We're in a bit of a dilemma here and I was wondering if you can shed some light on our situation.
Since our son had been receiving after school tutor from his teacher, things had really turned around. We only had one outburst in 2 weeks (a definite first for us), and that subsided in less than 5 minutes (another definite first).
Hi, Yes children can develop greater awareness of their stressors over time and learn to use strategies that help them maintain self-control. It sounds like your son realizes that the tutoring really helped him. Is next year's teacher willing to be available after school? Hopefully the answer to your son's question about this was yes, and hopefully your son and next year's teacher will have as good a rapport as he had with this year's teacher.
I would suggest you also sit down with yous son when everyone is relaxed (if you have not already done so) and talk about the dilemma you feel. You could say you want to support your son's wishes to be in the advanced class but you worry that he may get upset if he has trouble understanding some assignments, and you wonder if it would be better for him to be in the other class where there would likely be less pressure. You could say you are not sure, and you want him to be happy and not stressed out next year. (By the way by predicting there will be some frustrating assignments, you are helping to prevent unrealistic expectations and thereby lessen the chances for anger overload. Often anger overload occurs when children expect something that is impossible of themselves or of others!)
Your son will probably say he can handle the more advanced class. Then review together what he will do next year if something is difficult to understand. What are some ways he will try to handle it? First choice might be to ask for tutoring. You could say that you are proud that he already asked if tutoring will be available next year! But what will he do if he has to wait a few days to get the tutoring? What can he do then to help himself not get too upset? You do not want to put him on the spot to answer these questions, but rather you want to open up a discussion about what some alternatives might be to help him cope with frustration when there are difficult assignments next year. There is no one right answer. You just want to think through together some alternative ways to help deal with possible frustration.
I would also mention to your son that despite all our efforts to prepare for the algebra class, if it turns out the class is too difficult, you will ask the teacher to put him in the pre-algebra class. You can explain that you know he will be disappointed then, but your first priority is your son's well being, and that this is more important than which class he is in. You can say you love him and do not want him to be stressed out. Worse comes to worse he can take algebra the following year.
If your son has difficulty next year and you have to move him to pre-algebra, he will probably be quite upset despite your discussions about that possibility. Ultimately, as parents we make the best guess we can about what our kids are ready for. If you feel now that he is not ready, then make that decision without having the discussion with your son that I outlined above. Once you have the discussion, if your son feels he can handle it and if he is able to think through how he will deal with frustrating assignments, you do not then want to say no. Remember that either way it works out, it will have been a learning experience for you and your son. He is on the path to understanding how to control his anger, and you have done a great job of helping him on this path..
All the best, Dr. Dave Gottlieb