The Perils Of Popularity

"Taylor the Latte Boy" by Amanda Collier, Wade Bayless, Emily Merrill and Jennifer Lamb

Years ago one of my children, after just one week as a freshman in high school, made this comment, “Sometimes I wish I were a geek, it would be so much easier.”  I knew exactly what the child was thinking and the child had correctly assessed the high school dynamic.

There are perils that come with popularity.  Perils fraught with pressure – pressure to stay connected, pressure to compete, pressure to look good, pressure to be in the know…cutting edge…included…doing the “in” thing…taking risks…asserting independence…seeking thrills…shocking others with drama…experimenting with…?!

The geek, on the other hand, is defined as a computer enthusiast or one who is overly intellectual.  Or according to the popular television show Glee perhaps it can also be defined as one involved with chorus or band.

My kids have played all sides from chorus to sports and clubs in between.  There are two sides to every story and every child has a different way of sorting through adolescence.  Some seem unscathed, some struggle.  Whatever side they fall on popular, geek or somewhere in the middle, they will be challenged as they stretch and grow into adulthood.

It has been my observation, as well as my child’s, that popularity has peril’s that may not be as prevalent for less the popular.  Here are 3 things to consider as you observe your child at any age because popularity begins in elementary school.

  1. Don’t Push Popularity.  Many parents are pained when their child is left out and go to great lengths to insure that their child is popular.  This says to the child that mom values popularity and to please the mom the child feels (more pressure) they must do anything to be popular.
  2. Beware of Popularity Perils.  A study by Joseph P. Allen, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, found that the more popular teenagers were more likely to get into trouble with behavior like shoplifting, drinking or smoking marijuana.  If your child is popular know they will be under pressure to make unwise choices, stay on top of them, talk to them, restrict them if they need it, get to know their friends, and do not be afraid to say “NO”.
  3. Encourage the Geek.  Geek is a positive term to me.  It usually means your child has a passion for something that is more important to him than pursing the approval of peers.  If your child is a geek for something be their biggest fan.  Encourage them in their passion by helping them pursue it.

One last thing to remember is that your child is not you.  Be comfortable and fascinated and ready to help them make wise choices with whatever they may be or do whether they are like you or like no one else in your family!

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  • Cain0208

    I remember saying how I wish I were not popular in high school, how it would be easier to be an unpopular person. In college, after my first year, I took the path of a “geek” instead of popular, and I am so thankful that I did! Instead of going out and parting all the time I stayed in and got good grades and was excepted to a really nice “hard to get into” Christian based school, and went on to perused my masters. It has paid off greatly! I see my husband’s and my personalities (social butterfly) in our daughter, so I am certian she will be popular. I will not push her to be popular or a geek. I want her to be herself, but I will encourage my daughter to put value in her education and doing the right thing, even if it is not the popular choice.

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