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Is There Anything I Can Do if My Son's Teacher Wants to Hold Him Back?

by Sara Ipatenco, studioD

Repeating a grade isn't the end of the world, and it is appropriate for many children, to help them be more successful in school. If, however, you strongly disagree with the teacher's opinion, there are things you can do to help or to override that decision. There's no guarantee, but if you disagree, they are worth a try.

Talk, Talk and More Talk

Don't just hear the teacher's words and accept them quietly. Instead, make an appointment with your child's teacher to have a conversation about exactly why she thinks your child should repeat a grade. Talk with her about your child's progress in the classroom and any difficulty she has with learning. Once you understand where your child's teacher is coming from, you can make your final decision about what grade your child will be in next year.

Get a Second Opinion

If you oppose having your child repeat a grade, get a second opinion, the HeatlhyChildren.org website recommends. Make an appointment with another teacher to see what she thinks. You might also talk with your child's pediatrician or a child psychologist to get more information about the risks and benefits of keeping your child back a grade. A conversation with the principal at your child's school might also be warranted if you disagree with your child's teacher. Keep in mind that most children who are retained don't catch up any faster than if they would have progressed to the next grade, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics website HealthyChildren.org, so talk about that with your second opinion sources, too.

Do Your Research

Before you make your final decision and agree or disagree with your child's teacher, do your homework. Learn more about the retention rates at your child's school and ask the administration for evidence suggesting that keeping children back is indeed beneficial. According to GreatSchools.org, retaining a child doesn't always boost academic achievement, and can actually do more harm than good. Present this information to your child's teacher and the administration so you can discuss whether holding your child back is the best decision both academically and emotionally.

Be the Teacher

Work with your child on academics and social skills at home. If your child could be held back, he's struggling with his classwork and homework, so review the concepts he's learning at home. Working on academics with your child will also help prepare him if you decide to advance him to the next grade. Perhaps you could quiz him verbally on spelling words or make flashcards to study math facts. The same goes for social skills. If your child is behind his peers maturity wise, set up play dates so he can practice interacting with other children in an appropriate way. Role play social situations with your child so he has the words necessary to engage with his peers in such a way that will encourage him to form friendships.


If, in the end, you and your child's teacher agree that retention is the way to go, prepare your child to go back to the same grade. Build your child up so he doesn't feel like he's not smart. You want your child to feel that repeating a grade is a good thing rather than something that will damage his self-esteem or make him feel bad about himself. Be available to listen to your child's feelings as he repeats a grade. Make time for him to play with his friends from last year so he can retain those friendships, which can help him feel better about repeating, according to KidsHealth.

About the Author

Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.

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