128: Should I Redshirt My Child?

Parents – worried about their child’s lack of maturity or ability to ‘fit in’ in a classroom environment – often ask me whether they should hold their child back a year before entering kindergarten or first grade.  In this episode I review the origins of the redshirting phenomenon (which lie in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, and which statisticians say contained some seriously dodgy math), what it means for your individual child, as well as for the rest of the children in the class so you can make an informed decision.


Jump to highlights:

  • (01:00) Malcolm Gladwell’s anecdote about the Junior League Medicine Hat Tigers and Vancouver Giants ice hockey teams that initiated the redshirting craze
  • (02:56) Ability grouping is done in early childhood, just like in sports
  • (03:59) Parents holding their children back from kindergarten came to be referred to as redshirting
  • (10:20) How common is redshirting?
  • (11:04) Boys are redshirted at a ratio of 2:1 compared to girls
  • (12:18) The maturationist approach of why to redshirt
  • (13:05) State support and agenda for redshirting
  • (15:10) Teachers tendency to view a maturationist view of development.
  • (17:16) The Maturation Hypothesis
  • (17:36) Parents redshirt their children to give their child an advantage
  • (20:34) Redshirting as a way to give boys age and size advantage and avoid getting bullied
  • (27:28) Making a judgement call into what benefits mean with regards to the body of research on redshirting
  • (29:24) The evidence of whether redshirting is beneficial
  • (35:19) Misdiagnosis of ADHD caused by relative maturity
  • (37:56) A year outside of school reduces the likelihood that children receive timely identifications of learning difficulties
  • (38:35) Students with speech impairments may actually benefit from redshirting
  • (39:22) Redshirted students may have more behavioral problems in high school
  • (46:04) Children from higher socioeconomic status are more likely to perform well in tests in kindergarten
  • (48:19) It’s possible that the way the teacher sees the child is what helps the child because of Labelling Theory
  • (49:46) Opportunity hoarding associated with middle-class, White parents.
  • (52:01) Is kindergarten truly the new first grade?
  • (56:06) Advocating for Developmentally Appropriate Practice or DAP
  • (57:35) Almost everyone agrees that retention has negative impacts on children
  • (58:55) Accumulative Advantage
  • (01:00:07) Malcolm Gladwell’s proposed solution to homogenize and my thoughts on it
  • (01:02:32) Summary
  • (01:04:56) Why I think asking “should I redshirt my child” is the wrong question


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About the author, Jen

Jen Lumanlan (M.S., M.Ed.) hosts the Your Parenting Mojo podcast (www.YourParentingMojo.com), which examines scientific research related to child development through the lens of respectful parenting.

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