Redshirting – Is This Trend Good or Bad For Our Kids?

My son will start Kindergarten when he is 5 years old. He will be 4 soon, and is all signed up for pre-k classes starting in August.

Like all kids, he excels in some areas and struggles in others. I am glad that he has those areas in which he struggles – I think he will learn more from those experiences than he will from the things that come easy to him. That is why I will not be redshirting my son.

There is a lot of talk about redshirting these days. For those of you who don’t know, redshirting is the practice of holding a child back a year so that he/she starts kindergarten at 6 instead of 5. Redshirting is a choice made by parents, not schools or developmental experts.

I have heard a number of reasons for making the decision to redshirt. Some of those reasons include:

  • My child is taking longer to develop their skills in speech and communication and regularly gets frustrated because his teachers and classmates cannot understand him.
  • My child still naps in the afternoons – she is just not ready to spend a full day in school.
  • My child is small for his age, so I worry he will be picked on by the other kids.
  • My child is taking longer to master some of the key components of a solid preschool foundation.
  • I want my child to enter class academically ahead of many of her classmates so that she will be put on an advanced educational track right away.
  • I want my child to be bigger and more mature than the other kids so that he will be viewed as a leader by his classmates.
  • I want my child to be bigger and more mature than his peers when he is older so that he can have a better shot at making sports teams.
  • I want my child to get his driver’s license before his other classmates so that he won’t be embarrassed because he can’t drive when his friends do.

I believe that some parents are making the decision because it truly is in the best interest of their child. Some kids just aren’t ready for Kindergarten at 5 – that doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with those kids – just that they are taking a little extra time to develop in certain areas.

However, I believe that some parents are focusing far too much on what they want their child to do in the future – not necessarily what the child wants to do. Whether that is a sport, an academic achievement, or avoidance of an uncomfortable situation that the parents dealt with as kids (such as being the only one who was not old enough to drive.). When a reason for redshirting starts with “I want,” vs. “My child is,” maybe a second look is necessary.

Children must learn to make their own way in the world. Challenges are what teach children to be proud of their accomplishments; learn from their failures; understand that not everything comes easily, and that hard work is important; develop the ability to cope with the frustration that comes with struggle;  and gain the respect of their peers through their words and actions… not their superior size or age.

As a parent, it is my job to help them learn these things as children so that they will be happy, successful and respected as adults.

This post will be controversial. Redshirting is a subject about which people have very strong feelings. I have shared my opinion as well as the decision we have made for our son. I do, however, believe that in this great country, we all have the right to make decisions for our children. I do not think redshirting should be banned in any community – just that parents should reflect long and hard on their reasoning before deciding on the issue either way.

What is your opinion on redshirting? Did you, or do you plan to redshirt your children?

Comments

    • says

      I totally agree with you. I failed to mention in my original article that the term redshirting comes from the field of sports. It is used to refer to holiding an athlete back from varsity sports for a year so that when they move up to varsity, they have the advantage. I’ve also heard it referred to as “sandbagging” in some sports. I can’t say it is cheating or unfair, but I still wonder what happened to teaching kids to work hard and gain success based on their actions… not their inaction.

    • says

      There really does seem to be a lot of pressure put on parents to redshirt these days. However, the second everyone starts doing it, the benefit goes away… the parents who do it so their kids will have an advantage over the younger kids will find that their child may still be one of the youngest in the classroom…

  1. says

    My son’s birthday is at the end of the year, so we don’t have to worry about it. I”m glad he’ll be going a year later – he’s not ready to go to kindergarten yet. I don’t see a problem with it, at all. I think a class of more mature/ready-to-learn students benefits everyone – not just the kid in question.
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    • says

      My son’s birthday is in May, and I have never considered holding him back. While I see your point about a classroom of more mature students, my question is this: If that is the case, then why don’t we just change the age to start pre-k?

  2. says

    I have never heard this term, but we called it being left back. Kids that this happened to in my elementary and middle school were always talked about in a negative way. I would avoid it if I were you and maybe get a tutor to help. I think that your son will meet the challenge and that sometimes teachers are not qualified to make a recommendation on what your child will be like next year.
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    • says

      Thankfully, no one has recommended this for my son. This is actually something that parents are doing voluntarily – often because they want their kids to be bigger, stronger, more mature, smarter, etc than their classmates. In many cases, the goal is to give their child an advantage when they play sports later in life (being a year older than the other freshman football players would, supposedly, give them an advantage). Like you, when I was a kid, this was a negative thing. Now, it is something parents choose to do…

  3. Felissa says

    With R’s birthday being in July this was a big concern for us. Me more than Neil esp. after our first parent teacher conference in Nov and the teachers were hesitant to say if he was ready for kindergarten. Their opinions were very different by second parent teacher conference and they too felt like he was ready. Although I was not thinking about holding him back just to give him an advantage but more becuase I did not think he was socially ready. Hopefully now he is . We are officially registered for Kindergarten at our local school.

  4. says

    We did not keep our daughter back when we should have. She is a very late August birthday, and qualified for Kindergarten 10 days after turning 5. After a few years of falling further and further behind, we held her back for second grade. It did nothing for her. After one more discouraging year, we started DEMANDING testing for her, the school refused. We abruptly removed her from her charter school and moved her to a traditional school. She was referred for testing on day 4 of her new school. She has significant learning disabilities, one being dyslexia. So, we made a mistake by not listening to our gut by keeping her in a charter school (not a good fit but a great school) but it worked out in the end.
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    • says

      I believe that any child can be successful if the parents are involved! You have proven my point. We, too, had our son in a school that was a very bad match. It was a Montessori school – I’m not sure if he struggled there (socially) because of the Montessori style or because of the teachers. All I know is that it was a very bad fit and he left there feeling bad about himself (at only 3 years old – and I totally blame the teachers for that). There are many, many valid reasons for moving a child or starting them in school late. Unfortunately, I think the trend towards redshirting has more to do with sports than it has to do with what is best for a child.

      Thank you for sharing your story!

  5. says

    I never heard of that term before. I started school at the age of 5, but my mom quickly pulled me out since the teacher was young and inexperienced, so I repeated the same grade the next year. I didn’t hold my son back, but his school tried to convince me for him to repeat kindergarten (this was foreign to me since kindergarten is not mandatory in the state of Indiana) because of his speech impediment and ADHD. I fought hard and I’m happy to say that he is an excellent student. Sometimes, it all depends on the teacher.

    I’m not against the “redshirting” idea, though. I’m sure everyone who does this has their reasons. 🙂
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