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Kindergartner Refuses to Learn the Alphabet

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

Q: I have a kindergartner with no desire to learn the alphabet. He is bright and understands the concept of addition and subtraction. He excels in every area of school except reading. I am divorced and my child's father is continually accussing me of not spending enough time with my son while he is listening. Everytime I try to teach him the alphabet he says,"No,it's too hard." This has gotten out of hand. I feel like my son is pitting me and my ex-husband against each other so that he doesn't have to do the work. This arguing has to stop, but I don't know how to do it.

A: I will tell you how to stop the arguing. STOP MAKING YOUR SON'S LEARNING THE ALPHABET OR ANYTHING ELSE HE ENCOUNTERS IN KINDERGARTEN A BIG ISSUE!!! Let your son's first exposure to learning and socializing in a public school be free of parent's pressuring him to learn things. This IS NOT what your son's natural rhythm of learning should resemble. He should not feel accountable to either of you to learn anything. When he's ready, able and willing to learn the alphabet or anything else, he will learn it. He won't learn because you are demanding that he learn and implying or directly stating to this little boy that he is somehow lazy or bad because he won't let you teach him his abc's.

It sounds like you and your husband may cause your son considerable anxiety about doing "well" in school and are ready to blame one another if he doesn't measure up to your standards of excellence. Please don't let your son be affected adversely in his attitudes toward school by you and your husband using this as something to continue fighting about.

Unless both of you can be totally supportive and non-judgmental about his work in school, don't engage him in any talk or activities related to schoolwork. Give the little guy a chance and enjoy him as he learns so many new things, WITHOUT ANY PRESSURE.

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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.


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