By third grade, children are more confident in settings away from their parents. Even though he's more independent, your third grader still needs you to guide him on some of the finer points in life, including good manners. Education and manners expert Cindy Post Senning says social graces should not be perceived as “extra add-ons”, to teach children after the math homework is done. Rather, etiquette, which requires respect and consideration, should be an integral part of a child’s learning.

In addition to being related to manners guru Emily Post herself, Cindy Post Senning co-authored a book on the subject of teaching manners by age called The Gift of Good Manners: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Respectful, Kind, Considerate Children (HarperResource, 2002). Post says third graders understand the basics of etiquette, and now need the guidance to apply them consistently. Here’s a cheat sheet for third grade manners:

Teach Values: By third grade, your child has accumulated enough experiences and observations to start using good old common sense. Post says parents should praise their children’s use of common sense, talk to their children about applying common sense to solve problems, let their children work out problems for themselves (as long as it doesn’t put them in danger), and finally, model common sense!

Groom R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Teach your child to be a considerate person by giving concrete examples. Children of this age are very good at seeing things through someone else's eyes, Post says. “When I do workshops with children I ask, ‘Suppose you’re running on the beach and there's a family sitting there and they just broke out their peanut butter sandwiches: What would be the considerate thing to do?’ They say ‘Don’t play next to them, so I don't kick sand in their food’.”

Encourage Communication: Parents should give their children the space to master written communication, Post says. Encourage letter writing and journaling. Let them open their own mail and never read their diaries.

Teach Table Manners: Encourage good posture at the table. This doesn’t necessarily mean no elbows, as long as they aren’t leaning all over the table. “Even Emily said elbows were sometimes okay because it helps you look more engaged,” Post says.

Get Out-and-About: Your third grader is starting to eat dinner at his friend’s house more often. Make sure you help him anticipate. Here are some good reminders to give your children:

  • If you’re visiting a house where grace is said at the table, wait for a closing, such as “Amen,” before you chow down! 
  • Whatever you do for dinner time chores at home, make sure to offer as a guest. Even if your host won’t let you clear the table, it’s nice to offer.
  • If staying overnight, make sure hygiene doesn’t lack--brush those teeth and wash those hands!

Third graders are starting to use good manners on their own. Parents shouldn't be too hard on their kids when they go off course, Post says. Manners are all about compassion, which is grounded in the idea that everyone makes mistakes. A forgiving adult raises a forgiving child, and that makes you twice blessed.