Want to help your fourth-grader with their relationship skills? Here are some tips that experts suggest.
Use the "sandwich" technique
Use the “sandwich” technique. Author and consultant Faye de Muyshondt suggests employing this technique when teaching your child how to approach certain conversations, especially when providing feedback or addressing an issue. In basic terms, this method involves “sandwiching” the feedback or problem in between a compliment and a positive conclusion. For example, if your child feels that a friend treated them unkindly, your child could start with a positive comment like, “I value your friendship, and you’re always so nice to me,” then continuing with, “The other day when we were at lunch, you yelled at me and that made me sad.” This can be followed with, “I really want to keep being friends, so next time, just tell me if I’m doing something that bothers you and we can fix it before we start yelling at each other.”
Practice active listening with your child
Role-playing can be an effective way to help your child learn how to be a respectful listener. Begin by asking your child what they did this weekend, and as they are talking, make sure to fidget around and not give them eye contact. Once they are done, tell them to describe your body language and ask them how it felt when you were not listening to them. After this, you can model what active listening looks like, and ask them to practice listening to you. When they are done, give them feedback like, “You made really good eye contact with me and you seemed to be very interested in what I had to say.” Make sure to talk to them about why active listening is important, and help them come up with strategies for how your child can be a better listener to others.
Talk to your child about "put-ups"
Before bedtime or while commuting to school, talk to your child about put-downs and how they hurt people. Ask them to give you examples of put-downs your child may have heard or said to others, and how your child thinks these insults made people feel. Tell them to spin those put-downs around and come up with put-ups that your child can share with others next time to make them feel better or more confident about themselves. You can also find examples of put-downs in the media. Use them as a jumping-off point for a discussion about how the situations could have been handled without making others feel unnecessarily hurt.
Read books about resisting peer pressure with your child
Books like Say Something or One of Us by Peggy Moss can help you spark a conversation about the importance of resisting negative pressures when trying to fit in with others. Once you have read the book, talk with your child about the forms that peer pressure can take (remember that peer pressure can be positive, too, if your child’s peers are steering their in the right direction), and ask your child what their friends do that makes them want to do good things. You can also ask them how it feels to be pressured in a bad way and how your child dealt with it. Work together to identify negative pressure and figure out ways your child can stand up for themselves the next time your child finds themselves in a negative peer interaction. This may also be a good time to discuss tobacco, alcohol, and drug prevention strategies, as it is never too early to teach your child how to avoid these influences.
To learn more about relationship tips for your child, check out our fourth-grade relationship skills page.
Parent Toolkit resources were developed by NBC News Learn with the help of subject-matter experts, including Faye de Muyshondt, socialsklz:-) for SUCCESS; Maurice Elias, Director, Rutgers Social-Emotional and Character Development Lab; and Jennifer Miller, Author, Confident Parents, Confident Kids.