“I’ve been thinking about popularity,” said my eleven-year-old, walking into the kitchen last night.
“Oh?” I stopped cleaning dishes and looked at her.
“Basically, there are three things you need to do to be popular: Get good grades. Be kind. And smell nice.”
As I often do, I paused for a moment, then said, “Let’s talk about this for a minute.”
Her seemingly “out of the blue” thoughts on “how to be popular” caught me off guard because she’s never been overly concerned with acceptance from her peers.
And while most parents want their children to be well-liked, that is very different than focusing on and trying to achieve popularity.
I don’t want her to make decisions and alter her personality, style, or who she is at her core in order to have friends and be accepted.
So, I decided to dig into this a little deeper. I wanted to find out how and why she saw these things as criteria for popularity.
And I wanted to find out if she was overly concerned about being popular.
And once again, I was reminded of how kids have a way of serving up the simplest lessons with the biggest impact.
A Tween’s Criteria for Popularity
Get Good Grades = Do Your Best
To a kid, trying to get good grades can be summed up as doing your best.
“Good grades matter, because it means you’re trying hard.”
People like people who try hard.
We broke this one down a bit more because I wanted to understand her thoughts on getting good grades and being popular.
As I suspected, she simply meant “trying to do well at whatever it is you’re doing.”
I’m glad this is her view because I’ve told her a thousand times when it comes to grades or activities or even behavior, “just do your best.”
We live in a world where we need to be doing our best. The world needs your best.
Even if you are trying and fall short, just keep doing your best.
People will love you for it.
Be Kind = Treat People Right
Then we talked about being kind. This one is straightforward. Just be nice!
“Kindness matters, because people want to be around those that build them up and are nice.”
People like people who are friendly, welcoming, and make them feel good.
But we had to dive into this one, too.
Let’s look at this:
Being kind is always the right thing to do. But as grown-ups know, that can be hard.
I like to think I’m a kind person.
Until someone cuts me off in traffic or drives 65 in the left lane on the interstate.
When someone is short or rude, I take great offense and puff up, not stopping to consider what they might be going through.
I’m very kind, until it’s not convenient or easy.
And then, sometimes I’m not as kind as I should be.
But the world needs more kindness. So even though I fall short, I will try harder to be kind in the hard moments.
If you sometimes yell in your car or huff at rude cashiers, then I invite you to join me in trying harder to be kind.
On the flip side, don’t go crazy with kindness so much that you fall into people-pleasing behavior.
Being kind is one thing. But doing things you don’t want to do or that aren’t in your best interest for the sake of being kind isn’t healthy or good for anyone.
Be kind for the right reasons. Not to gain popularity.
Smell Nice = Smell Nice
“Smelling nice matters, because, you know, people like people who smell good.”
No clarification needed.
You know…..take showers. Wear some smell good type of product. Don’t wear dirty socks. These things are universal and apply to everyone. There is no big “aha” or epiphany here.
Just don’t smell bad. That’s sage advice for anyone at any age.
Most stinkers aren’t popular. That’s just the cold hard truth.
Popularity is Being Liked and Accepted for Who You Are
I don’t want my daughter to be overly concerned about being popular.
But then, I have to remember that on some level, most of us do care about being well-liked.
As humans, we want to be seen, heard, and accepted. That’s normal.
These are things to aspire to every day because we want to be better people.
So ultimately, she was on point. It’s a simple message, but we can apply it every day.
Do your best. Be kind. And yes, smell good.
Eleven-year-olds really are pretty smart, aren’t they?