Hold back a child with growth delay

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  August 12, 2011 06:00 AM

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My daughter just turned 7 June 30th. She's been diagnosed with a growth delay. She's very small for her age and looks about 2 yrs younger than her peers. She struggled academically for the first few months of first grade. She'd cry every night for two months. Her hands are tiny so holding a pencil was difficult and her handwriting was large and messy as were her numbers. She eventually caught up and she finished the year with good grades.

My daughter is very bright but a little immature due to her size. Also kids always teased her because of it. She worked hard in first grade and her teachers were proud of her progress. During the year she was part of a small group that needed extra help with reading. At the end of the year, the teachers recommended her promotion to 2nd grade. I feel that retaining her in first grade would be beneficial and give her confidence. I would like an expert opinion..I'm agonizing over this decision.. Thank you

From: Leena, Virginia Beach, VA


Dear Leena,

I'm big on trusting teachers' instincts on this kind of issue and everyone deserves a pat on the back for her progress and her hard work. But have you also talked to second and third and fourth grade teachers? They can offer an important perspective on the social aspects of being small, being teased, feeling pressure just to keep up. I know it's summer but I bet your principal will offer some insight as well, and would put you in touch with a teacher or two.

If she's a kid with tough skin, if the teasing rolls off her back, sure, I'd say push ahead. If not -- and you know her tendencies better than anyone -- I'd hold back.

She is always going to be physically small, yes? That's nothing to be ashamed of, but you're already seeing how this affects her. And what about down the road? By putting her ahead, she will not always be the smallest kid, she will also likely be among the last to go through puberty. That puts a lot of pressure on a kid, socially and psychologically. And what about athletically? Will she ever be on an even playing field with her age-mates? Academics are important, but they are not the only issue to consider.

Why does she need that added aggravation? It's not just her size that I'm thinking of, either. I can't think of any reason why she doesn't deserve the opportunity to have a chance to catch her breath and smell the roses and not always be worried about her back.

I took my own advice, by the way. When my son was entering K, he was physically small, and (as a result?) somewhat timid. He also had a late birthday. We decided to buy him that extra year. We never regretted the decision.

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29 comments so far...
  1. You did get an expert's advice: your daughter's teacher. Your daughter's teacher already recommended that she go to 2nd grade next year. I'm unclear why asking a stranger who has never met your daughter would give you a better answer.

    Posted by Marie August 11, 11 04:20 PM
  1. Marie, teachers will almost always recommend promotion. It is bad for the school district's statistics to hold children back because their percent of children who graduate "on time" (in 12 years) is public record. A teacher recommendation doesn't necessarily mean promotion is right for the child.

    Posted by Dawn August 11, 11 05:16 PM
  1. Your instincts about what is best for your child are sound and, I believe, should be followed. I also decided to delay the start of K for my bright but socially shy daughter and I believe it was one of the best things I did for her. When in doubt, keep her out, or behind as it may be. Give your daughter the chance to have a well rounded year instead of a struggle.

    Posted by Preschlteach August 11, 11 07:57 PM
  1. While I absolutely think the teacher's opinion is important, it's not like Mom's opinion doesn't matter. In the grand scheme of things, being held back a year will cease to matter to the child after elementary school - especially because she won't look older than everyone else. What will matter throughout her teen years is constantly being smaller and younger looking than everyone else. This isn't just kind of a small kid, she has a growth delay. We don't know how severe, but if something as simple as having an extra year would put her more on par, physically, with the other students, I just don't see the harm.

    Posted by Q August 12, 11 10:20 AM
  1. As a teacher, I can tell you that teachers assume promotion is what families want, so it's the default. If there's any possibility for success in the next grade, we recommend promotion. I have often given permission for children to move on when I know that they would benefit academically from repeating my class. "Passing" is 60%, a very low bar. Because I teach older children, the social aspect of promotion tends to overwhelm academic concerns.

    If you and your family are happy with the social consequences of repeating the year (and it sounds like you are very happy with those, for good reason) then by all mean tell the school that you would prefer to have your daughter repeat. If they have concerns, they will tell you, but I expect that ultimately the school will respect your wishes.

    Posted by Rachel August 12, 11 10:36 AM
  1. If your daughter finished the school year with good grades with a teachers recomendation to send her to the next grade, why would you repeat her? She will be bored redoing all the work she did the year before. I'm guessing that getting through first grade has taught her some good study skills and coping mechanisms. She should be able to use those skills in second grade and continue to improve academically and socially. Those are the skills that will help her throughout her entire life. Better to have her learn them now. Small in size is not a good reason to hold a child back. You mentioned she was a little immature. keeping her with children younger than her will not make her more mature, it will just make her seem more mature by comparison to the younger children.

    A teacher doesn't just recommend sending a child to second grade just so the school system's stats look good. I'm afraid that a bit too conspiracy theory for me (also insulting as a retired public elementary school special ed teacher). The teacher is the person who sees how your daughter handles the school work and the other students first hand. Trust her opinion.

