Mommy Politics

How to Help Your Teens Avoid Cliques

We are painfully aware of the problems associated with teen cliques. We are less likely to talk about the tough topic of popular moms and mommy cliques. We think that it's time. We have been gathering information from mothers and teens and would like to share some of the comments that we've heard.

 A mom tells her daughter that the other kids would like her more if she drinks "just a little." This 16 year old had decided that she doesn't want to drink alcohol. The mother refers to her own group of popular mothers/friends who all drink.

 A mother tells the other mothers that her daughter must select her friends carefully. She appears to support the idea that if her daughter befriends the "wrong" girls then her acceptance by a popular group will be less likely.

 The mother in a family that has recently moved to a new city attempts to befriend the mothers of the "exclusive" girls so that her own daughter is more likely to be accepted into their daughters' clique.

 A group of mothers take photos of their girls going to the prom and exclude some girls from being in the pictures. The moms stick together and apparently don't want their daughters' photos "ruined."

 We call ourselves the "fancy five" a mother says of her group of friends. Is it any surprise then when her own daughter tells another girl to leave the lunch table and sit elsewhere?

 A group of mothers form a small crowd to watch a softball game. A woman goes over to them in what appears to be an attempt to join them. She smiles and says hello. They avoid eye contact with her and continue speaking. Oh dear!

In many instances mothers encourage their teenage girls to be inclusive, kind, and accepting of others. There is, however, a subgroup of mothers who both model and encourage exclusivity and cliquey-behavior.

How is a sensitive and empathic mother to handle this? We offer some suggestions.

 When encountering these groups model politeness and graciousness in spite of their behavior. There is a reason that road is called the "high road."

 If your daughter points out mothers "behaving cliquey" then both acknowledge and validate her. There is no need, though, to call your daughter's attention to this behavior. You don't want to inadvertently insult one of her friend's mothers. Teens not only dislike when you criticize their friends but they also dislike when you criticize their friends' parents.

 Try NOT to get involved in the politics of mommy cliques. Your teens will appreciate this. Do your own thing and you will stay out of trouble!

 Take a look at yourself. Are you part of a clique? Do you give your teen the message that popularity is the be all and end all?

 Remember that people often do things in groups that they wouldn't do if they were alone. Does your own behavior change for the worse when you are in a group? Think about it. Friends should bring out the best in you!


Barbara Greenberg, PhD, and Jennifer Powell-Lunder, PsyD, are clinical psychologists. They are co-authors of Teenage as a Second Language-A Parents Guide to Becoming Bilingual. They are the creators of, an interactional website to help parents learn to speak teenage.