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Comparing Siblings' Abilities; Helping Disruptive Daughter

March 8, 2011

Question: We have a son who started kindergarten this year. He is very bright but is not motivated to read on his own. We have not pushed him because we know children learn at different rates. However, his three-year-old sister is catching on to reading and her numbers very quickly. Her preschool teachers are amazed at how swiftly she is learning. Our son is starting to feel that he is a failure. We do not want him to develop poor self-esteem. What should we do?

-- Desperate

Answer: Wow! You begin your letter by telling us how bright your kindergarten son is, but you never elaborate on what his strengths are. You also don't mention what he is expected to be learning about reading. Talk to his teacher and find out if your son is on the same level as most of his classmates in learning to read. Keep in mind that not all kindergartens are academic factories requiring students to be reading as soon as possible.

We would not expect your son to be reading on his own so very early in the school year. It would be more appropriate for you to read stories to him. His participation could consist of reading the few words he knows from time to time, telling you what may happen next and talking about the story. This is the best way to build his interest in learning to read.

Be careful not to emphasize what one child can do and what the other cannot. If you do this, you should not have to worry about your son's self-esteem. Have fun reading with both children, and both will become readers when they are ready to do so.

Question: My daughter is in the fourth grade. Ever since the first day of school she has been given daily and weekly warnings about her classroom behavior. I have taken away all of her privileges until her behavior improves. Her grades are all A's and B's, but her social habits are deplorable. She talks while the teacher is conducting class and is disrespectful. The teacher says that she talks so much that the teacher can recognize her voice without turning around. What can I do at this point?

-- Frustrated

Answer: First, ask that the school have your daughter observed by whoever writes the behavior-modification plans for your school district and have a behavior plan written that focuses on eliminating the child's excessive talking. One of the things that the behaviorist will be looking for is what is happening before the child starts to talk.

Taking privileges away from her at home isn't working. We wonder about her behavior at home. Does she listen to adults? Is she respectful toward them? If not, improving her behavior at home would most likely result in improved behavior at school.

You might also want to go to our website and search for questions dealing with attention-deficit disorder, as it can contribute to behavior problems. If your daughter has many signs of this disorder, talk to her doctor about it for guidance in handling your child's behavior.

Send questions and comments to Dear Teacher, in care of Mahoning Valley Parent, Box 395, Carmel, IN 46082-0395, or log on to, or e-mail



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