    Posted by molly August 12, 11 12:52 PM
  1. It seems that social stigma is a big part of your decision, so keep in mind the social stigma of a child who stays back at this age. I am 37 years old and can still name the kids who stayed back in first grade in my elementary school. It's one thing to hold off kindergarten. It's different to hold your child back and repeat a year once they are in first grade and higher. I'm not saying this should entirely drive your decision, just something to think about since you are worried about your daughter being teased. Good luck.

    Posted by oona1211 August 12, 11 02:10 PM
  1. I am a child psychologist who works for a school system. Please be aware that research into this area shows retention is typically a bad idea, unless students have missed a significant amount of school. If learning issues pop up, they should be addressed via special education. In general, research shows that retention increases the child's risk of dropping out at a later date.

    Several responses indicated that they delayed starting their child in school. This is quite different than retention, when your daughter will be aware that her classmates are moving on. Retention may also take away from all her hard work, demonstrated by the fact that she ultimately got good grades. You don't want her to feel as if all her hard work was for nothing.

    Posted by Fuling Mom August 13, 11 01:13 AM
  1. Now we're holding kids back because they're physically small? I weep for humanity.

    My 2 1/2 year old is the size of the average 1 year old (30ish inches tall, 24 lbs) and is by far the smallest kid in her nursery class. But since she can do the work and has no mental impairments I wouldn't dream of holding her back.

    You already have an expert opinion. Her teachers. You said yourself she finished the year strong. So what, exactly, is the problem other than that YOU have some issues over your daughter's small stature?

    Maybe you should think about the far more serious implication of teaching her that she isn't as good as her peers because she's small?

    Posted by D August 13, 11 05:25 AM
  1. Tough one but ultimately you know what is best for your child. As a parent that had to go through the same agonizing decision my advice is talk to your pediatrician and teachers. They are invaluable resources however the decision comes down to you. My guess is you already know what you want to do but are looking for confirmation. School is more than academics. It's self esteem, self image and self confidence. Another tip, don't wait a year-it's now or never. Holding back after 1st grade is much more traumatizing. My son flourished the year we held him back in first grade because he was physically and mentally compatible with his peers and developmentally ready for the schoolwork. One of my favorite quotes is, "all children are gifted. Some just open their presents a little later." good luck.

    Posted by Beachmum August 13, 11 06:19 AM
  1. Molly, you say you are retired. It is different now. I am a high school teacher; I am not making up "conspiracy theories" when I say that the suburban school districts where I have worked discourage (and even reprimand) teachers for recommending retention.

    The trend is that it is ok, even encouraged, to delay kindergarten. Once the kids are on the 12-year-track, the parents have to fight for repeating a year, even if the child is truly struggling. I cannot tell you how many students I see struggling through 4 years of high school when they could have benefited from an extra year. Some of those parents actually told me they requested retention, but were refused.

    Special Ed is a little different because the mod-severe students are expected to stay longer, up to age 22.

    My advice to the LW is that it is easier (socially and logistically) to hold the child back at a younger grade. And for what it's worth, I have never had anyone, parent or student, tell me they regret being held back.

    Posted by Dawn August 13, 11 09:11 AM
  1. Dawn, I think it may also be different in high school than first grade. As a first grade teacher in a low-income school, I have retained several children. It never once occurred to me that I was affecting any of my school systems' stats until you just mentioned it.

    I have absolutely considered the research quoted by the school psychologist above--Retention increases dropout risk. However, I also consider that repeated struggle over 10 years increases dropout risk. If the child can't read, write, and do grade-level math, they are certainly more likely to drop out than a child who does these things confidently with a solid foundation.

    As mentioned above, promotion is the default unless we think a child can't catch up. Most parents are horrified by the suggestion of an additional year, no matter how diplomatically it is presented and how beneficial it will be for the child socially, emotionally, and/or academically.

    OP, I wonder if you talked to her teachers before you began agonizing? This is very late in the game to consider retention. I begin addressing the possibility with parents in March, and then reevaluate often. Final decisions are made in June. This always includes sitting down with or phone conversations with parents to get their take on it. Talk to the teachers--They want your daughter to succeed! They may have social/emotional/academic points to consider.

    I wonder if your daughter was as upset with school at school as she was at home. I've had parents tell me their child cried at home, and the child tell me the same day that they love school (and vice versa!). Sometimes the caregivers have to put their heads together to get the whole picture.

    Don't play guessing games about what the school and teachers are thinking. Ask them directly. Ask about her capability to do work and to catch up on her trouble areas. Ask about the academic ramifications of repeating work she's already mastered. Ask about her work as compared to her grade-level peers and see how hers stacks up. And unless you have reason to believe otherwise, the teachers and school are there to help your child succeed. Use them as the resource they are!

    Posted by First grade teacher August 13, 11 10:39 PM
  1. @first grade teacher, you are so right! We knew my son was being held back before school ended in June but I think the situation here is different. It's not the school or teacher making the recommendation-it's the parent. The school probably already has him assigned to a second grade class.

