Can I Hold My Child Back in School?


The decision to hold your child back in school is a difficult one. The child’s teacher, other educational specialists that work with your child and the school’s administrator may all have different opinions as to whether your child should be kept back. Depending on how old your child is, he may also be affected socially, especially if his friends move on and he doesn’t. Ultimately, however, you are the parent, which means it is your decision.

Time Frame

While you can hold your child back in school at any age, kindergarten and first grade are the best times to repeat a year, according to FamilyEducation. In fact, these are the ages when the majority of parents and schools decide to retain. Children this age are less likely to have formed firm friendships. In addition, these two grades are when basic reading skills are taught, and many children benefit from an extra year of reading lessons.


Numbers show that there is a trend toward holding children back from entering kindergarten. In 1968, 96 percent of all first graders were 6 years old when they were in first grade. In 2008, only 84 percent of all first-graders were 6, according to MSNBC. A study done by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) showed that 9 percent of kindergartners were deliberately held back by their parents between the years of 1993 and 1995. In 2007, NCES estimated that about 14 percent of parents held their children back from starting kindergarten at age 5 and decided to start them at age 6 instead.

Expert Insight

Experts disagree on whether holding children back in school is best for them, according to Wichita State University. It is hard to generalize such a statement, because each situation is so unique to each child. For some children, holding them back may be the best thing. According to an MSNBC article, a study done by the University of Illinois showed that children who started kindergarten closer to age 6 than age 5 had a slight academic advantage over their younger peers that lasted until 8th grade. On the other hand, holding a child back means an extra year of paying for childcare, if you are holding him back from kindergarten and work outside of the home. It also means that his peers will be entering the workforce while he is still in high school, and it makes it possible for your child to be able to drop out of school at an earlier grade level before he graduates.

Pros and Cons

Academic readiness is usually the main reason a school will retain a child, according to Texas A&M University, but parents often have other reason for wanting to hold back their children in school. Some parents believe that retaining a child will give him an advantage in social skills and sports. This is especially true for parents who have small children, children who are already the youngest in the class or children who struggle with behavioral issues. Many schools, however, do not consider these issues to be a reason to hold a child back. Even low academic skills may not be reason enough for retention. If there are underlying learning disorders, they will not necessarily be helped by repeating a grade. Instead, those disorders must be specifically addressed.


Talk to your child to find out how she feels about being held back in school, especially if she is older. There is still a stigma attached to being retained, and children usually dread it, according to the Wall Street Journal. In addition, if your child continues to struggle academically even when held back, this can lead to bitterness and poor self-esteem. Sometimes changing schools at the time you hold your child back can help alleviate this problem, and it might be a good idea if you do decide to hold back an older child.



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