Nine-year-olds tend to separate from family and move towards establishing close relationships with peers. Because nine-year-olds are so socially aware, they zero in what other kids are doing. You’ll hear uncounted stories about their friends, what they’re doing, what they have and what they said.
Nine-Year-Olds: The Importance of Friendships
According to a study performed by the Journal of Adolescence, boys and girls who have friends perform better academically. It makes sense that kids benefit from positive peer (Note the word POSITIVE) relationships. But the study also highlights less obvious long term of positive peers. Researchers collected data from 1278 students 55% of them girls and 45% boys and found that positive friendships in the middle school years can predict long-term academic achievement and successful life adjustments at the adult age 24. Researchers say middle school is critical for social and emotional learning. The brain is changing puberty is taking place and school is where kids begin to discover the social world and how they fit in. It’s important for parents and teachers to learn ways to strengthen positive peer relationships and improve the likelihood of academic success.The ability to initiate and maintain close relationships is different from simply being liked and accepted by the group. To make friends children need to be able to carry out sophisticated social maneuvers, screening potential pals for certain positive qualities and making careful assessments about how much common ground they share. And in order to be a good friend, the kind that inspires loyalty and dedication, the child must be capable of being emotionally mature in ways that can be difficult even for adults.
“Even if, as a parent, you might look at your children’s friendships and think, ‘Oh, they just play together, how hard could that be?’ it is in fact hard work. They’re working very hard,” said Jeffrey Parker, an associate professor at the University of Alabama who specializes in childhood friendship. “There are lots of[kids] who are amusing, but it’s not the same as being able to work really well with someone.” Read more…
- Be an “emotion coach.”Everybody has negative emotions and selfish impulses. But to make friends, we need to keep these responses under control. Studies of Western kids suggest that children develop better emotional self-control when their parents talk to them about their feelings in a sympathetic, problem-solving way.
- Practice authoritative (not authoritarian) parenting Authoritarian parents discourage thoughtful discussion and attempt to control behavior through punishment. Kids raised this way are less likely to develop an internalized sense of right and wrong. And kids subjected to harsh punishments tend to show more hostility and aggression (Xu et al 2009; Chen and Rubin 1994). Authoritative parenting is also characterized by high levels of control, in that parents set limits and demand maturity from their kids. But authoritative parents relate to their kids with warmth, and attempt to shape behavior through rational discussion and explanation of the reasons for rules.
- Teach kids how to converse in a polite way. In their book, Children’s Friendship Training,Fred Frankel and Robert Myatt of the UCLA Semel Institute outline a formal program for grade school kids who have trouble making friends. One aspect of the program involves making conversation. Frankel and Myatt argue that kids need to practice the art of “trading information.”
Tips to pass onto kids include
- When starting a conversation with someone new, trade information about your “likes” and “dislikes.”
- Don’t be a conversation hog. When engaged in conversation, only answer the question at hand. Then give your partner a chance to talk, or ask a question of your own.Don’t be an interviewer.
- Don’t just ask questions. Offer information about yourself.Frankel and Myatt suggest that kids practice their conversational skills by making phone calls to each other. Read more
- Coach kids on how to cope with tricky social situations. Let’s get really specific. If you see some children playing and you want to join them, how do you go about it? Studies show that mothers who gave out the best advice were the moms with the most socially-adept kids.
What did the moms say?
- Before making your approach, watch what the other kids are doing.
- What can you do to fit in?Try joining the game by doing something relevant. For example, if kids are playing a restaurant game, see if you can become a new customer.
- Don’t be disruptive or critical or try to change the game.
- If the other kids don’t want you to join in, don’t try to force it. Just back off and find something else to do.
- Monitor kids’ social life Studies in a variety of cultures suggest that children are better off when their parents monitor their social activities (Parke et al 2002). This doesn’t mean hovering over kids or getting in the middle of every peer interaction (see below). But it does mean supervising where kids play and helping kids choose their friends. Research supports the idea of “bad influences.” In one study, primary school kids who named more aggressive peers as their friends were more likely to develop behavioral problems over time (Mrug et al 2004). And kids with behavior problems are more likely to get rejected by their peers.
- Watch out for bullying One exception to the rule “let kids work it out for themselves” is bullying. Bullying isn’t a healthy part of childhood, and expects agree that adults need to get involved. For more information, see these evidence-based articles on understanding and preventing bullying.
- Be aware of cultural differences Do the same rules of friendship apply in all cultures? Yes and no. Reciprocity isn’t just a human universal. And I’d expect most people to agree that irritable, disruptive, domineering, dishonest or selfish people aren’t desirable as friends. It’s also safe to say that kindness, helpfulness, sympathy, and loyalty are valued everywhere. parentingscience.com
As you can see, there’s a lot happening in your nine-year-olds life. In fact, I haven’t in touched on the other classic behavior nine-year-olds exhibit, INDEPENDENCE! Oh yeah, they want you to know they’re not babies anymore. I’ll tell you all about your, “9 going on 39-year-old” in my next post. Until then…