    Posted by Beachmum August 13, 11 11:22 PM
  1. I'm inclined to agree with oona and FulingMom. By holding your child back, you're only giving credibility to the kids who teased her for being small - and you're completely nullifying the hard work she did to finish the year strong. In essence, you're saying to her: "You worked really hard, got over your fears and your agony at the start of the school year, and you ended up keeping up and doing great. So, we're going to hold you back to do it all again because we think your classmates are right - you're too small. You're still just a baby."

    Is that really the message you want to send your daughter now?

    I know that I was small in school - almost the smallest. By 7th grade, I was well under 5 feet tall - shorter than any of my peers. I used to have to get a "leg-up" just to see what was on the top shelf of my locker. And I had always been so all through school. But I got good grades and I kept up in gym (barely) and if my parents had held me back because of my stature in first grade, I would have been devastated. As oona noted, I can still name all of the "loser babies" who were held back in Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grades too.

    I'm grateful my parents never considered such silliness.

    There is a HUGE difference between retention and delayed start and I can't believe that Barbara would even compare the two.

    Posted by Phe August 15, 11 07:56 AM
  1. I agree with whoever said delayed starting is different than retention. Also, neither of these guarantees that a shy child will become less shy and more confident. Sometimes kids are just...shy!

    I don't think a child who is academically and socially prepared for the next grade should be held back due to size. However, its not clear that this is what we are talking about here. At the same time, its not clear that this child is having problems that would require staying back. It sort of feels like a couple of things are conspiring to make the mom feel that staying back is important (child is short, struggled with some academics).

    I also think the parent should go back to the teachers and ask more about why they think she should move on with her peers. Also, going on the assumption that a very short child diagnosed with growth delay is getting the appropriate endocrinology evalution, she might consult with the providers in that clinic (especially the social worker if there is one).


    Posted by ash August 15, 11 09:02 AM
  1. My middle school age son has been small all his life and was recently diagnosed with idiopathic short stature. He has never had a problem with his size and we have never given his size a second thought until his doctor was concerned about his slow growth in puberty. He has developed a very close group of friends and is involved in sports, scouts and other activities. A key is developing a "can do" attitude and the self esteem and self confidence to go with it. He has never had any problem with being teased because of his size. He has earned the kids' respect in other ways.

    Posted by Sue August 15, 11 10:45 AM
  1. Hello, I do not have children but I wanted to comment because I was a very small child and am a small adult...I have a chronic disease that delayed my growth from birth. I always was aware I did not look my age, and I did struggle with sports and such. However, keeping up with kids my own age, even if it was more difficult at times, gave me confidence in myself, which compounded over the years. I say if your daughter is keeping up academically, and she is judged to be mature enough to move on, go for it. Please don't hold her back solely because of her size. She should know she can do everything an average sized person can do now, so she can take that with her through life. She will learn enough about her limitations as she grows up, like everyone else. And when she gets to be my age (41), she might appreciate looking a little younger and being smaller than most! Best of luck to her!

    Posted by newlin August 15, 11 12:16 PM
  1. I agree with Phe 100%. To keep her back now after she worked so hard to catch up sends the WRONG idea to her.

    Also, to blame her immaturity on her small stature? That is just odd. If she's immature, it likely has little to do with her physical size and more to do with her personality. Sure, sometimes small kids are babied but they don't have to be immature as a result. I have a 3 year-old who is very small. She delights in surpassing strangers' (who often assume she can barely talk) expectations.

    Posted by jhkenny August 15, 11 02:07 PM
  1. I agree with Phe about the academics. LW - consider what will happen if your daughter is totally bored out of her mind at being made to do the exact same work she did this past year.

    Posted by oona1211 August 15, 11 02:39 PM
  1. We talked to my son's doctor about this when he was in preschool. He asked if we woul move him up in the grades if my son were tall for his age. There are so many factors and academic and social skills should weigh more heavily.

    Posted by Beaches August 15, 11 04:49 PM
  1. I don't like the message holding back sends to the child - my son has a late birthday along with physical challenges and so I considered it, but am so glad I pushed him forward instead. I see the held-back kids in his class and wonder why some of their parents hadn't pursued therapies or interventions for these children instead of simply thinking more time or a break would take care of things. Because generally, it doesn't. Life is full of challenges and rough patches for every child, and teaching them early how to navigate and compensate for their physical issues is invaluable to them later on. Stop focusing on her smallness and pump her talents and academics - it may take more support and encouragement from you, but sending her the message that she can overcome this is far better than giving her a reason to think something's really wrong with her.

    Posted by lolasmomma August 15, 11 11:34 PM
  1. My baby sister was held back, and I remember my parents talking to her about it. She was held back in the 1st grade, she had a July birthday so after she was held back she was the oldest in the class. But the first time she went through first grade she was so frustrated with school and it was very difficult. The second time it was easier and really after that first year she never really thought about being held back at all. She went on to be the valedictorian of her class, getting a full athletic scholarship to a division 1 school and graduated with a double major in marketing and finance and now she is 30 and still thriving.

    My parents were both teachers at the time (now both retired) my Dad taught Special Ed for 15 years and then was transferred to teach math to 7-8 graders and my Mom taught reading to 7-8 graders.

