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How to Deal with Cliques in School

Shalu Bhatti
Dealing with cliques, especially during middle or high school can be extremely daunting, and can also leave an everlasting impact on the child's overall growth and personality. This story will tell you how to deal with cliques in school from different perspectives, including the point of views of the bullied student and the parents of the victimized student.
Dealing with cliques can be a difficult experience for both the child as well as the parents, especially when it is a 'new place' and a 'new school'. Mostly, each and every school has a clique comprising kids that are, so to say, 'cool and popular' in school.
Most of us know how it feels to be a part of a clique, or, to deal with such groups when they try hard to make us feel miserable, unwanted, and left out.
Getting bullied by cliques in school may be considered a common phase that each and every child goes through during their tweens, however, just because it is common, doesn't mean that it is acceptable! In fact, studies reveal that cliques are also formed when kids are in preschool.
No matter how old the kid is, whether in preschool, middle school, or even high school, the pressure to be accepted and fit in with the kids who are popular is always a concern, and no matter what, cliques are always present to make the new, shy, and quiet kid feel left out. This can, in fact, impact the child's overall personality for life.
Studies show that children who are bullied or abused, can develop mental and social issues when they grow up. Which is why it becomes very important to understand how to deal with cliques in school and overcome the fear of being bullied each and every day.

What are Cliques and Why Do They Bully?

Cliques, in simple words, are a group of people who share common interests, hobbies, and friends. Now you would ask what's the harm if one forms a group consisting of people with similar interests? Well, there is no harm, which is why not all cliques are bad!
The term 'clique' has perhaps, become quite a negative one. Which is why when we talk about dealing with cliques, we are usually referring to a group of people who are known to be mean, snobbish, and have a set of rules and regulations regarding who should be, and who should not be a part of their group.
These cliques usually have a leader, the 'queen bee' in girl cliques, is the one responsible for laying down the rules of the clique.
Right from the dress code - to the hairstyles - to the decision of who would be a part of the group and who would not. Usually, the leader of these groups is a popular kid who dominates the rest, and the others are expected to quietly follow what the leader has to say. Do you remember the movie 'Mean Girls'?
If you have watched that movie, you would know exactly what cliques are. Most of the time, cliques are formed by girls who are popular and who like to pick on other girls who do not match their notions of being 'cool' and 'smart'.
However, on the other hand, a child can also become a victim if the clique thinks that he or she can be a potential threat to their power and identity. Cliques are usually formed by girls, but guys can have cliques as well.
You see, in order to understand what needs to be done to efficiently deal with these cliques, one needs to understand why they tend to bother others in the first place. There could be many reasons for the same. It could be because of insecurities, which are pretty evident by the way one behaves in school.
If a child likes to keep to himself/herself, is shy, quiet, and submissive, then it becomes very easy for the clique to target such a kid. But the question is, why do they like to target kids who have never done any harm to them?
The thing is that whether a part of the clique or not, there is this competition to be the 'popular kid in school', and this the reason why kids tend to bully, humiliate, and pick on others, just to gain attention and show the rest how powerful and cool they are.
When they make fun of meek kids, bully them, they are actually putting the victimized kid down so that they can overcome their own insecurities. Let's talk about the leader of the clique who decides it all.
Even though he or she is the popular kid in school, it is equally pressurizing for him or her to maintain that popularity and to remain the most popular in the school. So, in order to keep up the popular image and show others that he or she still rules, picking on meek students is important.

What Can You Do as a Parent to Help Your Child?

I know, dealing with cliques during school can actually be quite a daunting experience. Statistics reveal that almost 1,60,000 children miss their school every year just to avoid cliques from bullying them. Isn't that shocking? Is your child too, giving you excuses for not going to school?
Do you think that being bullied by a clique could be a reason behind this? Probably your child would not tell you directly as to why he or she doesn't want to go to school. The excuses you might receive from your kid for not going to school would usually be, "I'm not feeling well today."
Some students who are victimized by cliques in school also tend to have a sudden drop in their grades, tend to become more quiet, irritable, uninterested, and develop a low self-esteem. When these signs are noticed by a parent or a teacher, it is of prime importance that immediate attention is given into this matter.
Keep in mind that your child would choose to keep quiet about it, and if you force him or her to speak up, it may not be as fruitful as you want it to be. Given below are some guidelines that would help you in chalking out a strategy as to how you should deal with this situation.

