Leaving a school conference can find parents with a lump in their throats – having to decide what will be better for their child in the long run – retaining or passing on to “try harder next year”. Most children don’t fail on purpose. A student who knows how to “try harder” usually does.
Finding Reasons for Poor Progress in School
Finding and acting on these reasons is vital to progress, regardless of whether or not the student is retained. Parents can look at work samples, test results, observations of adults who work with the child. There may be a perceptual weakness, a preferred learning or motivational style, or learning gaps.
Once information is clarified, a plan for remediation should be developed. Then “try it on” in the two grades being considered. Utilize the help of teachers and other professionals to see which grade’s plan of study meets those defined needs.
Parents Often Know Best
Parents have a lot to offer and are the team leaders in such decisions. They will be around after this year’s advisers are out of the picture.
Sometimes it is the parent who sees a need to retain. When they opt in favor of the thinking of others, they may regret it. Trust your observations and voice them when asking others for advice. Seek various opinions. Write down pros and cons.
If the Decision is Wrong
Keep in mind that errors do occur. However, look at that possibility. It could be better to give a child another year than to make an error of ensuring stress and struggle during the rest of a child’s school career.
Parents often wonder if a retained child will know the material too well. Hardly ever has a child suffered because of doing too well in school – especially a child who has recently met with defeat.
Talking to Your Child
If the choice is made to retain your child, plan for and time communications with your child carefully. First, provide a clear explanation of the need to “finish work” or “have a chance to enjoy school”. Getting the child involved in understanding why is necessary. Reasons need to be kept simple, yet remain honest.
Impersonal causative factors may enable quicker acceptance with less prolonged grief. For example, you could mention ear infections as a baby which were “no one’s fault, yet they caused you to not get enough language to be ready for school.”
Blaming only teaches a child to take that route when success doesn’t come easily. Also, initiate strong nurturing for a few weeks until the sting is gone and the adjustment to the idea is made.
Make it clear that you love, support and believe in your child. If you still look on it as a failure, seek help. Your own grief has to be dealt with before starting the discussion with your child because your real feelings have a way of oozing out when least expected.
Chart a New Course for the Retained Year
Find out how the student best learns. Locate weak perceptual areas and work to improve them, remembering to build in rewards. The reason for all this is that “the gift of time” works better when you sprinkle it with lots of planning.
In the end you may decide to retain, or not to retain. Retention can be looked at two very different ways: to fail or to finish. Kids don’t mind having to finish, but no one wants to be told they failed. Be sure to look for reasons, trust yourself, talk to your child, and chart a new course.