    There was never anything wrong with her intelligence and that was something that my parents stressed to her. It was a matter of finding the right fit, with her social and emotional development more than her physical development. She is small at 5'2" but that is typical for our family we all range from 5'1'-5'5".

    So from my perspective being held back in 1st grade is really only a big deal if it is made a big deal.

    Posted by WES August 16, 11 10:14 AM
  1. lolasmomma So do you feel it was fair to the other kids in your sisters class? Should you be the valedictorian if you are older then you should be? I don't mean to be critical but I am so fed up with so many parents holding kids back more so they have an "advantage" in both school and sports rather than because they have a true need to be held back. Nobody wants a kid that truly can't keep up to struggle but I do believe it happens too often these days and has become a problem.

    Posted by mom2girls August 16, 11 05:06 PM
  1. mom2girls, I didn't post about the sister (mine was the one previous) but I agree with you wholeheartedly. I too am fed up with the "advantage" mentality that prevails in my community. I completely understand the need to protect (I have three - I KNOW) but I wonder why these parents have such little faith in their children. I have asked that my late-birthday preschooler twins to be placed in a class of mostly "heldbacks" for the sole purpose of getting them used to being around kids who are relatively quite older than them - this will be their reality in kindergarten the following year. They definitely will face some challenges but if I question their ability to handle it, they most certainly will as well.
    If the teacher says move forward, and you doubt that decision, it's time to call for an IEP to address the concerns. Holding back should be a last-resort option.

    Posted by lolasmomma August 17, 11 12:23 AM
  1. I am speaking as a mom who held my son back in preschool. He has a summer birthday and was shy. I will never regret my decision. At the end of the day, YOU know your child better than anyone else. If I had listened to advise that I got I would have sent him on to kindergarten.
    Think about high school.....do you want your daughter to be more mature and able to handle those social pressures.
    Please, please give her another year!

    Posted by Lizzy August 17, 11 07:50 AM
  1. @mom2girls

    First of all, you referred to the wrong person - it was WES, who made that comment about her sister. Anyway, do you truly think her sister was valedictorian because she was a few months older than a lot of the kids? It doesn't give you that kind of advantage, just helps them to 'catch up' physically, emotionally, socially. It's not about being "fair" to the other kids; it's about giving a child the best chance for success in life. Maybe the fact that she was valedictorian means that she would have wound up fine had she not been kept back. But maybe because she wasn't quite ready, the academic, social and emotional issues would have compounded and given her less confidence, keeping her from recognizing her true potential. Each of my kids has a boy in their class that is more than a year older than the others. Oldest or not, I'm pretty confident neither of those older boys will be valedictorian.

    To the LW - I don't think your daughter is necessarily immature due to her size, but it does sound like she has had a hard time for whatever reason. If she literally cried the first few months of school and "struggled academically" in first grade, I don't imagine that in the long run it will impact her negatively to be kept back. I wouldn't listen to the people who say she will be "bored". If she struggled as much as it sounds like she did with writing, and needed extra help with reading, she will not be "bored", doing it again, it will solidify what she learned and make her feel more confident in her abilities, rather than just feeling like she is skating by.

    Posted by mom2boys August 17, 11 09:32 AM
  1. mom2boys: Maybe you didn't read the whole letter, but after the LW's child got over her initial issues, she finished the school year strong. It's less about being bored and more about nullifying her hard won achievements. You would encourage that?!

    You don't give kids an advantage by unnecessarily burdening the school system with another body for another year. You give them an advantage by letting them accomplish what they're capable of. This "Won't someone pleeeeease think of the children!!!" mentality has gone way, way, way too far.

    Posted by Phe August 17, 11 12:02 PM
  1. Couldn't agree more, mom2boys!

    And going back to the other comments about the "fairness" of kipping a kid back to the other kids in their class, are you serious? Do we leave in a society where fairness prevails? Do you realty see anything "fair" happening around you?

    How many times did you wake up and say: "today I will do something that's fair to the others, although I know for sure that doing the opposite will benefit me or my kids"?

    Or looking at it differently, do you think it's "fair" to the other kids in the class to be held back by your child that is not socially and emotionally ready?

    Leena: don't listen to all this comments. Some of them are coming from obviously frustrated parents, others from people that don't understand that times have changed. And no child psychologist would give you a "NO" or a "YES" without knowing more details about your situation.

    This discussion should not be held here. The best person to ask is not us. If you don’t have anybody to talk to about this, go to the mirror and ask yourself. You should know that "Mothers know best". Not any mother, but mothers that care deeply about their children, mothers that are "agonizing" (like you are) over the best decision regarding their loved ones.

    Put it in perspective, see what it takes and ultimately, talk to her. If you present it in a positive way and explain to her that this is for the best (and, whatever you say, be HONEST to her), you might be surprised of the reaction you'll get.

    It will take a lot of encouragement, and whatever you will decide it will probably be hard for both of you. It all depends on the perspective she'll get and the support you'll give her.

