One of the things I love about my church home, Brightmoor Christian Church, is one of our missions: “the bigger we get the smaller we must get”, which translates to mean that the more people attend and join the church, there must be an active initiative to remain small so that everyone feels a sense of intimacy, belonging, and brother/sisterhood. They accomplish this through tons of events for every age group, small group outings, gatherings, studies, Mom 2 Mom playdates, men and women’s retreats, and more! It has been an absolute pleasure so far meeting other women and families in the small group studies I’ve been able to attend.
Currently, I’m taking a “Mom 2 Mom” class with other Stay at Home moms, which has been a literal breath of fresh air to be surrounded by moms and women of faith and hear them share the same concerns, struggles, and prayers for their children and families! When I hear other moms wearing similar shoes exasperate that they are struggling to get their kids to eat healthy, or stop fighting, or pray that their spouse can be on the same parenting page, or for their kids to simply listen without making them lose their mind, there’s me mentally doing a high jump-on a trampoline- shouting YES! ITS NOT JUST MEEEE! *insert borderline psychotic mix of laughing and crying*
The title of the class is called “Making Children Mind without Losing Yours” by internationally known and NY Best Times seller Christian psychologist Dr. Kevin Leman. During the course of our study, which is moderated by great moms and leaders within our church, we watch the video series as we follow along in a workbook, and afterwards share our experiences and pray together about our own hopes, triumphs, failures, or personal issues in relation to this parenting journey!
During one of our recent weekly meetings, I heard something profound from Dr. Leman that I want to share with you regarding our children’s academic progression and development:
WHEN IN DOUBT, HOLD THEM BACK.
Wait what? Hold our kids back?! GASP! And I thought wow, that’s the advice coming from a highly respected, thoroughly trained and practiced psychologist of over 30 books and a dozen or more audio and DVD titles. Then I thought about my first two sons, Jabin and Caleb, who are proof in the pudding that children learn at different rates and at different capacities! For example, Jabin knew his ABC’s by the time he was 18months…Caleb didn’t know it well until he was 3! Jabin has a natural zest and love for learning, Caleb prefers to run, crack up, tell jokes and say BOOTY HEAD mid-counting sequences. Jabin is ok sitting at the dining room table knocking out his homework, while Caleb you have to make a game out of learning, let him run around a little bit, and borderline bribe him with suckers and popsicles to get him to accomplish a learning session. #exhausting
It also made me think about the pressure that sometimes society and some parents put on their children regarding academic achievement:
- They are in Pre-K but they are forced and tutored to death to be reading at a 3rd grade level. Fa whet? So they can get to kindergarten and first grade and be bored because they are 2 grade levels ahead?
- “My child is 3 and he is taking Chinese, French, and Spanish!” while flipping their hair.
- “Your child is 5 and doesn’t know his time tables yet?! OMG!”
- If your child is 2 and not “in school yet”, you are doing them a disservice!
You get my drift. While there are plenty of children that are naturally gifted and learn easily and do require to be challenged beyond their traditional expectations, most of our children are simply normal. Yes, its exciting to have OUR child be their class’s Brightest and Best, the valedictorian, the full-ride academic scholarship recipient to the test-in only 20K a year middle school… you know, the kid that just continues to make us drop our jaws at what they’re doing next and give us cause to brag how smart they are to any listening ear.
But then, you have the majority of our children who are just like everyone else. And its nothing wrong with that!
Pushing your children to the next academic level before they are ready can cause life-long crippling effects. Picture the young boy who was moved to the first grade but didn’t quite nail down phonics. He struggles continuously with reading & comprehension, and begins to cover up his ignorance with a nonchalant attitude and disdain for school. There are teachers and counselors reaching out to the parents that his reading is way behind and its suggested that he be held back a grade and be enrolled in aggressive tutoring to help him. But thats your precious child, and you allow the enemy to convince you that your son will look dumb and think he’s dumb if he’s held behind, that he would be embarrassed, that he will be ok and HE DOESN’T NEED TO BE HELD BACK, HE’LL CATCH UP, YOU WATCH! As a result, you push him along, ignoring all the warning signs that he needs help, and he goes through school mentally lost & absent- consequently left behind, confused. He grows up to be consciously embarrassed and ashamed that he cannot confidently perform basic abilities from primary school.
Then you have my very own sister, TresBien Gonzales, who also noticed that when her son was in kindergarten, he was just not catching on as fast as expected. Towards the end of the school year, Joshua’s teacher suggested that he do kindergarten again just to ensure he had a strong foundation on the fundamentals before moving on, but ultimately left the decision up to TresBien.
“Just like any parent, its initially disappointing and disturbing to hear that your child isn’t comprehending as fast as the other kids. And I didn’t want him to be embarrassed or be made fun of for taking Kindergarten over”, says TresBien when asked how she felt during that time. “But I realized I was making my son’s long term interests a priority and I had to get out of my feelings about what was a temporary situation. I made the decision to set him up for success.”
She talked it over with her husband and family, where she received conflicting advice: “NO! That boy don’t need to stay behind, move him up!” and “You don’t want to push him on if he’s not confident, that will continue to affect him!” But she prayed, looked at her son for who he was without comparison, and quieted all the other voices in her head and followed the peace of God.
She had doubt that he was ready to move on, so she held him back!
Fast forward a year later, and he is FLOURISHING, reading and writing like a champ as a 2nd time kindergartner! And guess what? There is a demand for 2 year kindergarten programs in our schools all across the country because parents are recognizing that their child is individually unique and learns at their own pace, thus giving their child the necessary time, resources, and freedom to learn in a way that they can properly retain it while building a strong academic foundation.
SO, WHAT’S NEXT?
If you notice that your child is not being challenged enough, reach out to the teacher and discuss your concerns. Work together to create a plan that works for your child. And if your child is struggling in a subject, recognize that everything does not come easy! Reach out to the teacher and ask how you can help them at home, ask about tutoring opportunities, jump on care.com and look for a tutor in your area that can help! And its ok to recognize that teaching your kid may not be your strength, because I look at some of these homework assignments that my niece gets and I have a blank confused stare and have no idea how to help her. God gave us these children to teach and mold them into the best men and women they can grow to be. We are ultimately held responsible for their successes and failures and what we did and did not do in those critical moments where our children need our help. So, lets take this time to assess our kids and really pay attention to the areas that they need more attention in. We all are raising the greats of the next generation, we all have our own miniature versions of The Brightest and Best. Now lets make sure they know it and produce accordingly. #boom #theend #offmysoapbox
Now I want to hear from YOU! Are there any readers who made the decision to hold their child back and struggled with the decision? Or are there any readers who take the drill sergeant approach to their kid’s academic success and see their children thriving? Share your stories and own advice below so we all can learn! <3