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Teacher Expects Too Much of Four-Year-Old

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: My four-year-old son came home with three test grades from daycare school: a "95," a "100," and a "0." He attends a daycare for infants to five-year-olds.

Our son was very upset that he received a bad grade. When we asked why he had received a "0," he answered that he didn't know how to do the assignment. The teacher explained that he must be ready for school by five, and he has to learn the consequences of not doing his work.

My son knows most of the alphabet and can almost write his name, but can't identify upper- and lowercase letters. Are we being too lax with him, or is the teacher asking too much?

A: Your four-year-old son should never be made to feel inadequate or uncomfortable in any way for not being able to demonstrate certain levels of academic knowledge and skills in a preschool -- or in any school for that matter.

I'm appalled that this teacher would give graded tests to their preschoolers. This goes against any and all respected early childhood education principles. Preschools should be nurturing environments that focus on engaging children's natural interests and curiosities, provide kids with an atmosphere that stimulates all their senses, and help them develop socially and emotionally. Underlying these goals is an implicit commitment toward building up children's self-esteem and self-worth.

A preschool's purpose is not to prepare him for school by five, nor is it to shame him for not achieving some arbitrary set of academic goals they have established.

At the risk of sounding too authoritarian, I would strongly question whether you should continue to send your child to this preschool. You are not lacking in your parenting -- this preschool is sorely lacking in its approach to nurturing and teaching children. This school sounds like many that have cropped up in recent years, designed to satisfy parents that their preschoolers are getting ahead of "the academic competition" before they enter public school. This is a most destructive and counter-productive trend, ignoring sound developmental research and knowledge.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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