How to Help Your Child Deal with Cliques

If your child needs help dealing with a clique, you should get more information from teachers and encourage your child to talk to you and other authority figures. Equip your child with conflict resolution and anger management techniques. Organize a conflict mediation session that includes parents, teachers, and other stakeholders if necessary. Your child might also need help dealing with a clique they are in. Help your child avoid feeling trapped or constrained by their clique by encouraging them to extend their peer group and take a leadership role within the clique.


EditExploring the World of Cliques

  1. Find out more about the clique. If your child is in a clique, find out who else is in it. Ask your child, “Who is in your group of friends?” Get as much information as possible. Other questions you might have include:[1]
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    • Is there a clique leader?
    • How long have you been participating in the clique?
    • What do you and your clique do together?
  2. Don’t automatically reject your child being in a clique. It is normal and natural for children to show preferences for friends or certain types of other people with whom they get along. Cliques can help your child develop a sense of self-worth and self-confidence. In a clique of friends, your child may feel protected and accepted for who they are.[2]
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    • Understand that your child wants to feel accepted. A clique is often the solution to this predicament.[3]
  3. Help your child extend their peer group. If your child only spends time with their clique, their ability to make new friends might suffer, and they will not be exposed to as diverse a range of attitudes and lifestyles as possible. They might also feel more obligated to engage in cliquish behavior when they don’t have any friends outside their clique.[4]
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    • To help your child branch out and meet all the friends they possibly can, encourage your child to sign up for various extracurricular activities such as sports, plays, chess or game clubs, and so on.
    • For instance, you could help your child enlist in community-sponsored athletic programs. Contact your local community activity board or recreational department for more information about children’s programs in your area.
  4. Support your child’s individuality. Cliques – for good or ill – tend to impose a conformity of dress, attitude, or behavior on their members. In order to help your child maintain their sense of self, provide positive feedback to your child on a regular basis. For instance, you could say to your child:[5]
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    • “I like you just the way you are.”
    • ”It’s okay for you to do things differently than other people do.”[6]
    • ”I like when you are kind and polite to others.”
  5. Encourage your child to use their leadership skills for good. If your child is the clique leader – or even if they are not – you should help them find a voice in the clique, especially if you suspect that they might be led astray by a bad clique leader. For instance, you could tell your child, “Your friends in the clique will admire you for having the courage to do the right thing and treat others kindly.”[7]
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    • Help your child empathize with others by reminding them of the time before they were surrounded by a clique, or encouraging them to do volunteer work or even just to do kind things for friends and family members as a way to foster compassion. This will help your child see themselves in others who do not currently have a clique, and make your child more inclined to treat others kindly.
  6. Keep an eye out for bullying. Cliques are often a locus for bullying behavior. Children within the clique might encourage and reinforce each other’s bullying. Decide what consequences you think would be appropriate as punishment for bullying behaviors. Be sure to keep an eye out for this behavior, which may include:[8]
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    • verbal threats or name-calling
    • physical attacks (kicking, pushing, hitting)
    • taunting (making faces or obscene gestures)
    • starting rumors
  7. Discourage your child from participating if necessary. People often conform to the behaviors and attitudes of those around them. If your child is getting involved with other children who could have a negative influence on them, or if you have evidence that your child is actually engaging in negative behaviors, discourage them from spending time with the clique.[9]
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    • Ideally, you will never have to discourage your child from spending time with a particular individual or a clique of friends. Make sure to have discussions about what makes someone a good person and a good friend. This will better enable your child to decide for themselves when they meet people.
    • However, if your child’s clique is getting them in trouble, you might have to ask them to find new friends.
    • There are many ways to discourage your child from participating in the clique. For instance, you could say, “I’d feel more comfortable if you didn’t spend time with that group of friends.”
    • Get third parties involved, too, such as faith leaders, school guidance counselors, or trusted family friends.[10] Tell them about your child’s clique and recruit them into your effort to discourage your child from participating in the clique.
    • If your child is unresponsive to your initial overtures in discouraging them, take a more authoritative stance. Say, “I forbid you from spending time with that group of friends” or inform them that you will be revoking certain privileges until they stop spending time with the clique.

