Third Grade Social Development

There's a lot going on for third graders. School's getting tougher, their bodies are growing quickly and they're establishing an identity for themselves. Perhaps their biggest focus, however, is their social life. Their friendships become closer and more complex. They look past the adults in their lives and they look forward to seeing their friends, many of whom may stick around for years to come. It's an exciting time for them. For parents, there's a whole new set of things to know. Read this slideshow to learn about the social development of your third grader.

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They want exclusive groups of friends.

Third graders want to form valuable relationships with their closest friends, and they begin to separating themselves from non-friends. They begin to categorize different groups based on gender and interests, and they may use words like “geeks” or “nerds” to describe peers who aren’t in their group.

What you should do: Support your child’s friendships. Meet the parents of his friends and organize playdates. Remind your kid, however, to also be a good classmate and allow new friends into his social circle.

Their friendships involve cooperation and “give and take.”

Kids this age cooperate easily and can quickly engage each other in conversation. Their close friendships become closer; friends want to help one another with everything from homework to emotional stress.

What you should do: Encourage being a good friend. Talk with your child about his friendships, and use examples from your own childhood.

They don’t like being absent from school.

This is one thing about third graders’ social lives that their teachers can appreciate. Kids this age anticipate seeing friends and entering their lives away from home. They don’t want to miss something that might happen that their friends will be talking about.

What you should do: Enjoy a deep sigh of relief, especially if your child wasn’t the most agreeable about getting ready for school each morning in the past.

They criticize peers and teachers freely.

Young children tend to have high standards for themselves and others. It’s not uncommon for a third grader to complain that his teacher is mean or that a classmate is stupid. This can also be a time when siblings fight.

What you should do: When your child has a critical opinion of someone, don’t automatically scold him for it. Instead, open a conversation about why he feels that way. It’s a good intellectual exercise for him to explain his opinion thoroughly.

They separate themselves from teachers and parents.

As friendships become more and more important to a third grader, relationships with adults become less important. Children this age might not take much interest in conversations after school or at the dinner table, feeling that they have something else they feel is more important.

What you should do: Understand that your child’s social life is extremely important to him. Give him the space and freedom he needs to fully experience this stage of his life. Try not to embarrass him around his peers.

They enjoy sports and games.

It’s no coincidence that many schools start organized sports at third grade. Kids this age understand rules and strategies much better than in years past, and they’re experiencing a great jump in physical development. Third graders also enjoy complicated board games, card games and video games.

What you should do: Offer to help with sports teams and other activities. Play games at home and help your child improve at them. Encourage good sportsmanship and use games to reinforce good behavior.

They take clubs, teams and groups seriously.

Whether it’s a dance class, swim team, scout troop or music group, third graders consider the groups they are part of to be important. They use their activities and their success or failures within these activities to help shape their identity.

What you should do: Be a part of your child’s activities. Offer to be a leader, or just help by providing rides or food. Go to your child’s recitals, concerts, games, races, camping trips and whatever other activities you can.

They may have a crude sense of humor.

Those same old puns and riddles might not cut it anymore. Third graders may tell dirty jokes, and they are quick to share with their friends. They may laugh at the misfortune of others. They have a unique tendency to giggle uncontrollably and let humor deter their focus for long stretches.

What you should do: Keep your cool and give your child reasonable limits, such as, “You can joke and laugh during lunch but not during class.”

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