Why you shouldn’t retain your child.

Parents keep coming to me with one frustration/fear that is taking over their lives. The school wants to retain their children, and most of these wonderful, bright, loving parents have succumbed to this horrible pressure of retaining their children under the guise that the students are going to magically mature or something along these lines with another year of the same curriculum presented in the same manner that didn’t work the first time.

My Two Cents

I can’t believe how strongly these parents fight to retain their children, when they need to be fighting not to retain these bright, overlooked, and misunderstood students.  Research backs up this stance; according to this research, there is only one grade level where retention shows benefits, and that is kindergarten.  After that, the psychological damage overrules any progress that might have been made from holding the student back another year.


I’d like to add my two cents.  If this is the best intervention that we as a powerful country can provide for our children, then we are in serious trouble. So, I keep asking myself this:  Why are these parents so seemingly excited to retain their children?  Believe me, this isn’t a solution for long-term success, although I know each and every one of you can site a story where retention supposedly helped. That may be true, but I would argue that there are thousands, perhaps millions of students who have been retained and are still carrying that load of disappointment and supposed failure with them every moment of the day.  I know this, because it’s often one of the first things these intelligent, often sensitive and gifted students tell me.  “I should be in fourth grade.  But I got held back.”


Held back.  Retained.  Flunked.


These are not words I want any child or grandchild of mine to associate with their names, especially at a young age.  Seriously, I don’t want any child or teen to have to utter these words again.  Every child is an amazing success!  Every student has gifts, intelligence, and insights that are being ignored.  Our archaic educational system is the start of the process of failing; holding a student back for a year is an age-old system that just doesn’t work.  We’ve come a long way in so many areas, but this is one that needs tossed by the wayside.

Questions You Should Ask

*  Ask yourself and the school what will be changed between this past school year and the upcoming school year.  Lean in the direction of curriculum and teaching practices, not just a change of teacher.

* How self-confident is your child at this moment? If he/she is the least bit lacking in this area, ask yourself and those who want to retain him/her how a retention will help self-esteem.  Once again, just providing a different teacher isn’t enough.

* Consider other schooling options.  Private schools can help your child get over a “learning hump” because they usually don’t have the stringent rules of a public school.  Home schooling is also an option.  Sometimes you can do both!

* Ask what the school is doing to ensure that this doesn’t happen again next year.  For instance, ask if this is just a method of proving that something was done as a matter of record keeping or school/district rules.

* Ask for different curriculum options for your child.  If the school doesn’t provide them, then you can fill in the gaps with some of these materials at home.

* Take into consideration your family’s dynamics.  For instance, is your child a twin or triplet who will be “left behind” the other kids in your family?  Is every other child in your home an honor student?  Are both parents college graduates who expect high achievement from their children?

* Size of the student as well as maturity levels should be taken into consideration.  For instance, if your child is tall or has an early birthday for the school year, then it can become extremely embarrassing being the biggest and the oldest kid in class.

* Ask the team to focus on your child’s strengths.  For instance, is your child social?  Is he/she an excellent athlete?  Is your child exceptionally good at something like working with animals or dance?  Getting the team to focus on strengths instead of weaknesses will help everybody, especially your child.

* Insist that you see some form of documentation other than state testing for the reasoning/rationale behind retention.

* Let the team know that you are doing something at home or providing tutoring on your end. Believe it or not, this can make a huge difference.  It lets the team know that you aren’t just talking, that you’ll follow up on your end.


There are so many other things you can do to keep your child from being retained if you put your mind to it, work with others in a positive setting, and are open to alternative methodologies. Always remember, any child is worth saving.  Start now with making sure your child isn’t one of the millions of students who get left behind and fall under archaic methodologies that are proven don’t work.


Best wishes,