There are the popular girls and there are the “popular” girls

Uggghhhh, here we go. So lately Zoey has started using the word “popular.” I mean I always knew it would come up at some point, but I didn’t know it’d be in the 4th grade.

ZOEY: She’s one of the popular girls, Mom.

ME: The popular girls? What does that mean?

ZOEY: Okay, so there are the popular girls and then there are the “popular” girls.

ME: What’s the difference?

ZOEY: Well, some girls are popular because they are really nice and everyone wants to be friends with them. And some girls are just “popular.” (she makes exaggerated quotation marks with her fingers)

ME: Who decides they’re “popular?”

ZOEY: Ummm, everyone just knows.

ME: Okayyy. Which one are you?

ZOEY: Neither.

ME: You’re not popular because you’re really nice?

(Zoey sits there thinking for a moment)

ZOEY: I only have like seven friends.

ME: Seven? That’s a great number! I’d rather have seven great friends than just a lot of so-so friends.

ZOEY: I’m happy with it.

ME: That’s all that matters. Zoey, try not to pay attention to any of that stupid popular “popular” stuff.

ZOEY: I know.

ME: And besides, can we stop labeling people things like popular? Like maybe we can rename the people who have a lot of friends because they’re really nice and call them something better.

ZOEY: Like what?

ME: Hmmm, let’s think. What if we call them “the Friendlys?”

ZOEY: The Friendlys (thinking it over)? Yeah, I like that!

And so we’ve started calling them the Friendlys in our house, which makes me much happier. 

As much as I don’t want Zoey to even think about this crap, I know she will. It’s just a part of getting older. But I’m trying so hard to teach her that the social hierarchy at school isn’t actually a ladder with people on top.


I’m trying to teach her that there are just some people who think they’re on top and they’ll try to make everyone believe that. Don’t believe the hype. It doesn’t matter if you’re “popular,” a Friendly, a bookworm, a jock, a kid who plays foursquare, chess, soccer, an instrument or something else.

ME: There’s only one thing that matters, Zoey.

ZOEY: What?

ME: That you find the people who make you happy.

Maybe they’re in one group, or maybe they’re in a few groups. Maybe they’re two people, or maybe they’re fifteen. Surround yourself with the people who make you happy, stay away from the ones who don’t. And if you do this, everything else will fall into place. Well, a lot of it will.

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There are 7 comments for this article
  1. Kate at 11:11 am

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! My oldest is also in fourth grade and we’re really struggling with social stuff. Girls that have been her friends since kindergarten are becoming “mean girls” and she’s not sure how to deal with it. She goes to a very small school so she feels like she doesn’t have a lot of options when it comes to who she’s going to spend time with. I keep telling her to continue being the kind, lovely person she is and only be friends with those that make her happy. It’s hard to walk away from friends, though. And she comes home with a lot of bottled up anger over the things that these girls are doing and saying. She often speaks up to them, but it just makes her more of a target so she’s backing down or avoiding them more and more. UGH! I’m so heartbroken and at such a loss. Anyway, it’s always nice to hear that we’re not alone (even if I wish none of us were dealing with this).

    • BabySideburns at 11:16 am

      We’re never alone. We might feel like we are, but if there’s one thing writing this blog ha taught me it’s that there are soooooo many people dealing with exactly the same problem. Misery loves company I guess so at least we’re in this together. I hope your daughter keeps walking away from those people and she’ll find one or two girls who feel the same way she does.

    • Nikki G at 1:37 pm

      If possible, try to get your daughter involved in clubs, groups, or community activities so she has a chance to meet girls outside of her school/class. My niece had these same issues and found her best friend in a travel softball league (sports are her “thing”). So, now that she has a true best friend, she doesn’t seem to care about the mean girls at school. She spends time video chatting and weekend sleep-overs with her BFF, even though they are no longer on the same team. Seeing that there are more options for friends than just the same kids they see at school so frequently is important and shows them that there’s more to life than social hierarchies at school!

      I hope this helps!

  2. Katie at 7:09 pm

    My 10 year old daughter is dealing with something similar. She is growing apart from her very best friend because her friend hangs around with another girl who is insufferable. She has some other “sort-of” friends but they hang with the “popular” girls. My daughter said “I don’t know why people like to hang around them, they aren’t very nice” to which I replied “those people will figure that out in high school; you are years ahead of them!” she said “that seems like a long time for them to figure that out.” haha. yep, as soon as the “popular” kids start turning on their followers, they will figure it out. I told her the most important thing is for her to be nice to everyone, but that she doesn’t have to be friends with those kids. It’s a hard age! I love this blog post, you are doing a great job!

    • BabySideburns at 8:32 am

      Thanks Katie! I hope all these girls figure it out sooner rather than later, but bot likely! I know grown women who are still like this. Oy vey!

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