Perfectionist and Sensitive 5YO?

Updated on September 08, 2008
S.J. asks from Wilmington, NC
14 answers

My daugter is 5 and has been in kindergarten for the last three weeks. They started homework this Monday and my daughter is completely bent out of shape about it.

We have done worksheets before, I always like to buy those little books and she always likes doing them. But for some reason she is very nervous about doing HOMEWORK. What she seems to be so upset about is that she can't physically do them. Maybe her fine motor skills aren't so great? But she get SO upset! Its been taking 45 minutes to an hour to do them... complete with crying, moaning and complete distraction. And while normally when doing writing type things before she could do them quasi-independently I now have to sit with her at the table to keep her on track. "Okay now write the G, first do the circle. Okay, do the circle for the G. Alright, now lets do the circle for the G".

I was a nerd in school, I loved doing worksheets, making it all look nice was fun for me. I've never expected any of that from her, I am and always have been a "practice doesn't have to be perfect" mom. But here is my 5YO crying because she can't stay in the lines.

I'm beginning to wonder if she's not AD/HD somewhere... she seems to have a lot of the "symptoms". Can't sit still... moody... afraid of EVERYTHING... easily distractable. But isn't every 5YO like that?

I don't want to jump to any conclusions but I want her to love learning, or at least be able to do her homework without crying.

What can I do next?

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So What Happened?

Thank you everyone for your responses and PMs!

I'm still not really sure what I should do. I've tried some different things in the last few days... incentives, breaks, activities. Some have worked better than others. I am hoping that this is a "getting used to school" thing as mentioned earlier... So I will wait and see if it is better.

If it doesn't improve I will be having a phone conference with the teacher to see if there's anything we can do. :)

I also wanted to clarify... I'm not stressed out about her being perfect. It is her that is stressed out about being perfect and that is what is bothering me. I just can't handle daily crying over something that I know she could do easily so long as it wasn't "homework". But I take her seriously and its a serious problem to not want to do homework at five when we all know she has at least 13 more years of it. :) I expected this conversation around 8 or 9...

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answers from Raleigh on

My daughter is feeling very similarly. She is struggling with writing within such a large space of the guidelines. If I correct her showing her how to use the paper to help her write large enough she completely melts down and says that she can't do it. I am hoping that once she acclimates to the classroom and the teacher the expectations will be more comfortable to her.

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answers from Norfolk on

Hi S J- I should probably look at your other responses so I wont repeat the same thing but no time for that... How about if you do your homework with her.. Make it a really unstressed and relaxing time with you and her.. some music with no words- jazz or nice classical.. and try to make it special mommy and me time...You can even include your little one.. and you should make mistakes on your homework and demonstrate how she should act by saying.. whoops.. look, mommy made a little mistake,, but thats okay-- everybody makes mistakes sometimes.. I'm going to fix it.. and erase it.. and correct it.. Children love to imitate... Good luck.. I hope this helps a little.. I mean I'm not a professional, this is just what I would do. actually, I have done it.. it worked. (have four kids so maybe I am a pro!! haha) God Bless.



answers from Raleigh on

I have found that changing the criteria some works better. Some weeks, we walked into the house, sat down and did it. That to me is easiest as once it is done it is playtime, snack time etc. The other thing about right away is, she is still in the school groove.
Try snack time, then homework, and see if that works. Try waiting 2 hrs, and see how that works. She may be very dehydrated or low sugar, kids don't eat well in school. You will have to form a routine, but stand firm, this is a must-do, and there is no getting out of it.
My granddaughter has had homework all yr, everyday but none on the weekends. She has an assignment book, with a weekly page. Then she has a book, lined spiral notebook, that she does the work in. The page is dated daily, and she does the assignment- they usually have to do with a theme from what they are studying. There are no worksheets that she has tyo do perfectly. The assignment might be, draw 3 things you might see under the sea.
If you feel she is having concentrating problems, have her tested and use a good resource, like a teaching hospital with a psychology dept. My own daughter was adhd- didn't have her tested till she was 12- dumb me. She really struggled, and everything was always a big scene. She is 30 now, they didn't know what they know now. Good luck.



