Should Your Child be the Oldest or the Youngest in Her Class?

Does it matter?

A child’s birthday is very important. When you are younger, having a day devoted just to you is magical. It doesn’t matter to the little boy or girl whether a birthday is in February or in July, all that matters is the presents, the party, friends and cake!

But to school districts around the country, a birthday is more than just a day to have a party. It is a line in the sand that determines when your child should begin their formal education This cut off date not only varies from state to state, but even from school district to school district.

Many parents base when their child should start school on this arbitrary date. While there are parents who do not mind if their child is the youngest in the class, other factor this and other things in when they decide to hold their child back a year.

Is this a good thing?

What is the Difference Between Hold a Child Back a Year and Being Held Back?

Should You Hold Your Child back a Year?Credit:

If you think back to your childhood, there probably was a boy or girl who had to repeat a grade. This was called “being held back” and it caused a great amount of pain and shame to the child who did not advance to the next grade with his peers. These children felt a sense of failure and were oftentimes teased by other children and made to feel stupid.

Could these children have been spared having their self-esteem shattered if they parents had voluntarily made the choice to hold them back a year?

Because the times were different, many of these children were sent to school because they met the cut-off date criteria. For example, my brother was born on December 24th, and the New York City cutoff date at that time was December 31st. He started kindergarten when he was four, while most of his peers were already well into their fifth year of life. He had friends born in January of the same year, and he was an entire year younger than many of his classmates.

In today’s modern world, my brother would have went to preschool for another year and started kindergarten as one of the older children. Back in 1971, that was not done.

While he is a smart and successful adult today, he had some issues in school that may have been avoidable if he had not been the youngest in class.

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Child Development

There are many stages of child development, and as a parent, you need to know what they are.It is important to note whether or not your child is on the right track or is lagging behind. Most states have free or low cost Early Intervention services to help children achieve  necessary developmental milestones they may be have fallen behind on.

Is One Year Really That Big a Deal?

When you are an adult, the difference of a year or even ten does not matter. I have friends in their thirties, forties, fifties and sixties. Five year olds, however, are not friends with twelve year olds, and fifteen year olds are not friends with thirty year olds.

In the world of child development, a year is HUGE.

My twins were 28 week preemies who missed our school district’s cut off date by two days. Although that date made the decision for me as to when they should begin kindergarten, even if they had been born a few days earlier, I still would have chosen to hold them back a year.


When I started my daughter’s Girl Scout troop when she and her friends were in kindergarten, there was a world of difference between her and her peers. Several of the girls had August birthdays, making my daughter almost a year older than most of them.

There were very evident gaps in their fine motor capabilities. From holding a scissor and using them properly to forming their letters on paper, my child and the other older girl in my troop could do these things without help, and the girls with summer birthdays needed a lot of assistance.

I also had one first grade girl in my troop at that time, who, in effect, was two years older than her kindergarten sister scouts. She could do way more than any of the girls in my troop, including my own child.

By third grade, the playing field leveled out for them, but for the first three years, the older girls had a developmental advantage.

One year is a very big difference when you are a child.

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While This Solution Seems Logical, There Are Issues With It He Does Not Address

Redshirting-Reasons Why Parents Hold Their Child Back a Year

It is Now Common Practice

Redshirting ChildrenCredit:

A term that has come into play over the past few years is called “redshirting”, that is, holding a child back a year from the start of kindergarten. It happens more often to boys more than girls.

One of the biggest reasons parents hold their sons from starting school is related to sports. When many parents hear the doctor’s words “It’s a boy!”, visions of life full of athletics fill their minds.

In many areas, sports teams are chosen by grade level, not birth date. If a boy is younger than his peers, he will not the competitive edge he needs to “be the best“. Giving him an extra year to mature will make him bigger and stronger than those who are actually age appropriate for their grade. This is a fantastic advantage on the playing field.

Another advantage to having an older child is that s/he will hit important milestones before others, like getting a driver’s license. That will make him the “big man on campus" and give him a social leg up as well. 

Parents hold their child back is for emotional and social reasons. In terms of cognitive development, boys are less mature than girls at this age. They can test off the charts during kindergarten readiness screening, but there is no test for emotional readiness. This is a discussion that parents and preschool teachers need to have before a child begins kindergarten. Is he truly ready?

It has been my professional experience that kids can overcome not being as smart as their peers, but if a child is less mature than his classmates, this sets him up for all kind of social issues. Kids do not like criers and other behaviors that are considered “babyish”.

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The Pros and Cons of Redshirting

It is not always a good thing to hold a child back a year.

Academics is another big reason that parents redshirt their child. Who doesn’t want their kid t0 be the best and brightest in the class? While holding them back the year does not guarantee that your child will be the class valedictorian, it can give him an advantage.

And that is what parents who are practicing this are seeking.

Is There Anything Bad About Holding a Child Back a Year?

Parents need to consider whether or not their August son is ready for kindergarten based on his abilities and not just on his birth date. As a young mother, I had several friends who had sons born during the summer months, and the big conversation when they were turning five was should they begin kindergarten?

Of the three whom my daughter is still friends with today, one was held back in kindergarten due to social reasons…he just was not ready for first grade. One has had some social issues throughout school and the third sailed through school, athletics, and socially with flying colors.

If a parent is unsure of what to do, one solution that worked for some of my friends was to send their son or daughter to a private kindergarten. At the end of that year, they could make an intelligent decision to either start their child in public school kindergarten or public school first grade.

The bottom line is that holding your child back a year should be taken on a case by case basis. Every child is different. Some are ready as a young five to start kindergarten while others need “the gift of another year” (my preschool director’s favorite quote) to bloom and get ready for public school. Future sports teams and the dream of “getting into Princeton” should not be the deciding factor in this life changing decision.