Diane Ross Glazer, PhD, a child therapist in Santa Monica, California, answers the following questions about cliques.
Children, like all human beings, are "status conscious," and cliques give them a way to define their status or ranking within a class. Being part of a popular clique (as opposed to a lower-ranked group of kids) affords children a sense of power and position among their classmates. Popular kids set the standards to which other kids aspire.
Some children are born with charisma and an innate sense of leadership, and kids are naturally drawn to them. These children tend to be socially well developed (or even precocious), interact well with their peers, know how to get kids to follow them, and perhaps, most important, know how to create fun.
Children who are perceived as not having a certain social status or cache, or who might appear different in some way, are usually ostracized from the top cliques. That's not to say, though, that these kids can't be part of other cliques or groups of children (there are many in every grade), or have good friendships both in and outside of school.
Children who are excluded often desperately want to be accepted by their peers. So the best thing parents can do, particularly in the grade school years, is to help their kids find a social niche -- by encouraging them to make friends, develop interests, and build a sense of self-confidence.
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