    And if you end up with the decision to keep her back, what's going to take? It is true, this takes another year to support your child, when she won’t be moving out at 17, but at 18 (and I met parents that can’t wait until their kids are out). Or she won’t be graduating from college until 2027 (instead of 2026).

    But you can also see this as a chance for your daughter to start her “grown-up” life later, more mature, more responsible, and better shaped for life.

    Posted by Clau August 17, 11 02:39 PM
  1. I was growth delayed but did well on achievement tests and was always promoted. I also had an August birthday which made me the youngest person in the class as well which compounded the effect. So, instead of being two years behind due to growth delay, I was more like three years behind. I was athletic, but the gap was too big and I couldn't compete with the more physically mature peers. It was miserable. The happiest year I had was repeating part of 9th grade in a new school. I made so many friends. I had enough credits to end up graduating at 17 anyway. College was miserable too, because I was more like a junior in high school in my social development than a college student. I struggled so much socially. Unfortunately for asynchronous kids who are fine academically, the social toll has to factor into the equation. I would not put my growth delayed children in that position. I would hold them back.

    Posted by Grommet January 20, 12 11:29 AM
 
29 comments so far...
  1. You did get an expert's advice: your daughter's teacher. Your daughter's teacher already recommended that she go to 2nd grade next year. I'm unclear why asking a stranger who has never met your daughter would give you a better answer.

    Posted by Marie August 11, 11 04:20 PM
  1. Marie, teachers will almost always recommend promotion. It is bad for the school district's statistics to hold children back because their percent of children who graduate "on time" (in 12 years) is public record. A teacher recommendation doesn't necessarily mean promotion is right for the child.

    Posted by Dawn August 11, 11 05:16 PM
  1. Your instincts about what is best for your child are sound and, I believe, should be followed. I also decided to delay the start of K for my bright but socially shy daughter and I believe it was one of the best things I did for her. When in doubt, keep her out, or behind as it may be. Give your daughter the chance to have a well rounded year instead of a struggle.

    Posted by Preschlteach August 11, 11 07:57 PM
  1. While I absolutely think the teacher's opinion is important, it's not like Mom's opinion doesn't matter. In the grand scheme of things, being held back a year will cease to matter to the child after elementary school - especially because she won't look older than everyone else. What will matter throughout her teen years is constantly being smaller and younger looking than everyone else. This isn't just kind of a small kid, she has a growth delay. We don't know how severe, but if something as simple as having an extra year would put her more on par, physically, with the other students, I just don't see the harm.

    Posted by Q August 12, 11 10:20 AM
  1. As a teacher, I can tell you that teachers assume promotion is what families want, so it's the default. If there's any possibility for success in the next grade, we recommend promotion. I have often given permission for children to move on when I know that they would benefit academically from repeating my class. "Passing" is 60%, a very low bar. Because I teach older children, the social aspect of promotion tends to overwhelm academic concerns.

    If you and your family are happy with the social consequences of repeating the year (and it sounds like you are very happy with those, for good reason) then by all mean tell the school that you would prefer to have your daughter repeat. If they have concerns, they will tell you, but I expect that ultimately the school will respect your wishes.

    Posted by Rachel August 12, 11 10:36 AM
  1. If your daughter finished the school year with good grades with a teachers recomendation to send her to the next grade, why would you repeat her? She will be bored redoing all the work she did the year before. I'm guessing that getting through first grade has taught her some good study skills and coping mechanisms. She should be able to use those skills in second grade and continue to improve academically and socially. Those are the skills that will help her throughout her entire life. Better to have her learn them now. Small in size is not a good reason to hold a child back. You mentioned she was a little immature. keeping her with children younger than her will not make her more mature, it will just make her seem more mature by comparison to the younger children.

    A teacher doesn't just recommend sending a child to second grade just so the school system's stats look good. I'm afraid that a bit too conspiracy theory for me (also insulting as a retired public elementary school special ed teacher). The teacher is the person who sees how your daughter handles the school work and the other students first hand. Trust her opinion.

    Posted by molly August 12, 11 12:52 PM
  1. It seems that social stigma is a big part of your decision, so keep in mind the social stigma of a child who stays back at this age. I am 37 years old and can still name the kids who stayed back in first grade in my elementary school. It's one thing to hold off kindergarten. It's different to hold your child back and repeat a year once they are in first grade and higher. I'm not saying this should entirely drive your decision, just something to think about since you are worried about your daughter being teased. Good luck.

    Posted by oona1211 August 12, 11 02:10 PM
  1. I am a child psychologist who works for a school system. Please be aware that research into this area shows retention is typically a bad idea, unless students have missed a significant amount of school. If learning issues pop up, they should be addressed via special education. In general, research shows that retention increases the child's risk of dropping out at a later date.

    Several responses indicated that they delayed starting their child in school. This is quite different than retention, when your daughter will be aware that her classmates are moving on. Retention may also take away from all her hard work, demonstrated by the fact that she ultimately got good grades. You don't want her to feel as if all her hard work was for nothing.

    Posted by Fuling Mom August 13, 11 01:13 AM
  1. Now we're holding kids back because they're physically small? I weep for humanity.

