My six year old daughter refuses to do her work at school. I have tried everything from rewards to limits on her activities. We have talked about it, we have agreed on the reward/limit system to no avail. I'm afraid she'll have to repeat kindergarten.
At Wit's End
Dear At Wit's End,
For some reason your daughter is not functioning in her kindergarten class. Without knowing anything more about her or your family situation or the class she's in, I can only suggest that you check all of the following: Is her kindergarten a well-run program in which the other children are functioning well and are happy?
Is there anything going on at home that might cause her to be unhappy and to exhibit that unhappiness in school by not doing her work?
If she's in a good program, has a warm, caring teacher and everything is fine at home, you should check the following:
- Is her eyesight okay? There has been a strong link discovered between problems with seeing and children's behavior in school and their learning/reading abilities. Check with an optometrist, especially one who keeps up on the professional literature.
- Is her hearing okay?
- Does she have trouble concentrating? This can be a sign of Attention Deficit Disorder. It's not as scary as it sounds. There are many different levels and if it's caught early it can be dealt with easier than if it's caught at an older age.
- Has she been tested for learning disabilities? Threatening to deprive her of privileges will have little effect if she has real trouble doing the work she is given.
- Are there children she plays with in kindergarten? Feeling friendless can contribute to non-functioning in school. If that seems to be the problem, encourage her to invite friends home and make them feel welcome.
Some of these possibilities send parents into denial that such a problem can exist. Don't be afraid; be brave. Everything mentioned above can be treated, especially at the age of six. Check it all out and whatever the solution: Go for it!
Dear "At Wit's End,"
I can sense your frustration with your daughter's difficulty in completing her schoolwork. As a trained preschool teacher, I was somewhat surprised to read that a child is getting a significant amount of schoolwork to complete in kindergarten.
To be honest, I am not a fan of assigning homework in kindergarten. I feel that before first grade, children are not always developmentally ready to sit and complete assignments. After-school time should be spent in free play and relaxing activities. If assignments are given, they should be short and fun activities.
You may wish to speak with your child's teacher and tell her that your daughter may not be ready yet for formal assignments. Speak to the parents of other children in her class. You might discover that the assignments are hard for other children. If so, perhaps a group of parents can speak to the teacher and mention that the work seems a bit hard for the children.
Perhaps your daughter is not developmentally ready for an academic program, but next year, after another year of maturation, she will do well in academic studies.
Do not be concerned that your daughter will be left back because of not completing assignments. Occasionally, there is good reason for a child to repeat kindergarten, but at age six, any decisions about academic placement should not be related to school assignments.
As WholeMom mentioned, it is always wise to check out your child's development and possible difficulties with the appropriate professionals. You may want to have her developmental skills tested by a child psychologist or it may be enough to just mention any difficulties to her pediatrician and see if her doctor has any concerns. If your child does have learning problems, then the sooner you take care of them the better.
It is possible, however, that the difficulty may lie in the school your child is attending, rather than in your daughter's capabilities.
Good luck and best wishes,
Esther Boylan Wolfson
Director, Early Childhood Development Center