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Q: My kindergartner won't participate in any pageant, play, or concert that is held at his school. He has told us he won't participate in kindergarten graduation because everyone will look at him. This is very frustrating -- what is the correct way to handle the situation?
A: It's hard to tell from your message whether you believe that your son is truly shy or simply being manipulative. If he is actually so shy that he cannot bring himself to be in a program, let it go. Forcing him to participate will only create more problems. Work with your son's teacher next year to help him to overcome this fear gradually: he could read a poem aloud to a partner, then to a small group, then to his class, etc.
If you believe that your son is manipulating the situation, he has all the power and he is handling you well. Stop arguing with him and don't bluff with anything you are not willing to follow through. Attend the graduation if you'd like whether he participates or not and ignore the fact that he is not part of it.
While you are working through these behaviors, try to work out compromises with your son. If he's not willing to go up in front at the graduation, is he willing to sit with his class? Is he willing to march in with the others but sit down with you when they go to the front of the room? Encourage him to participate as much as he is able.
If your son's fears continue to limit his participation, you will want to get him help to deal with this. Talk with the school counselor. She may be able to give your son some individual time or include him in a small group. If you decide that he needs additional help outside the school, the counselor or your pediatrician can refer you to a therapist in your community.
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Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.