Have you ever had a time when your daughter comes home to tell you that the girls at your church or in her class—who were until that very day her friends—have become the meanest, cruelest, nastiest "Mean Girls" ever? If so, you might know how hurtful cliques can be.
Cliques are a group of friends that exclude others from the fellowship or friendship that they have within the clique. This can happen with boys, but more often than not the "clique zone" exists with girls and usually between 3rd grade and 8th grade. Cliques are relational, so it should come as no surprise that cliques happen more with girls than guys. As a parent, you can help your daughters (or sons) avoid and navigate cliques. Here are a few key ideas to remember:
- See Cliques for what they are: Friendship Gone Wrong
Cliques are about friendship. They point to a deep (and good) desire that we all have to be accepted, to be recognized as special, and to be affirmed. Parents need to help their children have healthy limits on friendship. Cliques tend to provide closeness for those on the inside. They do this by pretending that the relationships of those inside the clique are closer, more special, and more important than they really are. Relationships need to have limits. Parents need to help children find the right limits on cliquish friendships. Any friendship that harms others needs to be examined. Parents should limit friendships that become too exclusive. Talk with your child and require her to sit with others, have others over for a play date. While it is true that your child might like some people because they have common interests, make sure that your child has a number of friends and that their friendship recognize the right level of distance and exclusivity.
- Close Friendships Don't Give You a Pass on Morality or Manners
Cliques are built on exclusivity. "We are in; you are out!" This exclusivity is the result of losing a sense of the proper limits of friendship. When these limits are lost, cruelty toward others and a general lack of kindness can result. People in cliques can act and speak thoughtlessly attempting to guard the exclusivity and closeness of the clique. If your child is on the inside of the clique, help them to see how this kind of exclusionary language and action can badly harm others. If they have damaged others, require them to apologize, ask forgiveness, and stop the harsh words. If your daughter is on the outside, watch the situation closely. Your daughter might need to be strong enough to stop worrying about the clique, but you might need to step in. Talk with their teacher or an adult that oversees them during the time when the cliquish behavior is occurring. Make sure that you are seeing the behavior correctly (your child could be overly sensitive or they could have a desire to be the center of attention). Give the teacher some time to correct it, but follow up with the teacher if the behavior does not change.
- What Not To DoI am the father of four daughters. We have a lot of experience with relational girls and the cliques that follow them around. From experience, here are a few things NOT to do: I have seen parents train their children to call cliquish people out publicly (in front of class even)! I have seen parents conduct gossip campaigns against students who they perceived as cliquish. These campaigns are often much worse than any of the behavior that the clique is perpetrating. Do NOT do this!
- What To Do: Use The Clique Destroyer Sentence!We have found, however, that there is one sentence that can let the air out of any clique. It must be said by someone in the clique. It is: "If she can't come, I won't go." Voila! Clique destroyed. We happened upon this sentence when our daughters ran into a clique. One was invited in; the other was not. After a few weeks of exclusion, the daughter on the outside blew up emotionally. We sat the "inside" girl down and explained how much the behavior had hurt her sister. We reminded her of what it felt like to be on the outside. We asked her, "What do you think you should do?" As we wrestled with it, and prayed about it, we came up with the sentence: "If she can't go, I won't go." This one sentence uttered from the inside blows the lid off the clique. It takes courage to say, but it almost always works.
Friendship is one of God's greatest gifts! In a fallen and broken world, however, even friendship can lead to pain, grief, and harm. Encourage your daughters to let the light and air into their relationships. Encourage them to stand up for the friendless, the mistreated, and the awkward. Encourage them to say: "If she can't come, I won't go."