By the time they reach middle school and high school, most kids become particularly concerned about their social standing. Their need to be accepted by their peers is all-important. Unfortunately, many groups of kids form within schools that stress conformity over a person’s right to be themselves. Oftentimes, our young adults are all too willing to sacrifice something of who they are in order to be accepted into these groups.
By kindest definition, a clique is a closely-knit group of kids who have similar interests and spend a lot of time together. Certain cliques, however, are very exclusive. These are composed of young people who build up their identity as much (or more) by ostracizing outsiders than by affirming what they have in common. They operate like exclusive clubs; some even have rules, and forbid members from associating with people outside of them.
One clique that is to be found nearly everywhere is the so-called “in crowd”. They seem to dominate everything that is important in the life of the school: not only the social scene in general, but also the realm of student government and sports. The kids composing this clique are not only popular amongst peers; they can also often win over teachers – especially if they’re academic achievers. At best, they are looked up to and often feel beyond the reach of other kids; at worst, they actively exclude kids outside of their own group and even endeavor to make them feel like dirt.
If we notice that our own kids have a strong desire to be a part of the in-crowd at their school, we might do well to talk to them and see if they can clarify their reasons for wanting to join. We can point out that the people in this clique group typically do the same things that other kids do: they go places together, hand out, and gossip about others. They also worry about similar things: their appearance, their grades, and their team’s record. Because we aren’t bought in to the mystique of these groups, we may be able to help our kids to see through the façade as well. Do they really want to spend all their time being overly concerned about their clothes, money, and athletic ability?
Ultimately, popularity isn’t a matter of quantity – the numbers of people who admire us – but of quality. Kids will feel popular when they associate with people whom they respect and who respect them in return – regardless of what they look like and what they wear. We should encourage our kids to think about what an attractive-looking clique really represents. What makes them different from everyone else – and is this a difference that our kids want to be a part of?
Joining a group might actually place a lot of demands on them – for example, they might be obliged to leave more faithful and sincere friends behind. That which looks, from the outside, like freedom and license can actually bring a lot more rules and restrictions into a young person’s life. They are oftentimes too taken by the mystique to notice this – but because we are more objective, we can point it out to them.