Red-shirting has always been around but has gained a lot of traction in recent years in the parenting world. For the grade school uninitiated, this is the practice of holding back a child from beginning school even though their birthday falls within the confines of a state’s school cut-off date. Holding back kids from starting school is a controversial topic and is done for a variety of situations- developmental, academic, age and the (dubious) possibility of future athletic prospects are all reasons cited for delaying entry to school.

A parent on Reddit posted about his concerns with having a child entering kindergarten with a few developmental delays. The comments in this thread show what a wide range of strong views parents have on this topic. I have a child where this was a concern so this topic is something I’ve thought about. My daughter’s birthday is September 19th. The New York state cut-off is December 1st so there are many parents that hold back children with fall birthdays. My husband and I gave this a lot of thought and spoke with our daughter’s pre-k teachers to help us decide. She is smart and catches on to academic concepts but there were times where she showed her age and maturity level- namely, with her attention span.

In the end, we came to the conclusion that she would do well in kindergarten despite these concerns because she was strong in other areas. The teachers also mentioned that it would be beneficial to be around older children so hopefully, she would emulate their behavior. We agreed. She began school just shy of five years old and did beautifully. She is entering 2nd grade this fall and is a great reader and flies through her homework- there is no doubt that we made the right choice but at the time, I was nervous to see how it would all shake out.


On the other end of the spectrum, I am a mid-December birthday and with the NY cut-off, that meant I was always among the oldest in my class. Elementary school was a breeze for me. I was always in the “top” reading group and participated in enrichment activities. I am far from a genius, yet, I cannot remember much challenging me until I reached junior high. However, as time went on, I settled into the middle of the pack academically taking a few AP courses but mostly, regular classes. My grades were average in subjects I wasn’t fond of and A’s in subjects I liked- from my perspective, nothing about my age seemed to give me an advantage past 5th grade.

Being the oldest was fun because every kid wants that but other than that novelty, it rarely mattered. I do feel that being older made things boring sometimes in elementary school because at almost six years old, I was reading when I started kindergarten. I remember being bored at times and I used to talk too much in class and I have no doubt that was part of the reason. I tried picturing my daughter at her academic level in pre-k and how much more she would know in a year and just couldn’t imagine waiting so long for her to start kindergarten. I’m very happy with our decision.

That said, of all reasons, I do think it’s not wise to red-shirt solely for sports. At age 4-6, how do you know your child will be good enough one day for college sports teams? It seems like a big leap to make for a kid that might end up not even liking sports. When Junior is far and away the oldest kid in his 3rd grade class but prefers chess over football are his parents going to be disappointed? I don’t understand making those decisions based on something that is nowhere near a guarantee. I can’t see putting that kind of pressure on a child to live out your hopes and dreams. I know that isn’t always the case but how many parents of 5-year olds can honestly say that they know big-time sports are in their child’s future? Enough so that they are willing to alter their academic and social course to give them a perceived advantage? It is definitely an eye-brow raiser to me.

There are many valid reasons to hold your child back from school but these decisions should never be made lightly and all factors should be taken into consideration most of all being, what is best for your child. Holding your child back because they cannot sit still and listen for five minutes makes complete sense- doing it in hopes that they will be the biggest linebacker one day really doesn’t.


(Image: RobHainer/Shutterstock)