Discuss, Don't Meddle

Remember that you are dealing with kids in their teens, so being a cry-baby and going to the parents for help is something that your kid wouldn't want to do. You need to understand that at this point of time, your child needs a friend, a confidante, and not a strict parent who will judge or command him and meddle into the situation.
So be a friend to your kid and discuss school, about how the classmates are and how it's different from the previous school. To help the kid open up, you can also share your school cliques experiences so that he or she can realize that they have a friend advising them, and not a parent meddling into their life.
If you succeed in probing your kid into revealing the problem then, like a friend, plan with your kid as to what he or she should do to deal with the cliques in school. Again, remember, you are just there to advice and not force a decision on your kid.

Speak to the Teacher

If you, as a parent, think that the situation must be informed to the teacher of your kid, then you should immediately do so. Speak to the teacher about how your child is behaving in school. Does he or she have friends? Is your child an active participant in class? Is the teacher aware of your child being bullied by a clique in school?
Speak to the teacher about addressing the class about treating each others with respect. Most schools have certain policies and programs related to bullying. If the teacher can emphasize on these policies and the consequences that cliques might face in case of any violation, it can actually save your kid from being victimized.
Also, this approach would seem to be more like a general discussion rather than a complaint from a parent. This would not bring the kid into the spotlight and yet, the message will be put across to the bullies.

Speak to the Bully, if Need Be

If you are aware of the clique leader who is making your kid's life miserable, then why don't you speak to them in a subtle manner? Though this seems to be a very bad idea of parent intervention, this may also prove to be beneficial in some cases. Tell the clique leader that it is better to be friends and start it afresh, rather than bullying the child.
You can also inform them in a polite manner that if this doesn't stop, you will have to inform the school authorities and also call their parents. However, keep in mind that this step can make the situation worse for your child.
Therefore, your first preference should be to let your child handle it on his or her own with the help of your advice, or let the school teacher take care of it in their own manner. It is best for the teacher to speak with the clique leader and the victimized kid separately, so that there is no hesitation or fear from any side.

Speak to a Counselor

Many kids end up having a deep and negative impact on their mind when suffering from a situation like this. They lose their confidence, their self-esteem, their eagerness to explore and learn. Leaving them on their own in this situation may cause consequences for a lifetime.
In fact, studies reveal that such experiences can cause severe psychological and personality disorders during their adulthood. These people also end up making no friends, don't trust people easily, and develop a hatred towards friendship groups.
Therefore, it is important for you to take your kid to a counselor if the bullying has had a significant impact on the kid. An experienced counselor would have fruitful sessions with your kid which will help him or her regain the lost self-confidence and enthusiasm about school, studies, friends, cliques, and about everything in life.
The counselor would plan out a strategic approach while dealing with the issues arising in your kid's mind due to the whole situation. This will prevent and cure the possible psychological and emotional damage that the kid has, and probably is still going through.

Tips to Deal with Cliques at School

When there is a clique in school, whose main motive is to pick on the unpopular or shy student in school at every given chance, the overall situation can have quite a negative impact on the child's confidence. But if looked upon in a positive manner, it can also give the child an opportunity to become more strong and independent.
How? Well, let's think about how cliques make kids feel left out and cornered. We have already discussed that the reason why a specific set of kids are the favorite target of these cliques is because, either they are too shy, or may be there is something unique about their personality that may seem awkward; or may be a potential threat to these groups.
The most common ways to bully kids in school include secluding them from their friends, calling them names, teasing or taunting them day and night about how they look or behave.  Many a time, the bullying may go up to a level wherein physical abuse like pinching, punching, and even bruising is observed.
These cliques may also snatch away the kid's personal belongings, throw their lunch in the garbage bin, do something nasty and put the blame on the victimized kid so that he or she is punished.
Yes, it can be very bad. If a child is being targeted in a situation like this, what is important for him or her to understand, or to be made to understand, is that they are absolutely normal the way they are and that they should not allow anyone else to ruin their individual personality.
Mentioned below are some tips that can help in dealing with such issues at school.