EditWorking Through Problems

  1. Look for signs that your child is struggling with cliques. You might not realize that your child is experiencing conflict with a clique. They might be embarrassed by the way they’re being treated, or feel that they can handle it on their own. However, you can identify a problem by looking for signs that your child is struggling with cliques. If you feel that things have gotten severe, especially if they have panic attacks or thoughts of self-harm, consult a mental health professional. Others things to watch for include:[11]
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    • sadness or depression
    • trouble getting to sleep[12]
    • reluctance to attend school
    • disinterest in certain activities that they previously had an interest in
  2. Talk to your child about their experience with a clique. Once you’ve identified signs that your child is suffering at the hands of a clique, confirm the problem by asking, “Do you need help dealing with a group of mean children?” Alternately, you might receive firsthand reports from your child that they are, in fact, struggling to deal with a clique. In either case, find out more about their experience.[13]
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    • Ask, for instance, “What does the clique do to you?” They might reply that they are being pushed, taunted, or made fun of.
    • Listen attentively and make eye contact with the child to show you are interested in them and their feelings.
    • Ask relevant follow-up questions like, “How did that make you feel?” or “What happened then?”
    • Let your child know that you’re always available to talk by saying, “I am always here if you want to share more of your feelings.” Also, teach them ways they can respond to the bullies or various taunts. Check in with them and invite them to talk to you whenever they need to find out what is working and what is not. You can also ask if there is anything specific they’d like you to do to help.
  3. Talk to your child’s teacher or administrator. If your child is dealing with a bully in a particular class, contact the teacher in the class. The teacher might be able to offer more information, and should be eager to hear more about your child’s experience. With your child’s teacher alerted to the situation, the clique will be less likely to target your child.[14]
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    • Work with your child’s teacher to redress the clique’s unfair bullying.
    • For instance, encourage staff at your child’s school to develop a school-wide intervention program to prevent bullying behavior by cliques or individuals. This program should include counseling for bullies and victims, staff training on how to identify and resolve bullying, and inclusion of parents in how to prevent bullying in their kids.
  4. Contact the parents of the kids in the clique. Your child will have a hard time dealing with a clique on their own, and there is only so much you can do as a parent. In addition to teachers and relevant school staff, contact the parents of the other children in the clique. With the parents of the kids in the clique on board, the clique can issue an apology to your child and begin adopting more appropriate behavior.[15]
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    • Keep in mind that this approach can backfire, especially with teenagers, and the bully may take things out on your child.

EditEmpowering Your Child

  1. Teach your child conflict resolution techniques. Even if teachers and staff implement programs to end bullying by cliques, your child might still face bullying from other cliques later in life, or if they move to a new school. Teach your child some simple anger management practices, such as:[16]
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    • Stopping as soon as they feel angry.[17] They might be able to do this by utilizing a “stop” motion when they begin feeling anger. For instance, demonstrate a stop motion for your child that involves placing their hand directly in front of their face with the fingers pointed up and pushing the hand straight out in front of them. Such a motion can focus the energy and attention on stopping feelings of anger.
    • Giving themselves space to think. This might mean leaving the space where they feel they are being threatened or bullied by the clique.
    • Breathing deeply. Encourage your child to close their eyes once they are in a place where they can think. Instruct them to breathe in through their nose for three seconds, then out through their mouth for five seconds, repeating as needed.
    • Analyzing the situation. Your child should think back on what happened during their interaction with the clique. Tell your child, “Look at the situation as you would if you were a spectator. Be sure that you did not cause the conflict.”
    • Talking with someone you trust. Talking things through with someone can also help you to get some perspective and feedback.
  2. Help your child engage in conflict resolution. The conflict resolution process involves your child and the clique they are in conflict with engaging in dialogue. Through this dialogue, the clique is compelled to cease tormenting your child.[18]
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    • For instance, help your child express themselves to the clique they wish to deal with in an appropriate way. Instead of using blaming language and “you” statements (in the form of, “You are rotten”), instruct your child to use “I” statements (in the form of “I don’t like being pushed”).
    • Encourage your child to focus on the behavior, not the person in the clique who is acting badly.[19] Instruct your child, in other words, to describe the behavior that they don’t appreciate and avoid name-calling or essentializing the people in the clique.
    • You can also try role-playing the situation with your child a few times to help them find a good way to respond. Remind them that they cannot control what other people do, but they can control how they respond.
  3. Help your child engage in conflict mediation. The conflict mediation process involves bringing together two parties, at least one of which has a grievance regarding the other, and helping them understand each other. In your child’s case, you or a third party may have to collect all the members of the clique that is tormenting your child. If you (along with parents of those in the clique and/or teachers) are engaged in the conflict resolution process, you should:[20]
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    • Set the ground rules. Once your child and the clique that harasses them are in conversation, there should be no disrespect or name-calling.[21]
    • Both sides should get a chance to talk about what happened from their point of view. Disallow interruptions when someone is talking.
    • Help the clique and your child see that they would both be better off if they did not fight. Show them, for instance, that they have common interests like using school time as a place to learn and study, and not a place to fight.
    • Encourage your child and the clique to develop options for how to move forward. Help them evaluate the best option and arrive at an agreement they can all agree to.
    • In the interest of maintaining a neutral mediator, you might not be allowed to participate in the conflict resolution process. It is possible that only school staff and administrators will be allowed in the conflict resolution process.
  4. Help your child avoid being targeted by cliques. Kids are often targeted by cliques because their style of dress or their hygiene is poor. Encourage your child to engage in good hygiene – especially if they are teens or tweens and might need extra reminders. Remind them, if necessary, to wash their clothes regularly, brush their teeth, and shower.[22]
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    • Stay attentive to your child’s wardrobe. If they haven’t gotten new clothes in a while, they might have outgrown their old clothes. Invite them on a shopping trip so they can select some new clothes if you suspect they are in need (or if they tell you directly that they want new clothes).


  • Make sure your child is engaging in hobbies and activities that will help to build up their confidence and help them have fun. This will help to immunize them from criticism or bullying behavior from other people.

EditSources and Citations

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