answers from Charlotte on

I'm reading your question and had to ask my sisters who have children in kindergarten this year and last year in different states if they had homework for their children. No one had homework. My daughter is now in sixth grade and an honor student and did not have homework in kindergarten. I volunteered in her first and second grade classes and remember having discussions with her teachers including the teacher in charge of the reading program who I volunteered for and was told over and over again how children learn at their own pace between grades 1-3. Teachers and parents can do all they can to increase that pace but with some children it's just like something waiting to go off and then when it does they still have the ability to reach the same levels as their peers. Of course reading and writing earlier tremdously speeds their learning capacity. Which is why it appears your school has such a focus here. It also sounds like your daughter feels a bit overwhelmed. It might be as simple as too many new events and rules. Since she is only in kindergarten and they should only be handing out pass and fail grades at this point maybe you can work out a deal with the teacher that your daughter do her letters over a number of days taking pressure off of her. Make sure you set up a work space to do the work in. Just like in school so she knows where to go to accomplish this work, and praise her for a job well done, especially if she approaches and completes the work on her own.
Good Luck:)



answers from Raleigh on

Hi there!
Your email really spoke to me and although I don't know if this is a solution, I want to share with you what we have been going through lately.

My son just turned 9. He has never really liked to read or write, but is a straight A student and excels in math. He fidgets a lot and is clumsy, daydreams and has troubling focusing on tasks....all signs of ADD. I have questioned teachers and our pediatrician in the past about possible ADD, but last year his teacher said she didn't think he would "qualify." Pediatricians really don't seem to consider testing for ADD at young ages.

A few weeks ago, my son had his annual eye exam and it was determined that he has Convergence Insufficiency. This is a teaming problem, where the eyes do not work together. The dr. said it could affect reading, like skipping lines and losing his place, and sports. We left it at that.

Then last Thursday I had a parent-teacher conference with his teacher and found out that he far exceeded 3rd grade expectations in math but has a pile of unfinished reading work. I immediately called the eye dr. and he said, "This changes everything." So, we are starting home computer-based vision therapy next week. The dr. says this therapy is "phenomenally successful."

After googling "convergence insufficiency," I found that a lot of children are misdiagnosed with some type of ADD when they actually have this problem.

I hope this helps you. The symptoms are so similar. Please google this and see what you think. Maybe that's the root of it all. She just sounds SO much like my son.

Best wishes to you and your family! Please keep me posted....
K. B.
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answers from Charlotte on

Hi there. I'm K., a stay-at-home mother of 5 and new Grandma. My niece, now 16, may as well be a clone for your daughter. When she was 4 she announced to my sister she wanted to go to Harvard. She was serious. She still is. When she was 7 she told her mother she needed to learn to play the flute. Why? Because Harvard only accepts students who are well rounded. By 5th grade she was learning 2 languages. She's a Junior in high school now and I'm stunned she doesn't have an ulcer. She does NOT have ADD/ADHD. She was intense, to say the least, from her first day of Kindergarten. Everything had to be just-so. If an assignment proved more difficult or time-consuming than she thought she would have a meltdown. If the slightest bit of crayon went outside the lines she would cry terribly and rip it up. If her letters didn't look JUST LIKE the example she felt she was doomed to failure. You see, her maturity level was low, but her intelligence was off the chart. When her motor skills couldn't keep up with her brain it sent her into a tizzy. She would be difficult, refuse to work on any more school things, pout and yell into her pillow. Instead of ADD, consider OCD. My brilliant niece does not take any meds for her OCD. We all worked together and discovered the joys of Behavior Modification. That's why the Ivy League is now courting her instead of the other way around. Have you considered the possibility that your daughter has genious? I had to pull my youngest son out of the public school system because they kept failing him. He did the work and his answers were correct, his term papers and research papers were flawless F's in their books all because they could not fathom or refused to admit that he was smarter than his teachers. He does Algebra 2 in his head. His papers were so far over his teacher's heads they took the easy way out and accused him of plagiarism. That's OK because MIT is enjoying his company and on their nickle. Take a look at your daughter's room. Is it a bomb? Is she picky about how she looks and yet her personal spaces are a mess? I dont know if this pertains to your little one or not, but I read the other comments and all people want to focus on is how you shouldn't worry about ADD at her age. That's true, but OCD can be different and help is out there so she wont struggle or be knocked out by medicine. Just out of curiosity, when she eats small things like mm's, tic-tacs,gummy bears,peas,green beans,etc.-does she HAVE to eat them in either even(most common)or odd numbers? 2 gummies at a time or 4 mm's? That's a hallmark of OCD. Does every little everything in her backpack have to go in the same spot and in the same order every day? Like lining up folders based on color and then her pencils go in a certain zipper pocket. I wish you luck. Your daughter will be just fine real soon.



answers from Roanoke on

my son is in K at FBE and there was a note that they would have no homework this year - which school does your child go to? if this behavior is a new change for your child, i think i would talk to the teacher and her dr about it - good luck



answers from Raleigh on

I would talk to her teacher. Maybe she just feels too much pressure (which is common), and her teacher can help her feel more relaxed about it. I wouldn't jump on the ADHD track yet; she's REALLY young, and her situation sounds much more like anxiety to me.

