5 Reasons I Would be Thrilled with an Unpopular Child
- Arlene Pellicane ArlenePellicane.com
- 2017 23 Feb
Before you get the wrong idea, let me assure you I don’t wish for a child who sits alone at lunch wearing nerdy clothes. But I also don’t want my child to strive for popularity.
The more a child struggles to be part of the popular group in elementary school, the more he or she will struggle to be accepted in the teen years. I’d rather my children focus on being a loyal, caring, and supportive friend than trying to attain elite status in the pecking order of popularity.
As your child gets older, it will become more likely he or she will start behaving in certain ways to attain or maintain social status. Studies show that less than 10 percent of children in grades one through four consider popularity more important than friendship, but over a quarter of 5th through 8th graders and one-third of 9th through 12th graders do. Unfortunately for many kids, this push towards popularity means behaving badly by putting others down or by acting against one’s values in order to belong.
Here are five reasons I would be happy to have an unpopular child:
1. Pop culture doesn’t reflect our family values.
Whether you’re reading popular song lyrics or watching TV dramas or comedies, this content isn’t geared towards growing kids of character. Quite the opposite. Many idolized celebrities question authority, flaunt their bodies, live for pleasure, use foul language, and promote having sex with whomever you like. Your clueless and unpopular child may not know who the latest viral sensation is… and that’s a real plus.
Pop culture used to better reflect our society’s values creating icons and heroes of yesteryear like Superman. But now popular culture glorifies extremes, no longer celebrating good versus evil. Instead pop culture icons represent unhealthy values, excessive materialism, gross sexuality, and violence. If you’re not vigilant about screen time, your child will consume hours of unhealthy “popular” media.
2. Popularity is often linked to risky behaviors such as smoking, drinking, and early sexual activity.
Popular kids in the spotlight often grow up too fast. Risky behaviors are applauded and the stuff of school legend. Popular, pretty girls are pressured for sexual activity by boys. Handsome, athletic boys are surrounded by dozens of available attractive girls. There is pressure to date way too young already. Being popular puts it into overdrive.
In order to remain popular, teens may do things such as try to drink or smoke if that’s what the in crowd is doing. Of course peer pressure (whether positive or negative) exists whether you’re the star of the party or a total unknown. But an unhealthy desire to become popular can motivate good kids to do stupid things.
3. Being unattached to social media is very healthy.
My friend has an elementary school girl who was totally upset for the entire evening when her FaceTime chat with a friend abruptly ended. Did the other girl mean to hang up? Was it an accident? This caused great anxiety and you can only imagine the compounded anxiety in high school when the average teen is spending six hours a day on the phone. This constant checking into social media and texting for approval and status is not healthy.
My middle schooler doesn’t have a phone. He may be the only one of his friends abstaining, but being a late adopter has numerous advantages. My son isn’t addicted to any device, easily has conversations with adults and kids, loves to read and bike, has many interests, and doesn’t have the temptation of porn and many other evils in his back pocket.
4. Retaining social status is stressful; faithful friendships are not.
If you’re in the popular group, you’ve got to work to stay there. One day you might be in, but after you do something the group doesn’t like, the next day you might be sitting with the wannabes. And if your child disengaged with friends to be embraced by a clique, old friends may not want to take your child back. Instead of teaching your child to focus on elevating self, teach them more compassionate goals of being friendly to others and loyal to closest friends.
5. Being a God-honoring student often means standing alone.
My middle schooler attends a school of more than 1700 7th and 8th grade students. Out of that large number, about a dozen get together at lunch once a week for Christian club. That’s obviously not the most popular group on campus, but I’m happy my son has chosen to attend. Being a Christian can be a minority position and if your child can handle being outnumbered, it will take them far in life. God honors those who honor Him. If God is for your child, who can be against him or her?
Kids and teens will tend to blend with peers, finding relationships with those who are similar. Encourage your children to choose their friends not based on popularity polls, but on common interests and character. And if a popular group turns their back on your child, don’t worry. Reassure your child and say something like: You will have less drama now. This too shall pass. There are better friends to be found.
When Daniel was a young captive in Babylon, he resolved not to defile himself with the pagan king’s royal food and wine. That diet was the norm for everyone else, but Daniel asked for vegetables and water instead. At the end of 10 days, Daniel and his three friends who joined him looked healthier and better nourished than any of their peers.
Instead of worrying about your child’s popularity, focus on his or her relationship with God. Are your kids learning how to obey the commands found in the Bible? Are they able to stand up for what they believe, even when it’s unpopular? As they do this, they will enjoy happiness that will far outlast popularity at prom.
Arlene Pellicane is a speaker and author of Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World and 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Wife. She has been a guest on the Today Show, Family Life Today, The 700 Club and Turning Point with David Jeremiah. Arlene and her husband James live in San Diego with their three children. Visit Arlene’s website at www.ArlenePellicane.com.
Photo courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com
Publication date: February 23, 2017