Care and Feeding

My Daughter’s Teacher Said We Need to Get Her Evaluated Now. My Husband’s Reaction Worries Me.

I don’t think he’s entirely wrong, but I don’t know what we should do.

A young girl holding her head and a father consoling her.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by fizkes/iStock/Getty Images.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

Our daughter is lovely, funny, charming, chatty, social—and really frustrating.

This year, her teacher suggested we have her evaluated for neurodivergencies. I have been asking versions of “Should we have her evaluated?” at every school conference and pediatrician visit since she was about 4, and every time we’ve gotten a version of “let’s wait and see,” so I was immediately ready to spring forward and get right on a waitlist.

My husband is now adamant that we don’t. He thinks a diagnosis—no matter what it is—will lead to stigma and to her making excuses for her behavior instead of working to “fix” it. I think a diagnosis will help us understand her and figure out where we can push and where we have to support. He thinks I’ve been looking for something to pin our daughter’s behavior on (other than our parenting) since she was a toddler.

Maybe everyone is right?

She is by many measures thriving at school. But I think she is working so hard to keep it together there that she just falls apart at home, and that is so hard on the rest of us.

The teacher said she’s doing great academically, but lucky to be at a school where it’s acceptable to answer math problems while doing cartwheels. I thought she was joking, but then I see photos and my kid is literally doing cartwheels during math (and being allowed to because she gets the right answers). So then also, how hard should I try to “fix” that?

—Why Is Parenting So Hard

Dear WIPSH,

Your daughter is struggling, and an evaluation may allow you to understand why. It would be absolutely unreasonable not to, at the very least, consider what a professional opinion of your daughter’s behavior might reveal. She won’t always be in spaces where cartwheels are an acceptable way to blow off steam or otherwise find peace; she’s in a uniquely privileged school setting as it stands, but you have to prepare her to function in the world outside of there—which includes your home.

Explain to your husband that your intention is to get as many clues as possible of what is challenging your daughter so that you can address it. She likely has specific needs that are going unmet because you simply do not recognize them; methods of parenting other children may be completely ineffective when it comes to her because she’s who she is. Talk to your husband about individualized education programs and the various services that your school district offers to young people who need them. You are doing her a great disservice the longer you wait to find out more about just what it means to be here. You simply must get your husband on board with an evaluation, period.

—Jamilah

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Our 5-year-old son recently started kindergarten. Every Wednesday, he gets a homework packet. The packet contains four or five pages, front and back, which he has to complete by the following Wednesday. In addition, he has lists of words and word sounds he’s supposed to practice at home, as well as short books he’s supposed to read. Frankly, it’s a lot for a 5-year-old, and it’s causing him anxiety. The problem is, my wife insists he complete as much of the work as possible every night. Some nights, he spends two to three hours on schoolwork.