Being the Youngest in the Grade

Updated on September 07, 2010
S.L. asks from Plainsboro, NJ
15 answers

both my older children were the youngest in their grade levels. My daughter was an excellent student but complained throughout her life about being the youngest. My son did fantastic in some subjects, okay in others and had problems in some. Hew ended up dropping out of High school despite being very bright. If I could go back in time I would have held them both back. I think it would have been great to have them be the most mature in their groups! Would have helped them socially and with athletics and decent teachers challenge advanced students and allow them to work at their own pace whenever possible.
I've read posts on this site about skipping children ahead if they have the academic skills without regard for the child's social and emotional maturity. Except the post by an adult who was skipped a grade and hated it! So my questions are : have you retained or skipped ahead a child and how did it go? do you regret any decisions? and what would you recommend for a college student who again does very well academically at a well respected university but hates it? She has no desire to leave home or travel, she just doesn't know what she wants to major in.... Do other students who are young struggle in high school or college?

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answers from New York on

My adopted son's birthday is 12/26 and was 4 when he came to live with me. I enrolled him is kindergarten because he would turn 5 that calendar year. I didnt know that the cut off for the school was 12/01 and they didnt notice his birth year. By the time he was in 2nd grade he kept getting in trouble for IMMATURE behavior. Well..yeah..he was a full year younger than some of the other kids. So I started to fight to have him retained (read left back), but his grades were good. In 5th grade his behavior was alienating his classmates and his work was slipping. I decided not to make him or remind him to do homework or projects. So they sent me a letter that he was in danger of being retained. I went to the meeting and said its about time. He repeated 5th grade and his grades and behavior both improved. He did feel a little badly about it, but he knew he was too young and if kids teased him he simply said he was in his correct grade now. Unless your child is very mature for their age it is NOT good to push them beyond their age group. Parents want to believe they have a genius or very mature child, but the school will be the best to see them for what they really are. Whatever you teach your child BEFORE they go to school will be evened out by middle school. This Baby can read stuff is NUTS. SO your kid can read, so when they go to kindergarten they will be bored stiff and disrupt the class, so they then will have that 'bad' kid label. Oh goodie..lets teach Jr. to read at 6 months. sorry, I get carried away sometimes. About your DD who wants to stay home and go to college, why push her? She is homesick or more likely friends sick and doesnt like all the changes. Community colleges have a very bad rap, but they are great for kids that arent ready to leave home and they also can save parents tons of money.

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answers from Dallas on

Change colleges. You sort of said it in your post........fitting in socially is just as important as fitting in academically. If she is unhappy then try another college. I have found that if the kids are happy with their friends all is right with their world.

Not knowing what to major in is not that unusual. I was the same way and my son is a sophomore in college. He knows the area he loves, but really pin pointing a major is daunting him. I encourage him to try different things, and I remind him he can change his mind anyway. When my oldest son graduated I told him that he still could change his mind on what he does in life. I think it takes the pressure off a little.

I think the important thing is to push your daughter a little to take small risks and try new things. If she is unhappy with her college do research on what you think might be a better fit and then push her to go. It sounds like she lives at home. If you can afford it push her out of the nest. The dorm experience is scary at times (they don't always make the best and safest choices), but good for building independence, and self-esteem.

If you belong to a church, or her school has a program where they travel in a group (and you can afford it), consider pushing her to go. A short time away may build her confidence.

I don't think the "age" necessarily means much. It's more personality. My sophomore is very immature. He thinks he is all grown up, but he acts like a high schooler still. My oldest was pretty mature. Both were one of the younger ones in their classes in school.

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answers from San Francisco on

My opinion: it has nothing to do with their being the youngest in their grades: it's just their personality. Hindsight is 20/20, don't beat yourself up for your choice to enroll them early. For some children it's good to be older in a grade, for some it's just fine to be younger. Don't think that if you had held them back it would have significantly affected their social, athletic or academic performance. Kids excel at what they are good at, for the most part, no matter their age.

My daughter was younger in her grade, and the only time it really affected her was in 9th grade, when some of her friends dumped her for a while because she was more immature than they. But she learned some good life lessons from that. And she was one of the few kids who got an A in Calculus as a senior, and in most of her classes throughout high school (she got a few B's), so her age was not a factor academically.

Some kids have no desire to leave home or travel. My daughter, the young one, can't wait to get the heck out of the house; my son, an elder in his class, has no particular desire to go away. My oldest son wants to jump out of planes and dive to great depths. Like I said, it's their personalities.

