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Q: My first-grader reads and writes on a high third-grade level. He's on the waiting list for an advanced class. What concerns me is that he gets upset so easily -- the smallest things make him cry. His teacher says that he's too nice. He will lend things to students and never get them back. At home if someone pushes him or takes something, he will speak up and snatch it back. I don't want him to be so passive at school -- this could lead to bully problems later on if the kids think he won't do anything. What should we do?
A: Every parent wants her child to be happy and well-adjusted. It sounds like your son is both at home, but is feeling some pressure at school to be perfect and to be liked by everyone.
Talk with the school counselor. He may be able to give your son some individual time or include him in a small group on assertiveness training. As you know, there's a big difference between standing up for yourself and being mean to others, and your son needs to know that he can be assertive and still be friends with the other children.
Try to find opportunities for your son to try new things at which he may not be perfect. Joining a soccer team (or some similar activity) will give him a chance to have fun while learning new skills. He will learn that he doesn't have to be perfect at something to have a good time.
If your son's name comes up on the waiting list for the advanced class, think carefully before you agree to place him there. If he is having these problems with stress now, they may worsen if he is put into a more challenging situation.
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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.