3 Reasons Redshirt Kindergarteners Exist

March 5, 2012 — 18 Comments

I was impressed with the 15 minute story on 60 Minutes this week about “Redshirt Students”. I became aware of this issue since having kids and if you do not know much about it, you can read a great article in Huffington Post. To summarize the issue, many parents are holding back their kids to start Kindergarten a year later. Why? The idea is so their kids will be older and have an edge on other students. They could be physically bigger to be more developed athletes (read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers on Canadian Hockey players). They could be more advanced in the classroom. They could eventually be the first to drive at 16 to have a social edge. They could also be better leaders just for the fact of being older. It seems to be an issue affecting boys more than girls but nevertheless it is happening to both. I envision a Tiger Mom’s saliva dripping from its mouth at the thought of this.

There are plenty of negatives to this like being bored in the classroom, have behavioral issues, trouble relating to the younger students, etc. Yes, it is confusing for the kids.

But this is not about the kids. 

Photo Credit: Premus

Brooke and I have two wonderful, unique, and imperfect girls. Our oldest daughter will be starting a Pre-K class next year so this issue hits home as we observe what other parents do for their kids. Brooke and I could technically hold back our daughter a year from Kindergarten and start her at 6 1/2.  Yes, 6 1/2, which is crazy to us. Despite being the youngest in her class, so far she has every ability to keep up with the older kids. There are many instances of younger kids need to be held back, which is understandable and shows how each situation is unique.

The idea of redshirting students reminds me of my experience dealing with some of my friends’ parents at a young age. When I was even eight years old, I knew that these parents were pushing my friends at every sport. They verbally abused them, practically broke out a whip to keep them practicing, rarely praised them, etc. It was disgusting and if they were smart enough to start their kids earlier in school, they would have (maybe they did). But most of my friends who were pushed around so hard by their parents were stressed, unhappy, and eventually ended up in serious therapy (or should have). I am thankful for my parents were not pushy but encouraging in that process and ultimately helped me to be successful in the things I was most passionate about in those years.

Why do parents do this?

There are three reasons:

  1. Envy: They see other parents’  kids “succeeding” early in life. They see it as necessary to make sure their kids do the same or better. It is pure envy.
  2. Fear: God forbid their kids would not be the best in something or not succeed. They feel the need to “protect” their kids because they fear failure.
  3. Pride: Even parents want to feel significant. Perhaps it is through their child’s success? Perhaps they are trying to make up for some issue in their own life and forcing it on their own kids? But pride is at the root of all of this.
All of this points to a redshirt life. We all are susceptible to this lie.

The redshirt life is about safety, control, and lack of adventure.

Brooke and I have discovered as parents how easy it can be to be caught in this trap. The idea of redshirting our kids is a reminder that Brooke and I need to give our kids up to God. We want to be great stewards with the gifts God has given us, especially our kids. But ultimately this all is a reminder that we need to give up control. God reminded me this week through 2 Timothy 1:7 (King James),

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear: but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

There will be many more times we will encounter issues like this. May we all be in prayer for our kids and to also ask God to reveal our own hearts in the process. The verse above is about trusting God, thinking with the good mind he gave us and to always act in love for our children.

18 responses to 3 Reasons Redshirt Kindergarteners Exist


    This is not a new issue. My son is 21, a junior in college. These same questions were issues when it was time to decide: Pre-K next year? Or kindergarten? That was in the early years when there started to be a big academic push in kindergarten, when there was a significant shift toward more seat-time and completing worksheet time, in kindergarten. For me, then, the determining question was, Is he ready to cap all that energy and sit still for stretches of time so he can do the worksheet thing?


    Sharon, it doesn’t surprise me that this isn’t new. It sure is the hot topic for parent friends of ours. Sounds like you thought through things the right way.


    Bravo to a dad (and mom) who care about loving their children just as they are and are ever mindful that they are gifts from God.


    David, I appreciate you stance on the issue. It makes good sense. However, as a parent currently going through this I can say that many issue are not being brought out by story. My wife and I are currently leaning to the redshirt option for a number of reasons, none of which are academic or athletic. While he will be more advanced in some of those a result, the real reasons are more social like Sharon suggested. My son is borderline Hyperactive (not ADHD). He has real issues with sitting still in a class and his current teacher maintains he is right there academically, but he will be challenged by having to sit still and complete an assignment on his own. Right now, he needs a teacher close to him to keep him on track so he isn’t trying to see what EVERYONE is doing other than himself. We think he needs another year of “maturing” shall we say, in order to complete that process.


