Who are the Cool Kids?

Echosmith’s “Cool Kids” was playing on the car radio as my grandson and I were traveling.  Afterwards I asked him who the cool kids are.  He only hesitated a second or two before responding that kids like him are the cool kids because they don’t try to make anyone like them.  They like who they are and are happy being themselves.  He continued to tell me that kids that are trying to be cool, to be liked, are usually mean in the process.  It is so important to have certain kids like them that they are hurtful to others.  They are not being themselves.   My grandson is eleven.

Imagine for a second that the definition of cool kids in school was- a young person who is confident and happy being themselves and wishes the same for all others. Wouldn’t that put a whole new spin on social dynamics in  school at all levels?

My daughter had really nice friends in school for whom I was grateful.  I recognized the group of friends without consciously acknowledging that it was a group and that groups have boundaries.  Groups with boundaries often have invisible gates that adults don’t see, but other children know they are there.   The gates became visible to me as a teacher when a young person I knew entered middle school and made a new friend and was included somewhat into her circle of friends.    They were having a wonderful time getting to know each other.  A few weeks into the school year,  the  group surrounded my friend unexpectedly and informed her that the other child was in their group,  the group didn’t feel she fit in with them, and she was no longer welcome.  “You don’t belong”, they told her.  The new friend stood by and watched, then left with them, whispering, “Sorry”.  The devastation this child felt was deep and painful.  As a teacher I  became more aware of the silent social hurt that happens without adult knowledge because I knew the victim personally.

In 1995, Patricia A and Peter Adler published in Social Psychology Quarterly ,Vol. 58, No. 3 (Sep., 1995), pp. 145-162, “Dynamics of Inclusion and Exclusion in Preadolescent Cliques.  They concluded that the inclusion and exclusion of children is the center of the later elementary years cliques,  and that this social framework impacts their character and is carried over to adulthood. imagesRHGZENLW “Cliques are circles of power wherein leaders attain and wield influence over their followers by cyclically building them up and cutting them down, first drawing them into the elite inner circle and allowing them to bask in the glow of popularity and acceptance, and then reducing them to positions of dependence and subjugation by turning the group against them.”  Their findings included a leaning toward discrimination as adults.

As parents look at their children’s friends they should ask themselves if the relationship is positively supportive of their child making their own decisions, having age appropriate activities and living from their heart. If within a specific group a child is insecure on their own,  lacks confidence to stick up for themselves and their values, is unkind to others including siblings, feels too powerful, or becomes sneaky, the group dynamic needs attention.  Being one of the cool kids may not be in the best interest of that child.

In researching I noticed that a “cool kids” definition may be different within different communities.  While I see the cool kids as popular, they have usually also been good students and often athletes or musicians, but within a group setting do see others not included as less than themselves or their group.   The studies done on cool kids in middle school through young adulthood define them differently,  with one explanation in an article, “Cool at 13, Adrift at 23”.   Jan Hoffman,writer for the New York Times quoted, Dr. Joseph P Allen, psychology professor  at the University  of Virginia, who described them as fast tracked, socially precocious risk takers.  Dr. Allen’s study found that “psudomature” behavior in adolescence was a greater predictor of drug and alcohol abuse as a young adult than was actual use of drugs or alcohol in the middle school ages.

However “cool” is defined in your child’s social life, it is clear that your awareness may be even more necessary than when they were younger.  Everything in their lives is a stage, but each stage is a basis for the next.  Knowing where they are heading is valuable.  Sometimes you have to step in.  At one time I was accused of being unfair and critical of young man.  When asked how I could dislike someone I didn’t know, I responded, “You are right.  He may be a very nice boy.  I am not judging him.  I am judging you, and I don’t like who you are  when you are in his company.”

While supporting social growth of older children, parents need to keep foremost  in their mind what they want for their children, leaving their own past experience with group dynamics out of the equation.    Help them be themselves first and foremost, holding onto their character  in the presence of their peers.

 

 

 

 

 

Bullied, Bully, An Observer of Bullying. Which is Your Child?

 

Most children are not bullies. More children have goodness in their heart and yet bullying is a major issues in social groups like school. Children who choose that way of being find it gives them power and that power comes from the attention they receive. There are children that don’t need the approval of others to receive the power they seek, but those are not the situations addressed here.

huffingtonpost.com2

huffingtonpost.com

Children that seek attention of their peers by making another feel badly about themselves, falsely believe that those in the room support them because of their reactions. Children laugh, often from discomfort, and that encourages the bullies. Others may stand there gawking uncomfortably, but their silence is also encouragement. And the child being humiliated stands alone. Stopbullying.gov has a section that helps you equip your child. “ They want to help but they don’t know how. Teach them how to be more than a bystander.”

napab.org

napab.org

Is your child a bully magnet? That is painful for parents as well as the child. Kid Power has tips for helping your child develop an aura of security and assertiveness which may help them feel more self- assured and less vulnerable.

Is your child a bully? Are you sure? Unfortunately tough kids are not the only bullies. In giving your child every opportunity you could, you may have inadvertently given the impression that they are more deserving and better than others, that those with less are inferior and need to be put in their place. Some kids are more aggressive than others, while some are unkind, even cruel just by the condescending faces they make or the hurtful “honesty” they share. Your child may also be surprised to discover that in becoming part of a group they longed for, they have crossed the divide between being a loving person and one who makes others feel uncomfortable. Children who are popular or in leadership roles too often fall into this category. True leaders help others become the best they can be, not make themselves feel powerful by putting others down. Children that have the natural ability to lead, need to learn this early in life so that their skills continue to grow. Leadership without empathy and caring will not take them far in their adult lives.

Bullies may do physical harm or threaten with physical harm, humiliate, exclude, or in any way make another feel badly about themselves. Sadly, children believe that they deserve it, sometimes to the point of not telling their loved ones what they are going through.  The ultimate sense of aloneness. Can you feel it? I believe it also produces an immense sense of shame that they can not share with those that love them. Is it a belief that the bully might be right? That parents will believe it too? It spans far more than an incident in the cafeteria or on the bus. It reaches their souls.  The emotional stress needs to be taken seriously.tsa-usa.org

Prior generations have considered bullying as a right of passage, even using it as a basis of humor in movies and books, but as more studies are done, it is coming to light how much effect there is in adult life for those bullied, the bullies themselves, the observers and those who were bullied and became bullies.  All show impact in later life with the bully/ victims most gravely affected.  These negative relationships with peers are being considered as important as abuse at home during childhood according to Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer in an article titled, “Long-Term Effects Of Bullying: Pain Lasts Into Adulthood (STUDY)”

In My Loving Self and Me the children encounter bullying in several forms from cruelty to outdoor critters, to face to face aggression.  The poem “Will You Join Me”  speaks to fear causing an inability to stand up for someone being bullied but not willing to participate.  It acknowledges their feelings as well as encouraging an understand that they will work towards standing up for anyone being mistreated.  Bullying is only one of the many issues that are addressed to assist children and their parents in My Loving Self and Me.  All are helped by realizing the difference between living from their heart and living out of ego.

Children need to learn to love, care and be sensitive to the needs of themselves and others. Their adults must be sensitive as well. Name calling or humiliation should never be a form of discipline.  They learn what they are taught.  Make it valuable.

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