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Twins at Different Academic Stages

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

Q: Hello: I am a preschool teacher of several boys. I have a set of male twin students, both of which are developmentally different in academics. One boy is very bright, and the other is very average in this area. The bright child is very motivated to learn all that he can, while the average child is not particularly interested in academics, but rather in socializing. These little guys just turned four-years-old in February.

The mom has asked me for advice about entering her bright child into kindergarten this fall, if a public school or private school will permit it. She would then wait to enroll the other boy next year.

My question to you is: What would be the pros and cons of doing this, academically, emotionally, and socially, for both boys? I will very much appreciate your response on this. Thanks.

A: These boys will only be four and one-half years old next September! In my opinion, pre-school is NEVER to be seen as a preparation for kindergarten. If the mother sees her one more "academically inclined" twin would greatly benefit from a kindergarten environment (more so than another year of a delightful pre-school experience) then kindergarten could be considered. I tend to encourage later rather than earlier enrollment into formal schooling for younger children unless the child himself is clamoring for it. Her "more social" twin is probably responding very positively to your pre-school environment and learning valuable social skills, even though his mother probably regards him as "behind" his twin in development.

If they are like most twins, they have quite a bond. Unless they hamper each others social and emotional healthy development, I would see more pluses for both of them in keeping them together at the same level next year. Overall this would provide developmental benefits in a secure setting for both boys and not produce the possible negative side effects of a premature separation at this time. They are both doing fine, why upset a rhythm which is natural and in which the boys are thriving. I hope this helps. I know it's difficult to offer my reasoning to a parent who thinks she has a very bright child who must be more intellectually challenged. Good luck.

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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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