by the clique.

Parents need to be aware of these group dynamics and identify if their daughter is involved in contrived friendships rather than those based on mutual respect.

How Can Parents Help Kids Navigate Cliques?

Ashley talked with her parents about feeling left out and rejected by her best friend. She was reluctant to admit that some of Sara’s new friends even made fun of her sometimes. Ashley’s parents brainstormed ideas with her on what she could do.

  1. Being sensitive to how it feels to be left out, Ashley decided to be friendly with everyone including ones who seemed to be loners.
  2. She made other friends, who were not a part of the clique, to hang around with.
  3. After a while, she decided to invite Sara to stay overnight like she used to.

Meanwhile, Sara’s parents noticed a change in her attitude and inquired about her new friends. Some had been to her house to visit and Sara was embarrassed by their behavior. She didn’t feel like herself around them and couldn’t relax for fear she would not say or do the “right” thing to please them. She tried speaking up about how they treated other people, but they just laughed at her for being a wimp.

When Ashley invited her to spend the night, they talked a lot about their feelings and Sara realized that being “popular” was not worth the price of not being herself.

Expose the Myths

Both girls believed the myth that kids in cliques are the most confident, happy and popular kids of all. They learned the truth that many are insecure, which is why being part of a group might make them feel better. Some in the clique may not be popular at all, but are selected because they are willing to be bossed around and to conform to whatever rules they are given.

If you have a son or daughter struggling with cliques, either from the inside or the outside, help them recognize these typical roles and patterns of behavior and guide them to be confident and make the right decisions for themselves.

This information was provided by Janet Colbrunn. Mrs.Colbrunn is a Kidtelligent Idealizer. In addition to being a mother and grandmother, she has years of experience as an elementary school teacher, parenting educator and school counselor. She has authored magazine articles and books on parenting skills and building family traditions. Mrs. Colbrunn can be contacted through her website  or via email