There’s something magical about the fourth grade. Okay, maybe magical isn’t the right word. But I simply can’t find another word to sum up the incomprehensible value of this phase.
Early in my career, I remember having a conversation with Bobb Biehl that really solidified my belief in the importance of the fourth grade. Bobb was the president of a master-planning group. He had never worked with children. Instead, he worked with executives and CEOs. The first time Bobb and I sat down to have a conversation about business and leadership, he began with this question: “Can you tell me about what happened when you were in the fourth grade?”
I was a little taken aback. It certainly wasn’t the question I had been expecting. But then Bobb went on to say that the fourth grade is the most deciding time in a person’s life.
Throughout the rest of my career, I’ve been fascinated by the significance of the fourth grade. If you ask most adults to recall a memory from childhood, to reach back to their earliest long-term memory, the vast majority will tell you something that happened in the fourth grade.
Related Resource: Parenting Your Fourth Grader
Since I work in sports, I often ask grown men this question: “When you played football in the fourth grade, which position did you play?” The ironic thing to me is that most men answer that question by giving me a position. In truth, most fourth grade teams rotate players so everyone will play all positions. But what a person remembers playing is often an indication of how they felt about their value to the team.
What a kid believes about themselves in the fourth-grade matters. It leaves a lasting memory—one that will form a long-term belief about how they see themselves.
Later, Bobb and I would write the book Every Child Is a Winner, where we worked to highlight the potential of this phase. We included a section to explain how most children grow from an early belief that “everybody is just like me,” into the realization that “hey, everybody is not just like me,” and finally (around the fourth grade), into the discovery that “there’s nobody just like me.”
The troubling thing about this fourth-grade realization is that it comes with a whole lot of other questions. Fourth graders often wonder: “Is something wrong with me?” And, unless a fourth grader hears consistent voices to reaffirm their value, they may become stuck in this struggle.
Here’s where you, the parent, come in. Now is your moment to get on their level, eye-to-eye, and consistently communicate: “There is nobody just like you, and that’s just the way it should be. You are exactly the way God made you.”
It may seem like this isn’t the phase to emphasize your influence as a parent. After all, your fourth grader may be spending more and more time around their friends. Or they may be withdrawing and discovering they enjoy time alone working on a hobby or skill. It may seem as if you’re losing influence. But don’t be fooled. Your fourth grader needs you as much as ever.
There will never be another year quite like this one. Don’t let it rush past you. And resist the temptation to hurry forward into the next phase. Simply sink into fourth grade and make the most of this remarkably unique and formative phase.
Caz McCaslin is the Founder and President of Upward Sports.