Where's Your Child At In The Primary School Pecking Order? | Parenting Controversy

Where’s Your Child At In The Primary School Pecking Order?

By Cecilia On September 15, 2011 Under Parenting Controversy - Private

pecking orderAnd here I was thinking that we were living in a classless society. Apparently not… 

A few weeks ago, I asked my daughter who she had played with that day at school and she shocked me with this reply:

"Middle class girls."

Me: Ummmm, pardon?

Here's how the rest of the conversation went…

J: "There's a pecking order at school and I'm middle class."

Me: "Oh, really. What makes you middle class?"

She then proceeded to rattle off the names of the "popular" girls, followed by those deemed to be at the bottom of the pecking order.

Me: "Who made all this up?"

J: "I don't know, that's just how it is."

Me: "So, are you happy being middle class?"

J: "Yeah, the popular girls are boring. They don't play, they just wander around at lunch time."

Me: "That all sounds a bit silly to me. Can't you just be friends with everyone."

J: "No, you can't be friends with the popular girls if you aren't one of them."

Me: "Who says they're the popular girls anyway?"

J: "They just are. There's a big group of them."

Me: "Are they mean to you?"

J: "No, they just don't take any notice of me."

Me: "Whatever, as long as you have some nice school friends to play with."

J: "I do." 

pecking orderYou expect this kind of philosophy to permeate high school peer groups, but when did talk of a pecking order hit primary school playgrounds? When did social status become a concern for our young chicks?

Should we parents now be stressing about where our seven year-old sits on the social ladder?

Has your child ever mentioned a school pecking order? If they haven't actually vocalised it, do you see the existence of a pecking order among the kids at your child's school? If your child admitted to being below middle class in the school social order, would you see this as cause for concern or would you brush it off as nonsense?

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. Dr. G
    September 15, 2011
    9:00 am

    I know this seems disheartening, and for those of us who felt socially angry or frustrated as kids we certainly hoped our kids would be spared the same. The truth is that this kind of strict social hierarchy dominates in 3rd – 7th grade. By high school groups are by topic of interest, not such a strong “pecking order.” By then most kids have found a voice and find the social stuff to be somewhat less frustrating than in middle school.

    My son does talk about this though he calls it a “target.” He explained to me at the end of third grade that there is one boy who bosses everyone, he is the center. He has 3 boys that do whatever he says and go wherever he goes. Then there is the ring outside that – they get to play sports and sit with him, but have to laugh at whatever he says and do whatever he requires. Next ring, boys who play sports and are good so the boy values them, but not willing to do whatever he says so sometimes he will ignore one of these boys to get him back, or make fun of him but these boys tend not to care and so don’t bear the brunt. Outside there? The ring of boys who don’t play sports and don’t have any positive engagement with the “center” boys. Just a little perspective for those of us who thought this was a “girl” issue only.

    • Cecilia
      September 16, 2011
      4:57 pm

      Thank you for your very interesting comment. It’s fascinating to hear how the social order works in the world of boys. Indeed, many people assume it’s a girls-only issue. Clearly not.

      I’m looking forward to reaching the “topic of interest” phase now. :)

  2. Kate F.
    September 16, 2011
    11:10 am

    This also disturbs me. My daughter is in 3rd Grade… I haven’t heard her mention anything about “popular girls” yet… although I might also mention she tends to let things roll off her shoulders a little more than, say, myself :)

    This is really a concern of mine though… and I am scared for it to begin. Our new neighbor is in 7th grade and I know has some issues with “popular girls.” But 7th grade and elementary seem like a big difference… Uck! I don’t want to even think about dealing with this!
    Kate F. recently posted..A Fan Letter to My ChildrenMy Profile

    • Cecilia
      September 16, 2011
      4:52 pm

      I didn’t expect to be dealing with this so young either. Now I’m terrified of how bad the teenage years are (probably) going to be!

  3. Lala
    September 22, 2011
    4:04 pm

    I agree with everything your first commentator, Dr. G., said – interesting and insightful comment!

    My first daughter is all grown up and out of the house, so I was already aware of the “pecking order” you speak of. So glad to hear this phenomenon is still alive and well *insert sarcasm font* ;-)

    I actually don’t think this kind of childhood elitism ever DOES stops. I don’t know if it gets worse with each passing generation or just carries on, perhaps in a different manner, but underneath it’s the same beast.

    I work with a group of women and there is a reason we snidely refer to it as “the chicken coop”.

    When my first daughter was growing up I remember very clearly how brutal middle school aged girls, in particular, could be. Not only is there a pecking order, but wow those little chicklets can turn on each other at the drop of a hat, too! Either that, or like a herd of gazelles (or I guess a herd of chickens) the whole lot of them abruptly change direction en masse and without rhyme or reason start pecking at someone new who had previously gone unnoticed.

    Thankfully my daughter made it through school with her self-esteem relatively intact. Now, however, I have two young children just beginning to move through the public school system like freshly picked fruit on a factory conveyer belt. Hopefully the end product still maintains some of its wholesome goodness. I don’t know though, when the classic “schoolyard bully” now has the extremely influential and ubiquitous internet to aid in all his or her evildoings. Kids who are even slightly “different” or who suddenly become the target of that sometimes fickle pecking order don’t stand a chance.

    That said, maybe I am wrong when I suggest the pecking order isn’t new or any worse than it was in years gone by. I forgot about the internet! (which is sort of stupid since I am on said internet at this very moment – it is so much a part of my life that apparently I’ve become habituated to it like white noise.

    Geesh – this is a loooong “comment”! Sorry for getting carried away (probably again because I’m pretty sure I’ve commented on your blog before *memory isn’t great*), but as always you write such provocative posts that I can’t help myself!

    Lala :-)
    Lala recently posted..I was almost killed by garbageMy Profile

    • Cecilia
      September 22, 2011
      10:11 pm

      Ugh, I hadn’t even considered cyber-bullying yet.

      Good luck with your freshly picked fruit on a factory conveyer belt – (unfortunately) it’s bound to be a bumpy ride.

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