Popular kids aren’t necessarily well-liked.
Episode 38 – Richard, Age 11: Wondering how to be popular
Think About It Questions
- Which kids do you know whom you consider to be popular? What do you think makes them popular? Are they also well-liked by other kids? Why or why not?
- Which kids do you know who are well-liked by other kids? What do you think makes them well-liked?
- Why do kids sometimes want to be popular? Do you think that’s an important goal? Why or why not?
- Why do you think popular kids tend to be more anxious and sad than kids who have a few close friends?
- What does this statement mean: “Kindness is about how the other person feels and what they want”?
- What are some examples of kind things you’ve done for other kids? Why is it a good idea to do at least one kind action every day? (Hint: How does it make other people feel? How does it make you feel?)
Hi, there! I’m Dr. Eileen Kennedy-Moore, also known as Dr. Friendtastic. I’m an author and clinical psychologist based in Princeton, NJ.
Let’s listen to today’s question:
Hello, my name is Richard. I'm currently 11-years old, and my question is how to be popular among your classmates?
Hi, Richard, thanks for sending in your question. This is something a lot of kids wonder about. They look at the popular crowd–those socially powerful “cool” kids that everyone notices–and wonder, “How do I get to be one of them?”
Popular kids tend to be attractive, athletic, and come from wealthier families. All of that makes them stand out in a group. So, to some extent, popularity is a matter of what you’re born with.
Being popular is not the same as being well-liked or having good friends. In fact, popular kids can sometimes be very mean and lots of them are actually disliked by other kids. As they get older, popular kids are more likely to do things adults don’t want them to do, like abusing drugs and alcohol, and they tend to be more anxious and sad than kids who have a few close friends. It’s a lot of pressure to feel like everyone is looking at you and judging you.
Focusing a lot on trying to be popular can also lead kids to put other people down in order to make themselves feel more important. That’s not right.
Being well-liked on the other hand is linked to being friendly, positive, kind, and cooperative. People feel good when they’re around well-liked kids.
Here’s my suggestion for you: Don’t worry about popularity. It’s shallow, short-term, and not linked to friendship, well-being, or happiness.
Focus instead on creating real connections with other kids. This could involve making more friends, building deeper friendships, or contributing to your community.
So, how could you do that? Each day, try to do at least one genuinely kind action. Remember, kindness shouldn’t be something that hurts you or makes you feel resentful afterward. You have to give it with an open, generous heart.
Also, keep in mind that kindness is about how the other person feels and what they want. So, if they don’t like it, even if you would, that doesn’t count as an act of kindness.
So, what are some examples of kind actions? You could try offering a sincere compliment, helping someone, listening to someone, sharing with them, or doing a little something extra, that’s not your job, just because it makes things nicer for everyone. You could try letting someone else go first or going along with their idea sometimes–even though you like your idea better–just because you care about that person. You could also try inviting someone to do something with you, or with you and your friends, so they feel included and valued.
Kind actions aren’t going to make you instantly well-liked, and they’re not going to make you popular, but over time, they can help build real friendships and community. And you can feel good knowing you’re doing your part to make the world a better, kinder place.
This has been Kids Ask Dr. Friendtastic. If you have a question about making and keeping friends that you’d like me to answer, go to DrFriendtastic.com, and click on the podcast tab to see how to submit your question.
And be sure to check out my funny and practical books for kids about friendship: Growing Friendships: A Kids’ Guide to Making and Keeping Friends, and my new book, Growing Feelings: A Kids’ Guide to Dealing with Emotions About Friends and Other Kids. They’re available through your library or wherever you buy books.