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Ask the Experts

Is My Child Too Immature for Second Grade?

By Dr. Lisa Hunter, Child Psychologist

Question:

My 7-year-old is very chatty in class. Academically he is strong in all the subjects but refuses to be quiet and is disruptive in class at times. I've tried removing his toys and rewarding him when he is good, but he always returns to his talkative ways. I'm thinking he is not mature enough for second grade. Should I remove him from second grade and place him back in first grade?

Answer:

Based on the information you provided, I do not think your son needs to be placed back in the first grade. It sounds like he needs a behavioral intervention plan to address his disruptive behavior in school.

Your son's teacher or the school's social worker should be able to devise such a plan with your input. The plan should identify three to five target behaviors that you and his teacher would like to see increased in school, for example, raising his hand when he wants to speak in class, listening when the teacher asks him to be quiet, using an "inside voice" in the classroom, etc.

The target behaviors should be specific and positively stated. Once the behaviors have been identified, the next step is to make sure that the teacher reinforces your son every time he demonstrates the target behavior. For example, he could get a sticker each time he demonstrates a target behavior and if he earns a certain number of stickers, he gets a bigger reward at school (e.g. extra time on the class computer, extra recess time, getting to be a special helper to the teacher, etc.) and at home. It is important that your son is reinforced immediately after he demonstrates the target behavior to help him make the connection between his behavior and the reinforcement.

A thoughtful and consistently implemented behavior intervention plan should lead to some positive results after two weeks. If your son's school behavior does not show any signs of improvement after this time, you may want to have your son evaluated by a child psychologist to determine if there are any other factors that may be contributing to his behavior in school.


Dr. Lisa Hunter is an assistant professor in the department of child psychiatry at Columbia University and the director of school-based mental health programs at Columbia University's Center for the Advancement of Children's Mental Health. Her research focuses on the development, implementation, and evaluation of school-based mental health and prevention programs. In addition she is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in New York City. She specializes in cognitive behavioral treatment for children and adolescents.

 