    My 2 1/2 year old is the size of the average 1 year old (30ish inches tall, 24 lbs) and is by far the smallest kid in her nursery class. But since she can do the work and has no mental impairments I wouldn't dream of holding her back.

    You already have an expert opinion. Her teachers. You said yourself she finished the year strong. So what, exactly, is the problem other than that YOU have some issues over your daughter's small stature?

    Maybe you should think about the far more serious implication of teaching her that she isn't as good as her peers because she's small?

    Posted by D August 13, 11 05:25 AM
  1. Tough one but ultimately you know what is best for your child. As a parent that had to go through the same agonizing decision my advice is talk to your pediatrician and teachers. They are invaluable resources however the decision comes down to you. My guess is you already know what you want to do but are looking for confirmation. School is more than academics. It's self esteem, self image and self confidence. Another tip, don't wait a year-it's now or never. Holding back after 1st grade is much more traumatizing. My son flourished the year we held him back in first grade because he was physically and mentally compatible with his peers and developmentally ready for the schoolwork. One of my favorite quotes is, "all children are gifted. Some just open their presents a little later." good luck.

    Posted by Beachmum August 13, 11 06:19 AM
  1. Molly, you say you are retired. It is different now. I am a high school teacher; I am not making up "conspiracy theories" when I say that the suburban school districts where I have worked discourage (and even reprimand) teachers for recommending retention.

    The trend is that it is ok, even encouraged, to delay kindergarten. Once the kids are on the 12-year-track, the parents have to fight for repeating a year, even if the child is truly struggling. I cannot tell you how many students I see struggling through 4 years of high school when they could have benefited from an extra year. Some of those parents actually told me they requested retention, but were refused.

    Special Ed is a little different because the mod-severe students are expected to stay longer, up to age 22.

    My advice to the LW is that it is easier (socially and logistically) to hold the child back at a younger grade. And for what it's worth, I have never had anyone, parent or student, tell me they regret being held back.

    Posted by Dawn August 13, 11 09:11 AM
  1. Dawn, I think it may also be different in high school than first grade. As a first grade teacher in a low-income school, I have retained several children. It never once occurred to me that I was affecting any of my school systems' stats until you just mentioned it.

    I have absolutely considered the research quoted by the school psychologist above--Retention increases dropout risk. However, I also consider that repeated struggle over 10 years increases dropout risk. If the child can't read, write, and do grade-level math, they are certainly more likely to drop out than a child who does these things confidently with a solid foundation.

    As mentioned above, promotion is the default unless we think a child can't catch up. Most parents are horrified by the suggestion of an additional year, no matter how diplomatically it is presented and how beneficial it will be for the child socially, emotionally, and/or academically.

    OP, I wonder if you talked to her teachers before you began agonizing? This is very late in the game to consider retention. I begin addressing the possibility with parents in March, and then reevaluate often. Final decisions are made in June. This always includes sitting down with or phone conversations with parents to get their take on it. Talk to the teachers--They want your daughter to succeed! They may have social/emotional/academic points to consider.

    I wonder if your daughter was as upset with school at school as she was at home. I've had parents tell me their child cried at home, and the child tell me the same day that they love school (and vice versa!). Sometimes the caregivers have to put their heads together to get the whole picture.

    Don't play guessing games about what the school and teachers are thinking. Ask them directly. Ask about her capability to do work and to catch up on her trouble areas. Ask about the academic ramifications of repeating work she's already mastered. Ask about her work as compared to her grade-level peers and see how hers stacks up. And unless you have reason to believe otherwise, the teachers and school are there to help your child succeed. Use them as the resource they are!

    Posted by First grade teacher August 13, 11 10:39 PM
  1. @first grade teacher, you are so right! We knew my son was being held back before school ended in June but I think the situation here is different. It's not the school or teacher making the recommendation-it's the parent. The school probably already has him assigned to a second grade class.

    Posted by Beachmum August 13, 11 11:22 PM
  1. I'm inclined to agree with oona and FulingMom. By holding your child back, you're only giving credibility to the kids who teased her for being small - and you're completely nullifying the hard work she did to finish the year strong. In essence, you're saying to her: "You worked really hard, got over your fears and your agony at the start of the school year, and you ended up keeping up and doing great. So, we're going to hold you back to do it all again because we think your classmates are right - you're too small. You're still just a baby."

    Is that really the message you want to send your daughter now?

    I know that I was small in school - almost the smallest. By 7th grade, I was well under 5 feet tall - shorter than any of my peers. I used to have to get a "leg-up" just to see what was on the top shelf of my locker. And I had always been so all through school. But I got good grades and I kept up in gym (barely) and if my parents had held me back because of my stature in first grade, I would have been devastated. As oona noted, I can still name all of the "loser babies" who were held back in Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grades too.

    I'm grateful my parents never considered such silliness.

    There is a HUGE difference between retention and delayed start and I can't believe that Barbara would even compare the two.

    Posted by Phe August 15, 11 07:56 AM
  1. I agree with whoever said delayed starting is different than retention. Also, neither of these guarantees that a shy child will become less shy and more confident. Sometimes kids are just...shy!

