Two parents recently asked similar questions. How can we encourage kids to “stop playing dumb” in order to be more popular? And, how can we help encourage kids to make good choices in friends, especially when others can be mean or arbitrary about who they let into their inner circle?
The answer is surprisingly simple: Do nothing. Truth is, when it comes to social choices, we can’t save kids from choosing bad playmates or peers. Kids need to go through all the social steps, and missteps, on their own if they are going to build the social skills they need to thrive as adults. We had to learn about the complexities of the social world this way, too. Let them figure out on their own who to be close to and learn that “popular” kids can sometimes be mean and rejecting. That experience of pain helps them develop a tougher social skin, and it helps them to open up possibilities toward others who are better suited and offer deeper friendships not based only on things alike the clothes you wear, music you listen to, or sports you play.