Why does she hate the university despite doing well there? Maybe she needs to be at a university closer to home? Some birds just don't want to leave the nest as soon.

Many or most kids don't know what they want to major in.

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answers from St. Louis on

with my oldest son, we had no choice: he was socially, emotionally, & academically ready for KG - but his BD was 3 weeks past the cutoff. So he was the oldest in his class, & loved it. School was a breeze for him....until H.S. when he was waaaay toooo old for the drama & daily bull. Finishing out H.S. was a nightmare for all of us, with waiting all the way until the last day of school before we knew whether or not he would graduate with his class. In retrospect, we should have agreed to him GEDing at 16 when he wanted to! Our own personal need for him to graduate with his class....nearly wiped all of us out! Shame on us.

with my younger son, he is also one of the oldest in the class. His BD was 4 days before the cutoff. He passed the screening with flying colors, EXCEPT it took him twice as long! We knew that focusing was an issue for we chose to wait a year for KG. (he spent that year in the preKG class in our school district....which was an excellent choice for him- much better than preschool.) He has always enjoyed being the oldest, & is now in 8th grade. It thrills him that he'll be the 1st with a car, loves that he's taller than a lot of the kids, & that his voice is soooo deep!

One of the differences between our boys is that our oldest battled a degenerative hip disease from age 6 on. He allowed it to put a chip on his shoulder, & since he could not play competitive sports....& we live in a small town....he was on the "outside" of mainstream school life in H.S. (& fyi: he's turning 23 next week & is scheduled for a hip replacement in 6 days....that's how bad the hip is. & this is 2 years past the 1st recommendation for replacement! It truly has limited & ruled his life.)

Our younger son is active, fully-engaged. Based on the differences in their personalities, we are hopeful that H.S. will be an infinitely more positive experience for him. Last night, we were headed to do our weekend shopping & I offered to get his haircut. He said, "yep, here's the plan: you drop me off with some $$ & when I'm done, I'll catch up to you." Excuse me, he's 14 & in charge??? !!! But it worked, he walked from his haircut to where I was....& we were fine. What a riot! & then I dropped him off at the H.S. football game.....which we would have never done with our older son! The difference is in their personalities....& our school district (small town still) has rules/regulations: all unchaperoned students sit in their designated class areas. I love this gives the kids a chance to have some parental freedom! & being a small town, these kids know every parent there.....& that behavior will be reported/snitched!

Soooo that's my thoughts on waiting a year, it worked great for grade school for both our boys. & we're hoping it'll work great for our younger son thru H.S. It really helps that his best friends are also the oldest in the class. & it really makes a difference that he's engaged: band, clubs, & sports. (& Scouts & religion school, too!)

& as for the whole college thing: there are many, many young adults out there struggling to make choices & decisions. That's where we are with many of the kids in our family. It's almost like a no-win situation right now- with our economy. We have kids who chose not to go to college, & they are struggling making hardly any $$ at all - it's hard to live on cashier's wages. We have kids who've gone into trades (carpentry, electrical, etc), but to succeed in these fields - you need to go to a trade school.....& then you're dependent on the economy which has tanked all of these industries. We have several young dads who've gone thru the apprenticeship & are now journeymen & are without jobs/steady 40hr jobs. It's a heartbreaker!

We also have several recent college graduates. Off the top of my head, 2 RNs: it took them 3-5 months to find jobs. One with a degree in biology, minor in ?.....& after 6 months without a single interview (in this field, the companies only take online applications), she has chosen to go back to school for a masters in education...since she can't get into any research facilities. 2 with degrees in education: both without full teaching jobs, both reduced to subbing & working part-time evening jobs. One with a degree in (?something with counseling)....& she only makes $12/hour....& is seriously considering going back to school.

We also have several college students who've changed their major multiple times....& are still unhappy/undecided! I don't think your daughter is an exception, I don't think it's her age.....I think it's the generation & the times. I recommend that she start pushing her counselor & find a few fields where she may feel an interest....& work/job study these places to see if it's really something she wants. Or maybe it's time to take a semester off & really look at the world! Degrees aren't making that much of a difference right proven by our friends/family. Come on economy, boost back up!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Austin on

I really feel it depends on the child. What is right for one child may be completely different for the other.. I also truly believe not everyone needs or wants to go to college.. I have many friends that I graduated from HS with that are extremely successful and never attended college.. They went to trade schools or worked for companies that trained. them.. Because they are honest and hard workers, they are benefiting from this. Many now own their own businesses also..

