"It's not that these are mean kids, it's that they're experimenting with social power." —Dr. Michael Thompson, psychologist and former seventh grade teacher
Parents don't understand the importance of friendships in childhood, says psychologist Dr. Michael Thompson. He adds tha parents often underestimate the deep emotional impact these relationships have on their children's lives. He believes that by nature, we are social animals who need to be part of a group.
  • Groups often have more power than individuals. Sometimes, members of a group are not really friends: rather, they rely on each other for an identity.
  • Groups teach children the values of loyalty, leadership, treachery and what it means to be a true friend.
  • About 80% of children are in a social group at school.
  • Group formations begin around 4th grade; some begin as early as kindergarten. By 8th grade, a child has established strict boundaries of the group.
  • There is often a "ringleader" who defines the boundaries of the group and has the power to influence many people to do good or bad.
  • If your child is popular, educate him or her on how to be a good leader.
  • According to Dr. Thompson, a child may be a good person as an individual, but group dynamics lead to what is known in psychology as a "risky shift." A "risky shift" occurs when children get together in a group and devise a mischievous plan that they wouldn't be able to come up with on their own as individuals.
  • Even though a child may feel bad insulting or hurting other children, they may be influenced by the power dynamics of the group.

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