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Need to be Popular

MARK, age: 13
Lately, I’ve been feeling like I want to be more popular in school. I’ve been hanging around with some of the more popular kids. My mother doesn’t like them and won’t let me see them outside of school. She says they get into trouble and I could get in trouble by hanging out with them. I know some of the things they do are wrong but I don’t do those things.

Cathy, mother
Mark was always an A student and now he’s bringing home D’s. I’ve also noticed a change in Mark’s behavior and it really worries me. I know adolescence is a difficult time for kids but I want him to try his best and care about school again. He has been rude to me and mean to his younger brother. I know he started hanging around some kids that get into serious trouble in school. Mark seems different and he won’t talk to me.


Mark, you sound torn between the best choices for you and wanting to fit in at school. This is understandable at your age. Remember a true friend accepts you and likes you for who you are. It’s very temping in middle school to be more popular. Seventh grade “friends” will come and go but you will have to live with the consequences of your choices.

It’s better to have one or two real friends who will be loyal to you over time than it is for the whole class to think you’re “cool” for a few days or weeks. Consider talking to your mom and telling her what’s bothering you. Chances are, she’ll be more understanding than you think.
Cathy, It’s more important than ever to have open and honest communication with Mark. You are smart to be aware of the company your son is keeping. I share your concerns.

Believe it or not, parents (and home life) remain the biggest influence in our children’s lives, even during adolescence. Be an active listener when communicating with Mark. Reflect on his feelings of wanting to be accepted by his peers, even by the troublemakers. Keep in mind that kids who make poor choices and seek acceptance through negative influences are those who feel misunderstood and rejected at home. This has to do with the child’s perception and not necessarily the reality. In other words, try to connect with Mark while providing guidance, love and support. Remind him of right and wrong and your expectations of him. Let him know, he can always come to you even if he makes a mistake.

Louise Hajjar Diamond has been a guidance counselor for twelve years. She is also a freelance writer and mother of two.

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