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 her unkindly, she 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.” For more ideas on what to say, visit our conversation starters guide.
Role-playing can be an effective way to help your child learn how to be a respectful listener. Begin by asking her what she did this weekend, and as she is talking, make sure to fidget around and not give her eye contact. Once she is done, tell her to describe your body language and ask her how it felt when you were not listening to her. After this you can model what active listening looks like, and ask her to practice listening to you. When she is done, give her 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 her about why active listening is important, and help her come up with strategies for how she can be a better listener to others.
Before bedtime or while commuting to school, talk to your child about put-downs and how they hurt people. Ask her to give you examples of put-downs she may have heard or said to others, and how she thinks these insults made people feel. Tell her to spin those put-downs around and come up with put-ups that she 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.
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 her in the right direction), and ask your child what her friends do that makes her want to do good things. You can also ask her how it feels to be pressured in a bad way and how she dealt with it. Work together to identify negative pressure and figure out ways she can stand up for herself the next time she finds herself 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. For more age-appropriate book examples, see our reading list.