5 Ways to Support an Unpopular Child

If you have a child who isn’t exactly thriving in his or her social environments, Mighty Mommy shares 5 ways you can be supportive and help them feel better among their peers.

Cheryl Butler
Episode #459

Tip #3: Teach Them to Improve Their Likability

One of my kids is currently a junior in college and he was assigned to read Popular: The Power of Likability in a Status-Obsessed World by Mitch Prinstein. He enjoyed it and thought it had some great concepts about the topic that could be applied for both personal and business relationships. When I perused some articles written about the book, I found something I felt was a homerun—the author recommends focusing on improving your likability, not your popularity.

Prinstein writes that we should make "efforts to try and do things that are attentive to others' needs and to show people that we genuinely want to interact with them, not use them for our purposes. Because the more likable you are, the more advantage you have in every sphere. I mean, it's amazing how much we give the benefit of the doubt to likable people, and how much we are willing to do for them and how much we just naturally think good things about them."

Prinstein said likability is one of "the most valuable social commodities" in all aspects of society. "We should be investing in it as much as we invest in anything else that we hope will help our lives."

Focus on improving your likability, not your popularity.

Tip #4: Strive for Friendships

Help your child strive to enjoy friendships rather than be popular. Being unpopular does not mean you are unlikeable or unable to establish friendships.

In my episode on ways to help your child make friends and fit in, I referenced one of my five sons who was having difficulty connecting with any group at school because he wasn’t athletically inclined. His passion was (and still is) building things. He has an engineer’s brain and can construct nearly anything just by looking at the pieces and logically figuring out how it will work. His passion as a kid was Legos—the more complicated the set, the better.

I reached out to his teachers about his social struggles and they helped guide him towards kids that were likeminded. He then joined the Boy Scouts and now has a small, core group of friends that are getting ready to go to college next year, but will most likely be lifelong buddies.

Tip #5: Help Your Child Emotionally Grow

When kids understand their emotions and how to respond to others, they have an essential skill for life. This is known as emotional intelligence and indeed plays a big part in your child’s likability factor.

In my podcast on ways to raise a caring child, I shared several tips on how to teach children to be aware of how they treat others. My favorite tip was to teach empathy by example. We are our kids' biggest role models and teachers. They watch our every move and even if they don’t comment on what we are doing in front of them, they are quietly observing.

My example was dining out with my family in a very busy restaurant. The waitress brought out several wrong meals. After growing hungrier and waiting for an unusually long time to be served, receiving the wrong entrees added salt to our already open wounds. Instead of carping “What’s wrong with you—this isn’t what we ordered!,” you can model patience and understanding. Say, “Excuse me, my kids ordered chicken, not beef. Can you please take these back and exchange them for the right meals?” Then explain the situation to your kids and ask them to consider what it's like in someone else's shoes. "How do you think it would feel to be that busy at your job?”

When you use frustrating, real-life situations as teachable moments and model with empathy, your kids will follow suit.

How do you help your child have more positive social interactions? Share your thoughts in the comments section at quickanddirtytips.com/mighty-mommy, post your ideas on the Mighty Mommy Facebook page. or email me at mommy@quickanddirtytips.com. Visit my family-friendly boards at Pinterest.com/MightyMommyQDT

Image of parent supporting child © Shutterstock


About the Author

Cheryl Butler

Cheryl L. Butler is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. Call the Mighty Mommy listener line at 401-284-7575 to ask a parenting question. Your call could be featured on the show!

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