"We are not measured by the trials we meet -- only by those we overcome."
- - Spencer W. Kimball
June 6, 2013
Primary Class Assignments
by Cyndie Swindlehurst

Question:

Our son was retained in kindergarten and is a year behind his age group in school. He is socially immature and physically small.

In Primary, he has been placed with his age group. We can see that this is not a good placement for him.

When we discussed the situation with the Primary president, she was firm that Primary classes are divided by age as of January of each year, without exception.

Now what?

Answer:

What do you do now? You send your son to his assigned Primary class and you focus on helping him be successful, even if it is difficult for him.

I will give you three reasons not to charge into the bishop’s office and demand special treatment for your son.

Reason 1: The Handbook

Primary children “are normally divided into classes based on their age on January 1.” Handbook 2 section 11.4.3. Even “children who have disabilities are normally included in their regular Primary classes. As needed, and where possible, a special teacher may be called to attend class with them or to teach them separately.” Section 11.8.6.

In other words, Primary classes are organized by age. Not by interest, sex, grade, maturity, personality, size, ability to sit still, or any other trait. (Can you imagine the mess of trying to organize Primary any other way? It would be a nightmare.)

Further, the Handbook emphasizes that part of the Primary experience is for children to learn to love and understand each other, including children with special needs and disabilities. See section 21.1.26.

Beyond the Handbook, the Primary president, who has stewardship over the Primary, clearly believes your son will be fine in his class, even if things are not going smoothly right now. I suspect that if she thought your son were having a problem that could be solved by a different placement, she would take advantage of the word “normally” in sections 11.4.3 and 11.8.6 and try moving him.

After all, your son’s capacity will be the same no matter what class he attends. His personality will be the same. His teacher will need the same patience and need to make the same accommodations for him because his behavior will be the same. He will interrupt, play around, talk during class, ask to go to the bathroom ten times an hour, be bored by the lesson, sass the teacher, and poke other kids in either class for either teacher. All children behave this way until they figure out how to stop themselves.

Finally, even if he is small or immature, he will still be baptized at 8 (D&C 68:25, 27; Handbook 2 section 20.8.1), advance from Primary at 12 (section 11.8.6), and enter Elders Quorum by 19 (section 7.6.1). Since advancement and progress in the Church runs on an age-based schedule until adulthood, your son should be in the classes designed to help him take each step. He will not be the only child who is small or immature.

Reason 2: You Can Help

I know what you’re thinking: Don’t you know what’s best for your son? Well, maybe.

But maybe not.

You have to admit that parents sometimes underestimate their children, or are overprotective. Some get the weird idea that their children “deserve” the best of everything, including the ideal experience in every situation. These parents may hover, or constantly intervene. And they sometimes try to solve “problems” that are really just the normal, necessary discomforts of childhood.

Those discomforts are important! Children need to learn that disappointment, sadness, difficulty, offense, loneliness, boredom, worry, embarrassment, and unpleasantness are not the end of the world. Such feelings are a part of life, and a person’s happiness depends on his ability to cope with them. Learning to cope is something each individual must do for himself.

Parents can help children learn to cope. First, they can help children keep a proper perspective. The sky is not actually going to fall if a child is bored or lonely or gets in trouble with his Primary teacher. So along with expressions of sympathy and understanding for the child’s feelings, parents should teach the child that everyone feels that way sometimes, and that the child can, by his own actions, endure, ameliorate, or overcome the feelings.

Second, parents can teach and model correct behavior. Negative emotions often arise from wrong behavior. Parents should teach and model the behavior they want to see in their children, like not interrupting, not complaining, and controlling their emotions.

Third, parents can encourage children during difficult trials. Children need to know that their parents love them unconditionally, no matter what happens. They also need to know that their parents have complete confidence in the children’s ability to get through trials and adapt to difficult situations.

Reason 3: There Is a Solution for Concrete Problems

Should any concrete, articulable problems arise that are out of the ordinary for a young boy, discuss solutions with his teacher and, if necessary, the Primary president. But don’t make switching classes your first solution for everything. Instead, focus on helping your son get along in his assigned class.

Do not complain publicly about the Primary president’s decision or talk about her behind her back. Don’t make a huge deal of the situation and get everyone in the ward talking. Do not imply that she is more interested in following rules than in your son’s well-being.

That kind of behavior amounts to social pressure and bullying to get your way. It’s wrong. And it shows an inability to cope with your own problems in a productive way.

Above all, never, ever complain about the situation in front of your son. He needs to know you have full confidence in his ability to get along in Primary.

Do you have a quandary, conundrum, or sticky situation in your life? Click this button to drop Cyndie a line, and she’ll be happy to answer your question in a future column. Any topic is welcome!


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About Cyndie Swindlehurst

Cynthia Munk Swindlehurst spent her childhood in New Hampshire and her adolescence in San Diego. She served a mission in Manaus Brazil. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in English and from Duke University with a law degree.

She practiced law until her first child was born. She enjoys reading, tap dancing, and discussing current events. She and her husband live in Greensboro, North Carolina with their two sons.

Cyndie serves as the Sunbeams teacher in her ward.

Visit Cyndie at Dear Cyndie
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