Ask The Expert

By Sylvia Rimm

June 5, 2009 5 min read


Dr. Sylvia Rimm answers your school questions

Sylvia Rimm

Creators News Service

Younger children may struggle or excel

Q. I have a 3-year-old daughter, and I'm a first-grade teacher. I often see kids that are struggling as younger students or older students that excel within their grade.

Her birthday is August 1. The school start deadline here is September 15. I'm debating about when she should start school. She's social, outgoing and academically has met or exceeded the milestones for her age group at this time.

Her sister is 16 months behind her ... so they will be either a year or two apart in school, based on this decision. Any advice?

A. The difficulty of making the decision about entrance to kindergarten is that whether it's the best decision can't always be judged in kindergarten or first grade. Those young children who struggle in first grade may turn out to be the best hard-working students by middle school, and those older students who excel in earlier grades may be the underachievers and troublemakers by middle school. Neither is always the case, and a careful evaluation before you make the decision will truly help.

If your daughter has the above-average readiness and good social skills that you've observed, follow the entrance guideline, although she'll be somewhat young in the class. If you hold her back a year, she may be bored and become accustomed to learning so easily that later challenge in school will feel worrisome. On the other hand, if her abilities and readiness are only borderline, according to testing, waiting a year may be a better answer. In general, girls mature earlier than boys, so being young in the class is less of a disadvantage. You do need further information before making that difficult decision.

Boy Needs Challenge and More Audience

Q. I'm a teacher in a school for intellectually gifted children. One middle school boy is of particular concern to me. He's bright (160 IQ), tremendously creative, and one-on-one, a delight to be around. He would have excellent grades except that his behavior is problematic. The child spends his life in trouble, constantly securing a spot in detention for misbehavior and being talked to in a stern manner. He laughs at inappropriate times, loves to be the class clown, and says inappropriate things for shock value. We know that taking away his audience helps, but we certainly cannot isolate him constantly.

His parents, lovely people, both professionals, are mortified. I believe that the current "discipline" program that we subject him to is completely off base. We haven't changed his behavior in three years. He doesn't fit the profile of bright but underachieving because he DOES do the work quickly and correctly so that he can get into trouble! Do you have any suggestions for changing his "consequence" plan in order to change the behavior?

A. Your middle school student acts like he has too much time on his hands, not enough challenge, and not enough positive audience. Independent or small group projects like demonstrating science experiments, writing and performing plays, editing a class newsletter, participating in forensics, debate, Future Problem Solving, Odyssey of the Mind, Quiz Bowl, joining students in a higher grade for subjects where he excels, coaching younger children in academic or sports areas or shadowing mentors in areas of interest are just a few potential approaches to helping this young man see himself as more than a class clown. Isolating a child briefly in a time-out when he gets into trouble can be helpful temporarily, but giving him avenues for expressing his creativity in positive ways will have a more permanent impact on his real needs for creative expression.

For free newsletters about keys to parenting your gifted child, or about overempowerment leading to underachievement, send a large self-addressed, stamped envelope to P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI, 53094, or read other parenting articles at

Dr. Sylvia B. Rimm is the director of the Family Achievement Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, a clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and the author of many books on parenting. More information on raising kids is available at Please send questions to: Sylvia B. Rimm on Raising Kids, P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI 53094 or [email protected] To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

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