California mom wonders about repeating kindergarten

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz May 31, 2013 06:00 AM

[Ed's note: This letter has been condensed. ]

I was hoping to get your advice as I am tormented by what to do for our our 5 year old kindergarten daughter and so worried we will hurt her chances for success if we do the wrong thing here.

In essence, her birthday is the end September, and here in California, they are moving back the "must turn 6 by" date here to be Sept 1st. That however, is not in effect for 2 more years. Our daughter, was in Montessori preschool for the past 3 years part-time. She is very outgoing and a natural leader. That said, we thought she seemed ready for kindergarten, though I kept feeling we were rushing her...but we sent her because academically she seemed on par. ...Though outgoing and a good leader, she did have bouts of being unfocused, and difficulty controlling her impulses etc. In Preschool, she was often put in timeout due to being disruptive, and bothering other children when she had to sit still for a long time. In retrospect we are not sure the Montessori preschool was the best fit for her, as we saw her self esteem slip seemingly from these time outs.

Our daughter has continued to get this same feedback in kindergarten. Her other kindergarten /Montessori graduates are all 6- 10 months older than and reading 2 book levels ahead of her, doing advanced sentence writing and math. She is the second youngest child in her kindergarten class and in this class, she is middle of the pack. So far she is meeting the standard for kindergarten except in social/emotional areas, says her rather strict teacher. She is just now really reading 3 letter books, has advanced fine motor skills, and seems to be more able to focus doing art, music dance vs reading.

To cut to the chase - I wish we had not started her, and given her more of a chance to mature AND meet the standards. I'm concerned that if we do get the school to allow us to have her repeat kindergarten or perhaps go into the K/1st split class, that the children will make fun of her and her self esteem will be hurt. I fear that is happening now as well, however, because she sees the other children not getting in as much trouble as she is. I am worried about her self esteem long term from making this decision incorrectly.

The only other information I can give you is that over these last few months of Kindergarten, we did put her in an after-school program at the Montessori preschool...He allowed her to be "off focus" and learn at her own rhythm. It made a huge difference in her demeanor, her self- esteem seems improved at least while there and she seems challenged appropriately and supported. I know much of the "kindergarten work" is very easy for her and yet as I have outlined here, she still has room to grow. I just am not sure what to advocate for her at this point.

Do we have her repeat kindergarten, do we try to get her into the K/1 class, or do we let her go on to 1st grade with continued tutoring through Montessori?

I appreciate your help.
From: Elsa, Northern California


How to explain mom's long-absent mother?

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz May 10, 2013 06:00 AM

Hi Barbara,
I have a 4 year old daughter who is fairly smart, doesn't miss a trick and observant. I'm not sure how to talk to her about the following situation when she eventually brings it up: My mother left when I was a young girl -- no mental issues, nothing illegal, no real reason that she could ever explain. I was in brief contact with her about 20 years ago but that was it. As of now, there are no plans to ever contact her again. I know at some point, my daughter will ask about her. I'm not really sure how to explain to her that my mother just walked out. She is still alive and lives in another state. I don't want her to ever think that I could walk out on her.

From: Julia, Franklin, MA


Could preschool drop-off anxiety be related to kindergarten next year? I'm betting.

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz May 7, 2013 06:00 AM

My 5 1/2-year-old daughter has a very difficult time being left at her daycare/preschool each morning. She has been in this facility since she's been 10 weeks old and is familiar and comfortable with all of the teachers and students/kids. I keep her routine very consistent and reassure her that I'll be back for her at the end of the day. I don't linger, and I stay positive. However, she continues to cry, cling to me, and throw a tantrum every day. She will be starting kindergarten in the fall at the local elementary school, and I'm worried that she'll have an even harder time adjusting. Is there anything I can do to make this easier?

From: Kara, Owings Mills, MD


Mom unexpectedly has to go away

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz May 6, 2013 06:00 AM

So I have a. 2 yr old daughter who is very attached to me. Being that we live on a small island and don't have family there, it's me and my husband that she sees day in and day out , she is more attached to me then daddy because I am a stay-at-home mom. Well, we are on vacation visiting some family, and I had a family emergency come up in another town that I have go tend to, so I will be leaving my daughter with my husband for a few days while I tend to the family matter. I am really nervous of how she is going to cope with being in a unfamiliar place and just with daddy and not mommy. Is there anything I can do to help prepare her or make things easier?

From: Kayla, Ketchikan, Alaska


"I hate you!"

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz May 3, 2013 06:00 AM

Hi Barbara,

I read your column often and I'd appreciate your advice on something. My youngest just turned five and has a pretty headstrong personality. This is good in many ways -- he is very determined and sticks with things to the bitter end, even when they are tough. But there are countless times in the day where he has decided he is doing something that I can't let him do (things like cross the road alone, not go to preschool, cook on the hot stove etc.)

In the last month or so, he has started screaming "I HATE you!" every time I want him to do something he doesn't want to do (or stop him from doing something he wants to). I stay calm and say to him, "I don't like it when you speak like that," or "We don't use that word," and sometimes I even suggest to him an alternative like, "You can say 'Mom, I'm angry at you.'" Nothing seems to help. Should I just ignore it when he says it and eventually hopefully he'll stop? Should I have a consequence to show him it is really wrong and not acceptable? He says it at least a dozen times a day (or more!) and is now also starting to say it about his siblings, too, when they make him mad.

From: Mom to 3, Boston


5-year-old's night wakings

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz May 2, 2013 06:00 AM

Hi Barbara.

My 5-year-old daughter has suddenly started waking up at night and can't get back to sleep. This has happened 3 or 4 times in the last few weeks and before that she was a solid, sound, sleeper for 11 hours a night. She has a consistent bedtime routine and is fine when we leave her to fall asleep (around 7:30 and she's usually asleep by 8). But this new night-waking happens around 12 or 1 and she will cry because she's scared but she can't tell me what she's scared of. She'll say "I heard a scary noise" or just "I'm too scared to sleep!" and then for hours she will call for help or come to my room to get me every 10-20 minutes. Sometimes she needs water, sometime she has to pee, and sometimes she just says she's scared. By 4am, I'm totally frustrated and exhausted and I have no clue how to help her. It's not like a fear of monsters where we can spray water (monster repellent) or something. It's too vague for that and it's mixed in with these other demands - water, pee, books, tucking in... Is this developmental? What can I do to get her to relax and go to sleep? Even if it's only once a week, I can't function being repeatedly woken up from 1-4! Thanks for any advice you have.

From: Jessica, Belmont, MA


About the author

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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