Our daughter was always one of the youngest. She was also an only child. Not sure if that had anything to do with it, but there is no way I could have ever held her back.

She was ready for kinder, she was fine in middle school and flourished in High school.. She talked about going away to college since she was 3. I was pretty much hands off on her college choices, because i had learned she always seemed to have a vision.. She applied to 9 colleges and was accepted by all 9. When we visited the colleges and she found the right fit.. I knew it and she knew it.. She LOVES college.. It is filled with others like her that want to be there..

I and my husband on the other hand.. have no idea where she came from.. We went straight to college and did not do well.. My husband was in a HUGE University and it was such a bad match for him.. I did not really know what I wanted to study.. I had worked all through high school and loved working.. I wish I had taken a year or 2 and THEN gone to college. I then had a better feel for what I would have wanted to study, but by then I was married and did not have money to attend..

So go by what each child needs. I worry about parents that hold their kids back, because sometimes, I think the kids do fine, it is more what the parents want. Many kids CAN meet expectations.. Maybe not their PARENTS expectations, but their own abilities and do fine. You have to look at the whole child. Mind, body and maturity.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

My sister was the youngest in her class and when she was ready for college she just turned 17. She was always a smart girl, a little introverted, not overly social. She had asked my mom could she wait a year before starting college, she felt too young, inexperienced socially and wanted to travel a little and get some world experience. My mom told her a flat out NO. She said you either go now or I won't pay for it in a year. My mom the charmer. Anyway so she went to college and was a mess and ended up dropping out junior year. My mom will never admit it but she knows she made a wrong decision. My sister still resents my mom for it. My son started pre-K young and when he was in Kinder he was the youngest by a year and a half. He didn't do well and we decided to have him repeat kinder so in the end he would be one of the older ones. It was the right decision for him. He's starting 2nd grade next week. He does well in school and is confident, not in love with school but enjoys it when he is there. As far as your question as to when a younger student struggles more, H.S or College it does depend on the kid but from the people I know they say both. If you are on the younger side in H.S it's more the social aspect, puberty and where the kid is in their developement. College it's the intellectual maturity as well as common sense. Most kids that go to college go away from home and having to live like an "adult" and make everyday decisons does weigh heavier on some younger kids that weren't so self suffucient at home. If your daughter does not know what she wants to do for college as far as amajor, most kids don't. I went to college did well and hated it. Some poeple don't like school. I surrounded myself with good friends to not have a total horrible experience, but I hated the actual going to classes and having to study. I'd recommend your daughter keep on her academic path, perhaps find a social grp within her university to socialize and pick up a class that is of interest even if it isn't towards any credit or her eventual major. But in all honesty studies have shown if the kid didn't like school since kinder they never really will, so in her case she has to trudge through get the degree and get out. Her not wanting to leave home or travel is because she is wallowing in her dislike for school and can't see beyond it. If it's in your budget why not plan a surprise trip for the 2 of you for winter break. Believe me once she starts to travel she'll catch the bug, or at least be open to more things and some adventure. Best of luck to her and you.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

I agree with the poster who said it has nothing to do with being the youngest in the grade. My brother had an August birthday and my parents waited until he was 6 for him to start K. He still had difficulty academically and with writing even though he was always the oldest in the class. He was never an outstanding athlete, but found his niche in student government. I was one of the younger kids in my class and never knew the difference. I was an excellent student and a top athlete. My son has an August birthday, so we debated K at 5 or at 6? He and we chose 5 and while it has had its bumps, none of us could imagine him a grade below at the end of that first year. He needed extra help with social issues and with writing while at the same time needed extra challenges in math and reading because he was at a higher level. His K class had 6 year olds who cried everyday the first week and struggled socially and academically. And I feel really sorry for the boy who is the oldest in the class. He is much bigger and is so far ahead academically that it is hard to challenge him.

I think the most important thing is for parents to be very involved in making sure their child is receiving what they need in the classroom whether that is an extra push, extra help/support, or extra challenges. And creating an environment at home where they can discover gifts and talents and interests beyond what is expected of them in school.

