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Was holding your child back a year in school a good or a bad idea?
My oldest daughter, who we affectionately call Bean, held herself back in fifth grade. It had been a really tough few years. She had been diagnosed with severe ADHD and an anxiety disorder. Her teachers and I were worried. Bean was small for her age and very immature. Her behavior was always excellent, but most of the girls her age were starting to explore things like makeup and boys. They watched PG-13 movies and tween television shows. Bean was still playing with dolls and watching cartoons. She was academically ready for middle school, but emotionally, she would drown there.
Bean often felt like the kid who couldn’t keep up. Physically, she was small for her age. Her immaturity only magnified how much younger she looked compared to her peers. She was very shy and would not participate in class discussions or raise her hand. She was terrified others would make fun of her, and some kids did. It was very hard for her to make friends. The stress was unbelievable. How could we take a child with already low self-esteem and throw her into middle school, one of the toughest and most self-esteem-damaging places in a young girl’s life?
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We explored private schools specializing in kids with ADHD and briefly thought about holding Bean back for a year. Repeating fifth grade was a great option, but her self-esteem was so low already, how would she react if all her friends went on to middle school and she was left with current fourth graders? Near the end of the school year, Bean hopped off the school bus and said, quite matter-of-factly, “Mom, I’m not ready for middle school. I need to stay in fifth grade one more year.”
I almost fell over! She felt the same way we did! I immediately called her teacher, an incredible woman who held degrees in special education. It was as if fireworks were exploding. This was the answer! Bean would repeat a grade — and it was her idea!
Ultimately, Bean repeated fifth grade. She became a leader in her classes. Roles were reversed. Instead of being shy and feeling like she was the slowest kid or the kid who couldn’t keep up, she was the one helping other students and raising her hand. Her confidence soared.
Repeating fifth grade was a great option, but her self-esteem was so low already, how would she react if all her friends went on to middle school and she was left with current fourth graders?
Her second year of fifth grade was full of successes. Bean was elected to Safety Patrol, welcoming students to school each day and assisting kindergartners find their way around. She participated in school plays and led group projects. She had lots of friends and was included in after-school get-togethers. She also grew several inches.
When she walked into her middle school, her head was high, her smile was huge and she was confident. She was still different, a little less mature than some of her peers, but she loved who she was and understood her differences made her special.
Bean is entering high school next year. She’s already 15, older than most eighth graders and still smaller. She will be the first of her friends to learn to drive. She loves make up and is just starting to have an interest in boys. She loves to make clothes for her dolls and wants to explore fashion design. She’s learning to sew.
She just auditioned for the middle school musical and got a small part. She decided to also serve on the tech crew, designing the sets, lighting, music and costumes. Bean is a young lady who knows who she is and is confident she’s found her stride. She’s known as the nicest girl in her grade, kind to everyone and standing up to people who bully kids who may seem a little different. She remembers what that felt like.
Holding my daughter back was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Bean could have gotten lost in the fast pace of middle school and drowned in the “mean girl” drama. Instead, she got a chance to mature and grow comfortable with who she is and have confidence in who she can become.
Michelle Roses is a mother, shark diver, reporter, dancer and Wonder Woman. Her work has been published by Inc, Slate, and The Huffington Post. You can read more from Quora here:
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