When we think back to our middle school and high school years, we might still get a twinge of anxiety thinking about how hard it was to fit in. Being popular seemed to be so easy for some kids and almost impossible for others. As adults, many of our social interactions still reflect the feelings we had about fitting in during high school and middle school.
However, popularity isn’t exactly what it seems. Though the popular kids in school often rank higher in the social pecking order, they aren’t always very well-liked. This might seem counterintuitive, but it plays out over and over again, starting in adolescence.
When kids are little, they tend to gravitate to the most well-liked kids in the class. The most well-liked kids are often the nicest and friendliest kids. They are fine with sharing their toys, and they like to play games with everyone. However, this mindset starts to shift during adolescence. When kids reach puberty, they start paying less attention to who is the friendliest and more attention to who has the most power.
The popularity we remember from high school relates more to the kids with the most social power than to the kids who are actually the friendliest. Unfortunately, having social power doesn’t automatically mean that they’re well-liked. Popular kids are often disliked by their peers and end up being the center of gossip and drama. Though they’re seen as “cool” and are included in many social events, they might not have many meaningful friendships.
What to do if your teen is too concerned over popularity
Remember that the teen years come with a rollercoaster of emotions. When puberty starts, kids’ social circles begin to take precedence over their family unit, and this can be a difficult adjustment period for lots of parents. You can expect your teen to gravitate more toward their friends and take on some of their friends’ personality traits during their middle and high school years.
However, this trend can take a wrong turn if they start trying too hard to fit in with their peers. If your teen seems too concerned about their popularity and starts engaging in negative or dangerous behavior, there are a few steps you can take to correct it.
Find out why they want to be popular
What’s the underlying reason that they want to be popular?
We all want to be liked and want to have friends. That is completely understandable. Find out why your teen is so concerned over popularity and empathize with their reasoning. It might just be that they equate being popular with having friends, even though we know those two things don’t go hand-in-hand.
Explain the difference between popularity and being liked
Make sure that your teen knows the difference between genuinely being liked and merely having social status. Though social status can seem like a huge deal in high school, it quickly fades after graduation. Remind your teen that having quality, supportive friendships is way more important than having perceived status.
Encourage them to spend time around positive peers
Support your child in participating in events with positive peers. This could include being on sports teams, school clubs, or any other positive group activity. Help them foster friendships with peers who genuinely care about them and their best interest.
Set boundaries around unsafe behavior
If your teen or tween primarily participates in unsafe activities when they are around specific friends, consider limiting their time with those friends. Set specific expectations and consequences for breaking the rules, and make it clear for them. Teens do need to have friends, but having the wrong friends can be extremely detrimental.
Though your teenager might still feel left out from time to time, hopefully, they will enjoy their friendships more rather than being too concerned about over-popularity. If you find that they still chase popularity to the point that they are engaging in risky behavior, you might need to change their surroundings for a little while.
By sending them to a therapeutic boarding school, you remove the negative influences in their life and surround them with a supportive environment. Contact us today to find out if our school might benefit your teen son.