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answers from Lincoln on

I have done both. My eldest we held back so he is the oldest in his class. He likes sports so its good that he's one of the bigger kids, but he really hates being the oldest. He's turning 13 and in 7th grade, sometimes he gets very embarrassed when people as him what grade he's in, but other than that he's doing very well and I don't regret the decision at all.
My second son is the youngest in his class, he went to kindergarten for only half a year (he turned 5 in January and his preschool teacher recommended moving him up to kindergarten for the second semester) then straight to first grade. So now he's 11 and in 7th grade. He doesn't think anything of it, doesn't hate it, doesn't love it, just doesn't really care. I don't regret that decision either. He was academically ready and the social skills came with time.
The most important thing I did with both of them was keep them in private schools or homeschooling. I never put them in the public school system so they've been able to concentrate on what's important not the usual garbage that comes from going to a big public school.

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answers from New York on

This may be a different situation from yours, be here are my 2 cents...

As a kid who was born in August, I was among the younger kids in my grade. I skipped a year of high school (squeezed all the requirements into 3 years), and went right off the college. I always did well in school, and continued to do so in college. I wanted to leave home and was eager to travel (spent my junior year of college in Europe). It caught up with me when I was done with college and had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I was only 20 when I graduated. I would have been happy to stay in college for another year! I guess my point is that it works for some people to be the youngest in the class, but it's obviously not for everybody. Everyone is different. We all just have to do what feels right for us and our kids. There really is no "right answer."

About college, I agree that a LOT of kids don't know what they want to major in -- that's just normal. As for "hating" college, that doesn't seem right. Maybe she should take a year off and work, and do a little self-reflection, and then she'll appreciate school more.

Best of luck to you!



answers from New York on

Studies show that in the end, they all catch up and a few months makes no difference. I think it's better to get your kids into Kindergarten and into a structured learning environment.



answers from Washington DC on

Well I have retained one and skipped another.
I think it depends entirely on the child and his or her personality. My daughter who skipped 2nd has never been the typical "little girl". She never played with dolls or wanted makeup. She wanted to read and do what I was doing even as a 3 year old, she was a doer and wanted craft projects. She has difficulty dealing with people her own age. She has always had older friends. We did not let her skip 5th or 7th because we didn't want her to be too far ahead, this was a huge mistake on our part. She is now a junior has no more math because she took AP Calc and AP Stats already and she is bored out of her skull and she lets me know it.
Then there is my 12 year old. She has an Oct birthday and at 4 was supposed to go to Kinder. NO WAY!!! THis one is very laid back. She takes things at her own pace. We held her and let her do kinder at almost 6. She could read, add, subtract, count to over 1,000. She had all the benchmarks for kinder but she is much more immature than her sister. She is very bright, her friends are mostly her age and younger. She is my girly girl.
I have kept both my boys with their age groups. It never came up with my oldest, the youngest is homeschooled and when he goes back into the school system I'm sure they will test him. We will cross the "skip a grade" bridge at that point if he is that far ahead.
I would tell any one of my children to get out of college and join the military or the Peace Corps. I have one in the Navy, they will pay for college with the GI Bill and he has a job, a life and has already been in Japan for two years. Staying home with me and Daddy is not an option.



answers from New York on

I think all educators and parents need to realize that each child is different; eventhough, they may have the same academic ability. Some children are better off skipping grades or starting school early and others are not. So many times educators, psychologists, parents, and society want to "pigeon hole" children or make assumptions. The best things to do is to talk to the child themselves, because gifted children can communicate how they feel about skipping grades/starting school early and are aware that they will be the youngest. People have to remember that most gifted children operate at a much higher mental level than an average child. Many times they are called "little adults" or "little old ladies/men." This is why it is so important to tell them it's ok to be themselves. They will never fit in with their peers and that is ok. Sometimes they seem to have social skill problems, because they can't communicate with kids their own age...In this case, the very reason could be because they are so beyond their peers, that they do need to be put with older children they can communicate with. In other cases, they have lots of friends, so they may be happier staying with their peers and having their work supplimented. Now, it's time for me to get off my soapbox and speak from experience:

1.Have you retained or skipped ahead a child and how did it go and do you regret any decisions?I need to add to this question from my childhood and as a mom, since both my son and myself are gifted.
a. My childhood - I started school early and the school wanted to skip me
two more grades, but my parents did not want to do that since
everyone was telling them that social skills are important with peers.-
My parents regret the decision to not follow the school psychologist's
advice and skip me, because I never got alone with my peers. I always
got alone with the older kids, since I could identify with them better. I
often wished I was skipped, because school was too easy and I was
picked on a lot by my peers.
b. My son - We started him early and he was skipped over 6th grade. My
husband, my son, and I have no regrets. He has more friends and no
more teasing like before he was skipped. The older kids are more
mature and accepting of him for who he is.
2. What would you recommend for a college student who again does very well academically at a well respected university but hates it? This might sound horrible, but let her take a semmester off to explore careers. Let her meet people in various careers, look up various careers and what is required for the careers. Find out why she hates college. Is it the work load? Is it the lack of friends? Would she rather commute? Would she like to have her own place? Is the university too big?