      Dallas, your situation totally makes sense and sounds like you are making the right call. Again, not every parent goes about it as presented in these articles and the 60 Minutes story. But, they exist and I know many of them. I just pray for balance in this life and for people not to get too worked up about this issue.


    I, too, watched the 60 Minutes clip with interest. I think, though, this is a much larger issue than really was presented. Don’t you think it was skewed a bit towards soccer moms who want their precious little Johnny to be class president and captain of the football team someday? I don’t know. Maybe that is what’s on those moms’ minds, but it’s way more complicated than that.

    My children are spring babies and there was never any question they would begin K at age 5. They did, and they have all done well. I will say that at our school, parents are all over the map. My kids have some kids in their classes who are almost 1 year older than them (with bdays in July or August) and some who are several months younger.

    A gaping issue here — that they didn’t cover on the 60 Minutes spot — is the outrageously high academic standards now being presented. Dave, you will be amazed when your girls get to 2nd, 3rd grade. I kid you not — my 3rd grader is doing math that I didn’t master until middle school. I have friends with kids in both public and private schools — all the same types of issues: lots and lots of hard homework.

    I wish the 60 Minutes clip had focused more on the academic pressures and interviewed some parents who were concerned about that.

    I’ll also say that from an adult who was among the youngest in her class, it was hard. My bday is the end of Sept. I began K at age 4, graduated high school at 17, and went to college at age 17 (gasp!). It WAS hard when friends could drive a year before me (those first of Nov. bdays). But, academically, I was mature and excelled.

    It’s just a multi-faceted issue with various ramifications. Ultimately, I think it’s a parental decision based entirely on the child.

    For balance, you should read Better Late Than Early. It’s about how the “system” is pushing our kids to do too much too soon — especially read. Really interesting.


      Mary, this is great insight. I’m just concerned with the mentality of parents, which appears to me as selfish. I’ve been trying to read both sides of this argument and it still comes back to the issue of the parent for me. Yes, academic standards are increasing, which many might not think is not that bad of an idea. But, is the child ready? That is the question as you point out. Thanks for the comment!

    Trent Tormoehlen March 5, 2012 at 11:50 pm


    You are off base on your 3 reasons why parents do this. Certainly there may be some parents that do it for those reasons, but I would venture to say they are in the minority. My experience, as an educator, with parents like this, is they pursue the exact opposite path. They want to advance their kid and prove that they should be with older kids. They put them in the older AAU age group or put them in the advanced math class or the golf tour they are not ready for.

    I was a “redshirt” kindergarten student and my parents and I both agree that it was absolutely the best decision for me. They had two reasons for doing this…

    1) My older brother was 1 day inside the cutoff for Kindergarten. He was very small for his age and they decided that, as a boy in particular, he would be better off emotionally, socially and academically, if he had an extra year to mature before he started school. Thus when I came along, I was a couple of months inside the cutoff, but they didn’t want my brother and I to be 2 years about in school when we were 3 years apart in age.

    2) I, like my brother, was very small for my age.

    I have know multiple parents that have done this and, IMO, they have not done it for their own pride, envy or fear. They have done it because they thought it was in the best interest of their child.

      Trent Tormoehlen March 6, 2012 at 12:11 am

      But I do agree with the rest of what you had to say 🙂

      I just think that the “redshirting” kindergarten is usually not done for the reasons mentioned. Mainly because we, as a culture, don’t value academics enough to make that something that is prevalent in our society.


        TT, I really appreciate your passion. I hope you caught in the post that I identified these as the extreme parents. Unfortunately I know plenty of them in Nashville and grew up with some of them as well. Your situation seemed completely reasonable and as I pointed out is a very thoughtful solution for what is best needed for your family. And a state golf champion was produced in the process! Sorry, I couldn’t resist. “I keed, I keed.” Great thoughts and I’m just glad I caused a stir that perhaps got just one person more up in arms than what Rush Limbaugh happens to say. Miss you buddy. I leave you with Billy Joel’s wisdom, “I don’t know why I go to extremes.”


    I love this, so true, actually sad. I spoke with a gymnastics Mom a bit about how we guard the number of activities to be intentional about family time… She just stared at me. A guess it was a new concept 😉 thanks for your perspective!


      You are too sweet, Heather. It’s a difficult balance. We want the best for our kids but we also do have to give them up to God. We can over-control their lives so much. Can’t wait to see you in a couple months!


    “Redshirting” your Kindergartener wisdom from a family physician, Dr. Meg Meeker. Really interesting perspective from someone in the field too. http://ow.ly/9BzRK


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