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

03/6/2012:
"So many of these comments below refer to the child being "bored". As a Gifted & Talented Teacher (and a Regular Education Teacher) I see boredom as an excuse. Only a boring mind becomes bored. A truly gifted child will use his/her mind to compile data & ask questions (on topics being taught or otherwise!), create problems to solve (whether they can be solved or not!), and engage themselves intellectually. "Bored" is an excuse for improper metal stimulation. As young children, we need to them how to use their minds to recognize patterns, find inconsistencies, make predictions, and create strategies for problem solving. All of these skills can be applied to academics as well as life skills (like what to have for snack? or what to do when I'm out of clean laundry? or how do I get to San Jose?) Without these foundational skills, success is near impossible. Bright children may be able to grasp concepts quickly, but gifted children connect those concepts to other ares and apply them. Bright children have all the right answers, but gifted kids have all the right questions. This child may be bored, but the only person responsible for that is the child him/herself. Help your child become the master of his/her own learning. Have them identify what are his/her roadblocks- Am I easily distracted? Do I distracted myself/have difficulty setting my mind to one task? Can I see the reason behind why I am learning this in school? Am I able to make connections to my life and the "real world"? What do I need to be the best learner I can be? Just some suggestions. Take them or not. Hope I was of some sort of help. "
09/9/2011:
"Just let him be. "
05/17/2010:
" To me it sounds like he may be bored in class. My daughter tends to be disruptive if the work gets to easy for her. You should discuss this with the teacher to pin point exactly when he starts to be disruptive. Is it before or after he finishes? Does he totally disrespect authority or does he just seem to be bored with the class work? If he is listening to what is needed to complete his work I doubt he has a major behavioral problem."
03/4/2010:
"For those of you who have children who are ahead of the class, move quickly, and then get bored, have you ever considered Montessori School? Its an educational method that among other things, prides itself in letting each child advance it his or he own pace. Usually they have materials and lessons well beyond the 'normal' level for a child of that age, so that if a student can and wishes to move on to more challenging material, he is not only able to, but warmly encouraged to do so. As for behavior, it also emphasizes personal responsibility, which seems to help encourage 'good', productive and respectful behavior. Each child is responsible for finishing several clearly stated tasks and studies each day, (but each different child in the class may be working on different tasks at any given time) and learns time management because if the studies are not completed in a timely manner, they may not move on to fun or other activities. As adults we are often given several tasks that need to be completed without someone sitting down and telling us what to do, and when. So why not encourage children to learn how to be personally responsible for completing tasks in a given time, somewhat independently ( they are still children and need encouragement) at a young age? Just some food for thought.. :)"
05/26/2009:
"I am having the same issue. My child loves to play, he love to talk. He make A's but he could have 100 instead of 90's or 92's.He is taller than most 7 year old. He looks as if he could be 10 or 11. I don't know if people expect more out of him because he is so tall or if this is the way a 7 year old is suppose to behave."
05/12/2009:
"It's an informative article, but I wish it explains more. Regardlesss of what the teacher says or thinks. Is there anyway, or steps, that can help me to evaluate my child by myself, before exposing my child to a school psychologist. Because what the teacher says about my child does not make sense to me. I know my child better. Thank you for your help."
03/5/2009:
"what if your child has Asperger's syndrome. Is it possible for him to thrive in a public school system?"
01/14/2009:
"I am withdrawing my son to his school. He is attending private school now. He has this disruptive behavior and not listing to the teacher.He is a gifted child. Should i move him to public school. Also, he is like this since he was kindergarten. I already took him to phychologist. He was saying that he is very smart and no problem at all.He said that he is talking like adult. But not in school though. Please advice. Thank you for your time for my email."
10/26/2007:
"I too have a son in 2nd grade with an IEP who has been diagnosed with learning disabilities in Reading and wrighting also has Add and is currently not on meds but rather doing with Dr assistance Nurofeedback. I saw very positive results. This is not covered by insurance so it can be costly treatment. I had to stop for a moment and my sons behaviors quickly reverted back. My problem is the second grade teacher has not complied consistanly with his Iep utilizing a timer to show him he can get through it and a sticker chart; her statement to me was he would have to get off that and I advised her now was not the time seeing as this too was Dr. Recommended. I feel lost I don't know if I need a new teacher or keep persisting."
08/19/2007:
"to the one who wrote on 11/29/2006, it sounds like your son has a high IQ and gets easily bored. That is not his fault. He just needs more stimulation. Maybe a harder class or one that moves at a faster pace so that he is challenged. He is just trying to fill up his time that he doesn't want to waste on things he already knows. If they keep telling you that his behavior is bad then they have a problem, they are going to make him hate school. A good teacher will know how to challenge a smart child."
11/29/2006:
"i have been struggling with a similiar situation. my son is in 2nd grade and is extremely smart. however whenever i speak to his teacher the report is always discouraging. im the beginning of the year it was his behavior. when i got his report card i see A's B's 90's and 100's on tests. i dont understand it. his teacher says that he is always eager to learn new things but once he's got it under his belt he no longer participates. i mean he will literally sit in class and not do an assignment, just because he doesnt want to. i've talked with him, his dad talks with him. i've taken away all of his games and tv privilages i told him he has until the next progress report to turn it around. just this morning we talked about it and he understood. this afternoon when i picked him up his teacher gave me yet another bad report. i've come to the conclusiuon that he's simply being out right lazy and just doesnt care. i've been thinking about changing his school or putting i! n a special ed class so he can recieve one on one attention. at this point i just dont know. when i talk to his teacher all i can do is say ok and i'll talk to him and really i dont know what els to do. "
11/28/2006:
"This hit home with our family. My son has been 'chatty' since kindergarten. Teachers typically think it is fine until the charm of a precocious child wears off. Then there is an emphasis on changing behavior that is already established and in some ways has been tacitly reinforced. Fortunately I have found that as he matures he is more in control of his chatting. Boredom is a HUGE isse - he will try to move a lesson ahead or in a novel direction because he is BORED. Another trigger is fatigue - his internal dialogue is much more apt to be vocalized when he is tired. Social maturity is not linear. It is great that your son is excelling in his academics, I hope the teacher is noticing that as well as the 'problem'."
11/15/2006:
"Great Article! Thanks very much. I was at my wits end for the same problem and adopted a behavior intervention plan with my First Grader whose Academic Grades average a 92% but his Conduct Grade is 40%. While he learns almost everything instantly, he is also very disruptive in the classroom and choses when he will or will not follow instructions at school. This applies to academic as well as non-academic tasks. I am using a journal to keep track of his progress."
11/15/2006:
"I learned a lot by reading this article. I also have a second grader who has been acting out lately. Im going to try to use the behavior intervention plan, three to five target for home bahavior problems and i'm sure things will change, at school and at home. "
11/15/2006:
"I love the thought of positive reinforcement. As a mother of two busy boys, I feel I am always correcting them and any reminders of how to possitively encourage good behavior is great! Thanks"
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