“Redshirting” in Kindergarten: What are we thinking?

“Redshirting” in Kindergarten: What are we thinking?

CBS’ 60 Minutes aired a segment on the increasing popularity of “redshirting”, or holding kids back from entering kindergarten by one year. The reason that most parents cite (at least on the CBS segment) for doing this is to insure that their child has an advantage over other students as he/she gets older in school. The idea, of course, is to make sure that their student has every opportunity to “outshine” the other students. For boys in particular, one year of maturity can make a big difference in physical stature and cognitive maturity. As a mother of a son, I get this. What parent doesn’t want his/her son to succeed? But here’s the rub: a child’s success isn’t the real incentive of redshirting parents. What really lies beneath their decision is a fierce need to compete. Parents want their child to beat out his peers in the classroom and on the athletic field so that they, the parents, can feel like more successful parents. No matter how you slice it, redshirting isn’t about what’s best for the child; rather, it’s about helping kids become high performers and thus make their parents look really good. Life is competitive and certainly every parent wants his child to stay afloat in a competitive world. But I wonder, what price we are willing to pay to force our kids to be the ones who outshine the rest? Think of this gesture from a child’s perspective. The messages he receives from his parents are many (and they don’t feel very good.) First, he feels that he needs to be held back because he’s not...

Tired Kids: What Are We Missing?

As predictably as the sun rises each morning, when mid-October rolls around, my office is inundated with panic stricken mothers. Their worry? Their kindergartners have turned into monsters. The previously sweet, compliant children have turned sour, temperamental and belligerent. Many mothers tearfully admit that they are worried that something as traumatic as bullying or abuse has occurred and wonder if they should pull their child from the classroom. So dramatic is the change in their sweet angel’s personality that many parents feel like the tumultuous teen years have arrived ten years early. This phenomenon is not unique to my pediatric practice; my colleagues in Boston and Tennessee report the same thing. So, what is going on? Are kindergarten teachers pushing kids too hard, making them anxious and overwrought? No. The answer is much simpler: kindergartners aren’t getting enough sleep. This is a universal problem and makes teachers, parents and the kids themselves a bit nutty. Here’s what happens. With great anticipation and excitement, the child goes off to kindergarten. When she gets to school, she listens for long periods of time, refrains from yelling, sits quietly in circle time and keeps her place in line when she is lead to the cafeteria for lunch. Then, she gets off of the school bus, walks into the familiar kitchen and her internal release valve bursts open. She can relax from being good and let her frustrations rip. We adults forget that behaving for six or eight hours at school requires a lot of energy for kids. They simply aren’t used to concentrating and keeping their behavior in check for such long...