Good luck!



answers from Goldsboro on

My son when he was four, could not wait to go to school like a "big boy". We did alot of worksheets at home and he really enjoyed it. Then when he started school at age five, he had exactly the same problem as your daughter. It was a nightly horror. It took all my patience and will power to keep calm and understanding through his outbursts and need for perfection. I would speak to his teacher about this issue, hoping she could give some insight. Nothing helped, nothing changed. This became the pattern for every school year after that. Finally, in 3rd grade after many changes in my son since beginning his public school experience, I had had enough. He was no longer interested in learning, he had developed a rather nasty attitude and had meltdowns constantly. The teachers and the administration at the school had no answers, they thought he must be in need of being held back,since he couldn't handle the pressure (which had been said two years in a row, and we fought against). I brought my son home. He is now homeschooled. He is just beginning his 4th grade, and doing absolutely wonderful. We never fight over his work, he is eager, and he no longer has any meltdowns. He is not behind in any subject and is in general a much happier person.
I recently found out that in his school, there was no recesses, really. They had a 10 minute 'break' for the entire day. (no wonder all the playground equipment was in such good condition!) Lunch time had been a hurry up and eat, no talking allowed atmosphere, with immediate return to class for more learning.

The pressures of school performance have changed since we were kids....It may be too much for a child of that age to handle. First and foremost, they are still young children. They need to move around, explore their environment, etc. And if kept at a seat all day, with no release of energy, you can expect melt-downs, need for perfection, etc.

I am not saying that this is the case with your child. I am just suggesting that you take a good hard look at what is the schedule at your daughter's school, before deciding the issue is within your child.

best of luck...



answers from Greensboro on

I feel your pain!! I have a very spirited child too. He is persistent and intense and a perfectionist. I HIGHLY reccommend the book raising your spirited child. -a guide for parents whose child is MORE intense, sensitive, perceptive, persistent, energetic.
Humor helps, Setting in a place that is free of distractions, stress over and over that it doesn't have to be perfect ( I know she thinks it has to be but repeating it will possibly help her change her negative self talk) Encourage as much as you can. Talk to her teacher and ask for advise from him/her.




answers from Charlotte on

I have five children, all different personalities, but that sounds like my now 7 yr old. He started kindergarten at the age of 4 1/2 (Oct. B-day) and would sit and finish his worksheet while the others did centers. The teacher would say go ahead to centers, you can finish later, but he insisted finishing then and was so neat about it, the best to his ability anyway. He had a rough time with writing and did become frustrated after about a month of this. We just continued to encourage him. I let my children have snack & go play for 20 minutes when they first get home. It seems to let the steam off and be ready for homework. I would set a kitchen timer and put it outside so they knew when their time was up, never had any arguing about it either. I wish you the best and know it can be difficult. Good Luck!



answers from Fayetteville on

When is her birthday? I have a little girl who started kindergarten but her birthday is in October, and we decided she was not ready for kindergarten. Her maturity and fine motor skills were not where the other children were. I would suggest that you just keep reassuring her and working with her. I am sure that in time she will get the hang of the homework thing, and everything will be fine. As a former teacher, I would say 5 is a little early to diagnose ADHD. I would give her time.



answers from Colorado Springs on

hmmmmmmm...that's a tough one. i was a teacher before i started staying home with my now 2 year old. if she's that upset about those worksheets, i'd try to make up a reward system. so she feels accomplishment in doing what she needs to do. if it's not perfect, try not to worry too much at first. just so that she gets through it w/out the trauma and crying. try to make it fun. maybe take a bunch of breaks. tell her to do 2 parts and then take a break and do something fun and go back to it after. that might help her. cuz if she's so upset about it now, it's only going to escalate. it shouldn't be something that takes 45 min cuz their attention spans are so short at that age. don't worry too much about the ADD cuz it's something that is so overdiagnosed and misdiagnosed these days. there is a book out there that i recommend about ADD if you're really thinking that is what she's suffering from... it's a book by dr. lawless.



answers from Norfolk on

My 5 year old just started kindergarten and also resists practicing writing at home. She is usually so eager to please. I think a big part of it is that she is so exhausted from the school day that she just wants to play or rest when she gets home. Does your daughter also have full day kindergarten? I think there is enough on 5 year olds adjusting to a full day of school without stressing them out about homework. I would talk to her teacher and explain that this was stressful and that it might not always get done. I think it is OK to give your daughter a break if she doesn't want to do the assignments.

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