She has no desire to leave home or travel, she just doesn't know what she wants to major in.... Do other students who are young struggle in high school or college? No, I knew exactly what I wanted to be. I just went to the wrong college. (My father hid my scholarship and acceptance letter from the college I really wanted to go to, because he didn't want me to start college too far from home.,It really messed up my career.) It really doesn't matter if they graduate early or not, a lot of students don't know what they want to be, which is why she needs the semmester off to explore careers. She doesn't want to travel, so you don't want to force her into a career that would involve traveling.



answers from Philadelphia on

I don't think her struggle is because she's young. If it truly were, all she'd have to do is take a year off (the university would hold her place) and work for a year. Then when she returns she'd be at the same age as her peers and magically know what she wanted to major in and get motivated? Maybe, maybe not. I was a year ahead all through school. I graduated HS at 16 and college at 20. The only drawback was that while all my friends were going out to bars legally senior year (most of them had turned 21 end of junior or beginning of senior year), I had to date the bouncer to get in (I ended up marrying that bouncer!). Maybe I should have taken a year off between HS and college...although my life is pretty good now and I don't see what that would have accomplished. Academically and emotionally, I never felt anything different from any other kids in my class. When I looked at the kids one grade below, they seemed really immature and I wouldn't have fit in with them at all. My youngest daughter also started a year ahead and is now in 3rd grade. She looks and acts like all the other 3rd graders and is performing above level academically, so I'm pretty confident she'll be fine. If she decides to take a year off after HS and travel or work, I'm all for that. It's hard to know what to do with your life at 17 or 18, so I'm a fan of going to college a bit later once you have at least an idea of what you want to do with your future. I also had no clue at that age and majored in accounting because my dad said a business degree of some sort would be a good idea. I also hated it at that time, but not because I was young, more like I should have gone into interior design or something more creative like that. I got married quite young and worked for a very short time in accounting before becoming a SAHM. I actually hated college, because the college itself was a bad fit for me, again, NOT because of my age. BUT I met my husband there, so it all balanced out in the end.

What your daughter is feeling right now has NOTHING to do with her age and EVERYTHING to do with her age. It's not because she's young compared to her peers, it's because she's young. There's a good chance MANY of her classmates feel the exact same way. Those years in a young adult's life, around end of HS and through college are tough. They still feel like kids, but are expected to make decisions that may affect the rest of their lives. The pressure can be debilitating. Maybe taking a year off and really thinking about what she might like to do WOULD help her. She could volunteer or intern at different places to get an idea of the kinds of careers could be out there. Then maybe she'd be ready to tackle the rest of her college career with determination and motivation.



answers from New York on

Well, I live in NY where the cutoff is December. Both of my kids are born in June, so both are typically right in the middle of the age of their grade, an ideal situation that many people don't have. I don't think being the oldest in a grade is a benefit over being the youngest, neither is ideal. I have a friend who held her July son back an entire year and wondered why the other kids seemed so immature and why her son didn't enjoy playing with them, but almost half the kids in his classes were a year (or up to 17 months) younger, a big difference when you're talking about 6 and 4 1/2. I have another friend whose child is a November bday. He's very bright, academically advanced, but I'd never allow that child to complete his HS graduation requirements early because I would absolutely not send a 16 yr 9 month away to college!
One of my sisters had 3 boys. The one with the latest bday (October) was the one who did best in school. It really all depends on the child!


answers from Detroit on

I came from a culture where everything is about education and the earlier you start the better (for the parents). I was not only tiny but was the youngest in my class.I was 2 mos shy of my 6th birthday on 1st grade and since we don't have middle school, I was 15 when I started college. Academically, I was always able to hack it. Topping entrance examinations and the like.

That said... I would not recommend it. I lacked the emotional maturity to deal with the responsibilities and the social maturity to deal with my peers. I was never bullied but got away with a lot. I was easily frustrated, lacked commitment and often times skipped class.

I did get my nursing degree and am now a SAHM and I would hold my kid back in a heartbeat if they are too young.

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