When it comes to a well-rounded fourth grader, good manners rank up there with mastering cursive writing. And it's not about walking with books on their heads, it's about mature communication skills and thoughtful actions. That's according to manners and education expert Cindy Post Senning from the Emily Post Institute, who believes manners should be taught consistently throughout childhood, building in complexity—just like math and language arts. Here's what Post has to say about teaching your fourth grader the five pillars of etiquette:

  • Teach Values: Setting consistent standards and consequences is key to reinforcing values. Post says children often test-drive bad behaviors at home to see how their parents will react. So next time your son uses that four-letter word, don't get flustered. Telling him “We don't use that word” will get the point across.
  • Encourage R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Remember to lead by example. It's hard to get kids to respect their teachers when parents are bad-mouthing them at home. So zip that lip. It's important for parents to show that they respect their children's educational experience and realize that managing a school, or a classroom, can be challenging.
  • Work on Communication: By fourth grade, introductions should be more formal. Your child should be able to introduce their friends and teachers to you with a little flair. For example, “Mom, this is Coach Brannon. Remember I told you she helped me with my lay-ups?”
  • Groom Good Table Manners: Fourth graders understand their likes and dislikes with a bit more conviction than their younger counterparts. Post suggests parents use this to promote good behavior at the table. When it comes to chewing with mouths open, Post says, “Most kids agree that eating is kind of a gross activity to watch. Who wants to look at you chewing your food? Explain to your children that by closing their mouths you are making it as least gross as it can be.” If kids still don't get the message, Post suggests making it visual by putting a mirror in front of them at the dinner table.
  • Get Out-and-About: Though your child is becoming more independent, that doesn't mean he no longer needs your support. Don’t ask for permission to attend your children’s events, Post says. At this age they’ll most likely try to act cool and tell you not to bother. Bother. Don’t give them the option of saying no. When your daughter sees you in the bleachers during her first home game, it will mean more than she first realized. What does this have to do with manners? Everything. Knowing you are cared for and respected makes you want to show care and respect--and that's what manners are all about.