Ignorance is Bliss

We all have heard this phrase, but now is the time to apply it. When haunted by a bunch of people who try hard to take away the peace and happiness in a child's life, it is important to be blissful and ignore the group that keeps him/her away from it.
There will be mean comments, name calling, unnecessary provocation to get a reaction to their bullying, but then it is important to 'pretend that they don't exist.' In fact, some clique members also say that because they get a reaction from the kid, teasing them becomes all the more fun.
Therefore, it is important that the victim just doesn't give out the reaction that the clique members seek, and sooner or later, the bullying will come to an end.

Expression is Mandatory

Ignoring doesn't always help. Many times, ignoring the group takes the bullying to the next level. Therefore, it is important to speak up and confront them, in a friendly manner, of course. Confrontation and saying it out loud overcomes one from the state of being targeted as 'the meek and shy kid in school'.
An ex-clique leader during her school days herself admitted that she really admired the girls who would actually come up to her and offer to be friends.
Showing the clique that the 'so-called meek and shy kid', actually has the courage to stand for his or her self-respect can actually change the perception of the clique members towards the child completely and bring the teasing and bullying to an end.

Making New Friends will Help

School consists of various students, and not all of them are members of a mean clique, are they? There are several children who too are being victimized and bullied, many who are secluded from others because they are not 'cool'. Making new friends and getting to know new kids in school would actually divert one's attention from the bullying going around.
It can also give the child a chance to meet kids who are facing the same problems, or, who are worth being friends for life. Interacting with other children and making new friends will prove to be beneficial to avoid the bullying. Once the clique sees that the kid is not alone and lonely anymore, the teasing is bound to come to an end.

Joining Hobby Groups is Great

As we encourage focusing on the nice things, this point also emphasizes on the importance of being a part of something positive, like a hobby group? Each and every child has some hobby, some passion. It could be anything, painting, singing, dancing, drama?
Joining the school group will not only give the child an opportunity to do what he or she likes, but will also give him or her a chance to meet kids who share similar interests and hobbies.
Again, a chance to make new friends who will make school a fun place to be in for the child, subsequently diverting the focus of the child from the clique members, and the clique from the child.

No Harm in Taking 'Adult Advice'

Thinking that one can deal with the situation alone can only lead to more stress, confusion, and frustration; and as time passes, a teen may find himself or herself absolutely trapped in the situation. Often when dealing with a difficult situation in life, a simple yet effective advice from someone mature and experienced can prove to be priceless.
It could be a parent, a guardian, a teacher, or even the school counselor. Speaking with an adult and discussing the whole situation can help overcome this problem, after all, they too have dealt with this situation during their school days, right?
Following these tips and taking a stand against the popular clique in school needs a lot of courage and patience. But then, it is important to take this crucial step in order to get rid of the everyday nuisance that one may have to go through otherwise.
School is the time when one needs to make friends, laugh, learn, explore, and form relationships that last for a lifetime.
On the contrary, if the student feels hesitant to go to school, feels like running away and hiding in a corner where no one can ever come, and spend the entire night thinking of excuses of bunking school, then it is important to put forth the point that this is not what school life is about.
School days are something that each and everyone treasures all their life. It is expected from all the children who are dealing with cliques in school to take a step, be brave, take advice from adults, and be prepared to take control of their life.
If you are a parent reading this article, then understand that you should support your kid to become all the more strong, and be there for him or her as a friend, as a guide, as a way to overcome this phase.