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The Voice of the Black Community

Life and Religion

Allure of popularity
Focus kid's energy on positive choices, outcomes
Published Thursday, October 4, 2012 9:48 am
by Wesley Carter

My seventh-grade daughter has begun to act up in school in an attempt to be popular. How can I refocus her energies?

Wesley Carter D.M.

The need for attention is at the core of every human being. We are social creatures, and as such, we need varying degrees of interaction and validation.  While it is totally normal for your daughter to aspire to be the center of attention, her methods indicate that she may be struggling with feelings of insecurity.

In many of America’s classrooms, only those students who excel or misbehave get attention. The average student is often ignored. Your daughter may have figured this out and felt ill-equipped to excel, leaving her with misbehavior as the only attainable strategy to get attention.

Strategic educators invest time and attention into moving an average student along the continuum to becoming a high achieving student. Ideally, educators should recognize and reward desired behaviors at twice the rate they point out negative behaviors. It often takes a supportive parent or an engaged principal to remind teachers to stay engaged with the entire class.

If your daughter’s pediatrician rules out medical reasons for her recent behavior, schedule a parent–teacher conference to engage her teachers in an intervention strategy.  Find out if your daughter is making her own choices or whether she is being manipulated or bullied to misbehave. Partner with school authorities if other students are behind the recent misbehavior.

Beware of negative associations. If your daughter’s social circle is not positive, get her engaged in your local church and other positive organizations, such as, the Girl Scouts, the YMCA, or the Boys and Girls Club. The key is to connect her in organizations that promote justice, partnership, service, and leadership.

If you determine that her misbehavior was born from a genuine desire to differentiate herself and establish a unique persona that invites attention and admiration, you can help her. There are a few strategies that will help your daughter grow into a leader and a positive role model for others struggling with a similar dilemma.

Teachers typically welcome students willing to help in the classroom, run errands, and tutor others. Encourage your daughter to investigate positive ways to get attention at school. Refer her to the school’s counseling department to leverage the expertise of the school’s guidance counselors. These trained professionals are ready and willing to help students develop a scholarly identity.

Discuss potential leadership opportunities at school, in the community, and at your local church. Getting engaged in social, academic, and sports organizations will provide your daughter with an opportunity to constructively get attention.  Encourage her to get involved in Student Government or other school-sanctioned organizations.

Assuming leadership roles provides students with developmental opportunities and positions them to positively influence others. Engage tutors to help her increase mastery of school content. Increasing her competence will help her develop confidence and recognition.

Help your daughter find her voice. Ask her opinion on matters affecting your family, her schoolwork, your community, and the country. Show her how to do the pre-work of learning about issues. As she becomes more knowledgeable of the world around her, she will become more confortable speaking up.  Caution her to avoid speaking negatively about herself or others.

Gratitude exercises tend to distract individuals from acting inappropriately.  Express gratitude for all of your blessings and discuss the concept of gratitude with your daughter.  Challenge her to create a 30-60 second commercial about all of her blessings. Create one of your own to demonstrate how much you all have to be thankful for.   

Identify a service project to give your family an activity that will enable you all to turn your focus outward. As your daughter begins to recognize all of the ways that she can positively affect the lives of those around her, she will be less inclined to resort to negative tactics to get attention.

Remind your daughter of your undying support for her development. Ensure that she understands her responsibility to be a positive reflection of your family’s values. If your daughter’s behavior does not improve within 2-3 weeks, seek professional help. You may find that there are other issues influencing her behavior.

Wesley Carter D.M. is founder and CEO of Kids by Carter. Submit your questions to wesley@kidsbycarter.com Visit www.kidsbycarter.com and follow on Twitter @kidsbydrcarter.


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