Sunday, October 06, 2013

Help Your Daughter Navigate Social Cliques

Does your daughter want to hang out in the popular crowd at school but then act like she loathes them at the same time?

YA novels, TV shows and movies glamorize rather than stigmatize the idea of cliques. In fact, in these shows, the most popular girl may be the least likeable by grown-up standards. Years ago when my friend had a daughter in middle school, she noticed that the meaning of the word popular had changed over the decades since we were in school. Popular used to mean the girl that had a lot of real friends and that everyone liked. Today popular may mean something more like the most influential girl, or the most powerful girl in the group but she also may be the most feared, rather than the most likeable one.

Photo by Karin Vlietstra at zalouk webdeesign
The message to girls is that if they are not going to be in the popular group than they had better be vocal about hating the popular group and show that they are too cool to care. 

This isn't a new idea. Remember the distinct stereotypes played out in The Breakfast Club in 1985? While the boys admired and feared Claire (preppy, rich Molly Ringwald), the other female character, Allison (wounded, angry Ally Sheedy) went out of her way to be a little odder, a little angrier, a little more outrageous than she really was in order to make it clear she had no desire to be like Claire or to be her friend. However, the truth was that each character craved connection and friendship and each one was fraught with worry that he or she was the real outcast.

Real life is not a movie but maybe that is a good starting point to have a conversation with your daughter. You could have a retro movie night and discuss the ideas in the Breakfast Club or in the movie Mean Girls [PG alert: Common Sense Media suggests that themes in both movies aren't appropriate for those under 14].  A more modern and even more exaggerated version of school cliques is found in the TV show Glee.  H
elp her analyze where fiction and real life are similar and where they are different.

Discussion points:
  • What are the cliques she sees at her school? 
  • What roles do people play? 
  • What are the social rules from her perspective? 
  • Where does she fit in?
  • What does she wish was different?
Everyone needs friends. Having a group to hang with and feel a part of is something that most people enjoy.  Unfortunately too many girls are learning to build themselves up and bond over putting others down.  Help your daughter find a group to bond with over shared interests instead.  Drama club? Math club?  The soccer team?  All of these give the opportunity to become part of a group, learn communication skills and get to know new friends.

Talk to your daughter about real friendships and what they feel like.  Does she recall a time when she was friends with someone and it just felt right? These are usually the friendships where girls can say what they think, dress how they want and be completely themselves. 

At my house we frequently rely on books to help us address complicated issues. These are some of my favourites on this subject:

Elements of this blog post first appeared in my 
Ask Lisa column for the Dove Self-Esteem Fund 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Lisa,
    Lots of good stuff to work with here.


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