Almost every child, at one point or another, faces pressure to fit in at school. According to Rabbi Shmuley, many children want to belong to a clique or group of friends to gain a sense of identity. Parents should encourage their child to find his own unique identity, rather than identifying too strongly with one group. He says the way to do this is by helping your child identify his unique strengths and special gifts, and he offers the following advice: If you have a child who is "popular" or a natural leader: Have a conversation with her about artificial popularity, Rabbi Shmuley says. Tell her that she shouldn't base her self-worth on how many people like her or how many people want to be friends with her. "Encourage them to base their self-worth on being kind and generous and a good person to everyone they meet, no matter their social status," Rabbi Shmuley says. "Basing one's self-worth on how other people see you is never healthy."
If you have a child who is struggling to find friends at school: Make sure to talk to him about how he feels and emphasize friendship over popularity, Rabbi Shmuley says. Encourage him to stop trying to be part of the "in crowd" and instead to make friendships with other children, he says. "What that does is really make other kids feel special, and then your child will be a leader in their own right."
"Cliques are corrosive to children. They give children a sense that popularity is more important than integrity and that some kids are more worthwhile to befriend than others. Kids who strive for popularity will one day base their self-worth on superficial things like money, power and fame. Therefore, parents need to talk to their kids about never erasing their individual gifts in order to fit into a group."
Printed from Oprah.com on Saturday, December 7, 2013