After starting my daughter in a new preschool and meeting the parents at a social gathering I came home with overwhelming anxiety and fear for my child. I suddenly had the urge to move to Montana and live off a farm and write off society. Why you ask because almost every parent I met asked me “how old my daughter was and was I holding her back a school year?” Say what?
Both my kids were born in the winter (Feb. and March) and because Connecticut’s cut off date for Kindergarten is December 31st I never really thought it would be an issue. I was flabbergasted by how OBSESSED everyone was with this topic and how in my opinion they were already giving their child a complex with comments like “oh, my son is not mature enough or he is very small for his age and we don’t want him to be the smallest of his group”. I also thought it was interesting that almost all of the parents of little boys were the ones holding them back. I mean we have all heard the “oh well boys are slower developmentally than girls” and while I am a parent to both a daughter and son I do understand that there is some truth behind that statement but so what if your son is the smallest in his kindergarten class, it doesn’t mean he is going to be a short teenager? And if it does, SO WHAT?! And maybe that just means he will be a bit challenged for a while but we cannot make life perfect and always easy for our kids can we? Also what does that mean for the kids whose parents aren’t holding them back? Now there are kids in Kindergarten that are 5 and 6 maybe going on 7? Isn’t that challenging for the teachers? Now if your child’s school or teacher truly believes he or she needs to be left back for real academic reasons because they are unnecessarily struggling in their current situation then that is completely understandable. Also, let’s get real and note that there are times where a school will try and hold back your child (at least in private schools) when the class is getting a bit too full. I have seen this happen.
I had so much to think about so I decided to research this practice of holding kids back as clearly I had been living under a rock! I found an interesting article in The Wall Street Journal that gave me an official term for this phenomenon, it is called Academic Redshirting. The article I read was written in 2014 and claimed that about 6% of kindergartners are held back nationally. Well in my neck of the woods it seems more like 75-80%. While the article highlights that many times children are just held back because their parents are hyper competitive and want “Jimmy” to be the biggest kid on the baseball team so he can get a scholarship or #1 in his graduating class so he can get accepted to an Ivy League University; there are doctor’s who say that there are advantages to younger students being with older ones. Here is an excerpt:
Princeton neuroscientist Samuel Wang, co-author of the book “Welcome to Your Brain,” says that being around more mature peers actually benefits younger classmates, both behaviorally and academically. He points to a large study that found schooling influences intelligence more than age: The youngest children in a grade scored higher on IQ tests than children the same age one grade lower.
While I am very much a believer that parents need to do what works best for their children and their family I find it upsetting and shocking that, in my opinion we are giving our children a self esteem complex. I mean what is wrong with being a short and/or skinny guy or the girl who still can’t hold her pencil properly at 5 years old . Aren’t we supposed to teach them to love themselves the way God made them and understand that life can be challenging and to embrace that? Do we live in a global world where the competition is intense for a good job? YES we do but NOT everyone is meant to be America’s Top CEO, Olympian or Derek Jeter. It is a hard pill to swallow but not everyone is meant to be a super star, although they will always be in our eyes! Right? I personally want my children to be successful human beings which to me means being happy, doing good and feeling good about themselves. I worry my children will become another statistic; a depressed and anxious kid who is miserable in this hyper competitive world we have created.