"Tarzan" is very smart so his academics are fine, but his personality has always been a bit fiery. He loves soft comforting hugs, but also needs the tickling and wrestling with daddy. He is emotional, not sensitive, just emotional. When he's upset, he'll cry, when he's mad, he's MAD. At school, it's more about seeking attention: talking out, laughing too loud, impulsive, not keeping hands to himself. Sounds like a serious behavior issue, doesn't it? He's six.
As a former school counselor myself, I'm caught between two parallels:
the mom who wants to protect her child and the counselor who doesn't see the obvious because she's too close. I've been talking to him a lot about his behavior just as I did counseling 16 year olds. His teacher has put him on a behavior contract, just like I did with high school students. He can verbalize many things as well as a sixteen year old. He's six.
I question the behavior of other boys in his kindergarten class and their behavior seems to be no different than Tarzan's. I've also talked on mom forums and my son's behavior is no different than other kids, even better. I'm not making excuses and I certainly want my kids to be well behaved as any parent.
The teacher is concerned that he won't be ready for first grade because they do more academic work and have stricter behavior guidelines. Huh? I know adults that can't keep their attention on task, don't listen carefully and certainly can't sit for 6 hours.
While I'm impressed with the academics my little one is exhibiting, I am now questioning the all day kindergarten program. The standardized testing for 3rd and 4th grade has indeed trickled down to kindergarten. Get them ready for the tests in 2nd grade by beefing up the 1st grade curriculum. Prepare them for first grade by beefing up the kindergarten academics.
I firmly believe young kids can absorb mountains of academics, but are 5 and 6 year olds ready for the structured social arena of all-day school? I question this. I think most girls are but probably not most boys. Research has shown several gender differences through out the schooling years. Boys tend to lag in the early grades with maturity. Girls hit math and science plateaus around middle school years. The all-day kindergarten is relatively new and still not in every state.
I question my parenting. Did I yell too much - yes, I yelled when Tarzan was two, I yell now that he's six and I'll probably still yell next year - hopefully not as much. I never yelled before kids. Quiet, patient me never yelled before getting frustrated that my 2 year old wasn't picking up his toys. Society said toddlers should start picking up toys at 2 y.o. or even before. I now question this. All the parenting experts said we needed to start earlier teaching kids to help mommy by picking up toys. I became frustrated and felt like a bad parent because my toddler couldn't clean up when I told him to. This expectation was too high and I regret it.
Anyone hear of a pre-school that requires toddlers to be fully potty trained by three or even two? Ridiculous! Luckily, we didn't push at all with our guys. And training was a breeze at 3 1/2 - 4 years old. We rejected the societal push to have our kids trained "on time." I wish I had followed this philosophy with cleaning up toys, it would have saved mountains of frustration!
And now I question the all day kindergarten. Society has placed high expectations on six year olds. Think about that. High expectations on a SIX year old. How do six year old boys really behave? They are highly energetic, crazy with their imaginations, expect constant attention, wild in their game playing and certainly change their tasks numerous times within 5 minutes!
As a society we can try new ideas and even impose high expectations, but we cannot change biology. We often hear the ideal "let kids be kids" or agree that as teens they are growing up too fast. Am I the only one that sees a parallel here? We push our kids to grow up earlier and stop acting like children when they are six and then complain in ten years when they ARE acting grown up!
Please, let's swing the pendulum back to the other side. Or at least center it.