    I don't think a child who is academically and socially prepared for the next grade should be held back due to size. However, its not clear that this is what we are talking about here. At the same time, its not clear that this child is having problems that would require staying back. It sort of feels like a couple of things are conspiring to make the mom feel that staying back is important (child is short, struggled with some academics).

    I also think the parent should go back to the teachers and ask more about why they think she should move on with her peers. Also, going on the assumption that a very short child diagnosed with growth delay is getting the appropriate endocrinology evalution, she might consult with the providers in that clinic (especially the social worker if there is one).


    Posted by ash August 15, 11 09:02 AM
  1. My middle school age son has been small all his life and was recently diagnosed with idiopathic short stature. He has never had a problem with his size and we have never given his size a second thought until his doctor was concerned about his slow growth in puberty. He has developed a very close group of friends and is involved in sports, scouts and other activities. A key is developing a "can do" attitude and the self esteem and self confidence to go with it. He has never had any problem with being teased because of his size. He has earned the kids' respect in other ways.

    Posted by Sue August 15, 11 10:45 AM
  1. Hello, I do not have children but I wanted to comment because I was a very small child and am a small adult...I have a chronic disease that delayed my growth from birth. I always was aware I did not look my age, and I did struggle with sports and such. However, keeping up with kids my own age, even if it was more difficult at times, gave me confidence in myself, which compounded over the years. I say if your daughter is keeping up academically, and she is judged to be mature enough to move on, go for it. Please don't hold her back solely because of her size. She should know she can do everything an average sized person can do now, so she can take that with her through life. She will learn enough about her limitations as she grows up, like everyone else. And when she gets to be my age (41), she might appreciate looking a little younger and being smaller than most! Best of luck to her!

    Posted by newlin August 15, 11 12:16 PM
  1. I agree with Phe 100%. To keep her back now after she worked so hard to catch up sends the WRONG idea to her.

    Also, to blame her immaturity on her small stature? That is just odd. If she's immature, it likely has little to do with her physical size and more to do with her personality. Sure, sometimes small kids are babied but they don't have to be immature as a result. I have a 3 year-old who is very small. She delights in surpassing strangers' (who often assume she can barely talk) expectations.

    Posted by jhkenny August 15, 11 02:07 PM
  1. I agree with Phe about the academics. LW - consider what will happen if your daughter is totally bored out of her mind at being made to do the exact same work she did this past year.

    Posted by oona1211 August 15, 11 02:39 PM
  1. We talked to my son's doctor about this when he was in preschool. He asked if we woul move him up in the grades if my son were tall for his age. There are so many factors and academic and social skills should weigh more heavily.

    Posted by Beaches August 15, 11 04:49 PM
  1. I don't like the message holding back sends to the child - my son has a late birthday along with physical challenges and so I considered it, but am so glad I pushed him forward instead. I see the held-back kids in his class and wonder why some of their parents hadn't pursued therapies or interventions for these children instead of simply thinking more time or a break would take care of things. Because generally, it doesn't. Life is full of challenges and rough patches for every child, and teaching them early how to navigate and compensate for their physical issues is invaluable to them later on. Stop focusing on her smallness and pump her talents and academics - it may take more support and encouragement from you, but sending her the message that she can overcome this is far better than giving her a reason to think something's really wrong with her.

    Posted by lolasmomma August 15, 11 11:34 PM
  1. My baby sister was held back, and I remember my parents talking to her about it. She was held back in the 1st grade, she had a July birthday so after she was held back she was the oldest in the class. But the first time she went through first grade she was so frustrated with school and it was very difficult. The second time it was easier and really after that first year she never really thought about being held back at all. She went on to be the valedictorian of her class, getting a full athletic scholarship to a division 1 school and graduated with a double major in marketing and finance and now she is 30 and still thriving.

    My parents were both teachers at the time (now both retired) my Dad taught Special Ed for 15 years and then was transferred to teach math to 7-8 graders and my Mom taught reading to 7-8 graders.

    There was never anything wrong with her intelligence and that was something that my parents stressed to her. It was a matter of finding the right fit, with her social and emotional development more than her physical development. She is small at 5'2" but that is typical for our family we all range from 5'1'-5'5".

    So from my perspective being held back in 1st grade is really only a big deal if it is made a big deal.

    Posted by WES August 16, 11 10:14 AM
  1. lolasmomma So do you feel it was fair to the other kids in your sisters class? Should you be the valedictorian if you are older then you should be? I don't mean to be critical but I am so fed up with so many parents holding kids back more so they have an "advantage" in both school and sports rather than because they have a true need to be held back. Nobody wants a kid that truly can't keep up to struggle but I do believe it happens too often these days and has become a problem.

