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Being Popular

Middle School Expert Advice from Connie Collins

Q: My 13-year-old daughter has been obsessed with being popular for the past year. Of course, like most kids, she is well-liked but she isn't one of the "popular" girls. I suppose making comparisons is typical -- especially at this age -- but it seems as though my daughter is obsessed with it. Her thoughts about others are dependent on their place on the popularity scale, and she thinks others judge her in the same way. Is my concern warranted?

A: I do believe your concern is warranted, although with today's heavy media pressure it is quite difficult for kids to escape the trap of always comparing themselves to idealized figures.

I encourage you to have "conversations" with your daughter when you are both relaxed and enjoying each other's company. Deliberately and seriously ask:

  • Who determines who is popular?
  • Do you like the popular kids?
  • What do you like about them?
  • Do you like your friends even though they are not popular?
  • Why do your friends like you?
  • What traits do you have that the popular kids don't have?

    You can probably come up with more and better topics than I have suggested for your talks. Above all, don't lecture. The idea is to get her to think about what you ask even if she doesn't respond. Plant the seeds of questioning. Continue to point out all her positive qualities and those of her nonpopular friends.

    This is a very difficult developmental period for girls as they struggle to understand who they are and where they fit in the social structure. Because your attitude is so positive, my guess is that your daughter will reach an understanding similar to yours after struggling with this issue for a while. It's not easy for moms, but I gather you have the patience to stand beside her while she learns.

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    Connie Collins, professional school counselor, worked for 35 years in public education as a teacher and counselor at the middle school and secondary levels. Collins worked daily with the parents of the students in her various schools, and has facilitated several parenting groups.


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