    Posted by mom2girls August 16, 11 05:06 PM
  1. mom2girls, I didn't post about the sister (mine was the one previous) but I agree with you wholeheartedly. I too am fed up with the "advantage" mentality that prevails in my community. I completely understand the need to protect (I have three - I KNOW) but I wonder why these parents have such little faith in their children. I have asked that my late-birthday preschooler twins to be placed in a class of mostly "heldbacks" for the sole purpose of getting them used to being around kids who are relatively quite older than them - this will be their reality in kindergarten the following year. They definitely will face some challenges but if I question their ability to handle it, they most certainly will as well.
    If the teacher says move forward, and you doubt that decision, it's time to call for an IEP to address the concerns. Holding back should be a last-resort option.

    Posted by lolasmomma August 17, 11 12:23 AM
  1. I am speaking as a mom who held my son back in preschool. He has a summer birthday and was shy. I will never regret my decision. At the end of the day, YOU know your child better than anyone else. If I had listened to advise that I got I would have sent him on to kindergarten.
    Think about high school.....do you want your daughter to be more mature and able to handle those social pressures.
    Please, please give her another year!

    Posted by Lizzy August 17, 11 07:50 AM
  1. @mom2girls

    First of all, you referred to the wrong person - it was WES, who made that comment about her sister. Anyway, do you truly think her sister was valedictorian because she was a few months older than a lot of the kids? It doesn't give you that kind of advantage, just helps them to 'catch up' physically, emotionally, socially. It's not about being "fair" to the other kids; it's about giving a child the best chance for success in life. Maybe the fact that she was valedictorian means that she would have wound up fine had she not been kept back. But maybe because she wasn't quite ready, the academic, social and emotional issues would have compounded and given her less confidence, keeping her from recognizing her true potential. Each of my kids has a boy in their class that is more than a year older than the others. Oldest or not, I'm pretty confident neither of those older boys will be valedictorian.

    To the LW - I don't think your daughter is necessarily immature due to her size, but it does sound like she has had a hard time for whatever reason. If she literally cried the first few months of school and "struggled academically" in first grade, I don't imagine that in the long run it will impact her negatively to be kept back. I wouldn't listen to the people who say she will be "bored". If she struggled as much as it sounds like she did with writing, and needed extra help with reading, she will not be "bored", doing it again, it will solidify what she learned and make her feel more confident in her abilities, rather than just feeling like she is skating by.

    Posted by mom2boys August 17, 11 09:32 AM
  1. mom2boys: Maybe you didn't read the whole letter, but after the LW's child got over her initial issues, she finished the school year strong. It's less about being bored and more about nullifying her hard won achievements. You would encourage that?!

    You don't give kids an advantage by unnecessarily burdening the school system with another body for another year. You give them an advantage by letting them accomplish what they're capable of. This "Won't someone pleeeeease think of the children!!!" mentality has gone way, way, way too far.

    Posted by Phe August 17, 11 12:02 PM
  1. Couldn't agree more, mom2boys!

    And going back to the other comments about the "fairness" of kipping a kid back to the other kids in their class, are you serious? Do we leave in a society where fairness prevails? Do you realty see anything "fair" happening around you?

    How many times did you wake up and say: "today I will do something that's fair to the others, although I know for sure that doing the opposite will benefit me or my kids"?

    Or looking at it differently, do you think it's "fair" to the other kids in the class to be held back by your child that is not socially and emotionally ready?

    Leena: don't listen to all this comments. Some of them are coming from obviously frustrated parents, others from people that don't understand that times have changed. And no child psychologist would give you a "NO" or a "YES" without knowing more details about your situation.

    This discussion should not be held here. The best person to ask is not us. If you don’t have anybody to talk to about this, go to the mirror and ask yourself. You should know that "Mothers know best". Not any mother, but mothers that care deeply about their children, mothers that are "agonizing" (like you are) over the best decision regarding their loved ones.

    Put it in perspective, see what it takes and ultimately, talk to her. If you present it in a positive way and explain to her that this is for the best (and, whatever you say, be HONEST to her), you might be surprised of the reaction you'll get.

    It will take a lot of encouragement, and whatever you will decide it will probably be hard for both of you. It all depends on the perspective she'll get and the support you'll give her.

    And if you end up with the decision to keep her back, what's going to take? It is true, this takes another year to support your child, when she won’t be moving out at 17, but at 18 (and I met parents that can’t wait until their kids are out). Or she won’t be graduating from college until 2027 (instead of 2026).

    But you can also see this as a chance for your daughter to start her “grown-up” life later, more mature, more responsible, and better shaped for life.

    Posted by Clau August 17, 11 02:39 PM
  1. I was growth delayed but did well on achievement tests and was always promoted. I also had an August birthday which made me the youngest person in the class as well which compounded the effect. So, instead of being two years behind due to growth delay, I was more like three years behind. I was athletic, but the gap was too big and I couldn't compete with the more physically mature peers. It was miserable. The happiest year I had was repeating part of 9th grade in a new school. I made so many friends. I had enough credits to end up graduating at 17 anyway. College was miserable too, because I was more like a junior in high school in my social development than a college student. I struggled so much socially. Unfortunately for asynchronous kids who are fine academically, the social toll has to factor into the equation. I would not put my growth delayed children in that position. I would hold them back.

    Posted by Grommet January 20, 12 11:29 AM
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Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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