What to Do When Your Child Hates School
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Sometimes there are no easy answers or solutions. Kind of a buzzkill right? This post is certainly (and unfortunately) not going to solve everyone’s problems or change our entire educational system, but I hope that it does offer some alternative and creative ideas to help you discover why your child hates school as well as some alternative solutions to help turn that attitude around. Every child learns differently and no one teaching style will suit every single child – whether that be public school, private school, or homeschooled! EACH of your children are different and I know many families that have sent each of their children to different school to better meet individual needs of their children. Always step back and evaluate your child’s learning style and needs and what your school has to offer them. Just because your child has been in their school (or homeschool) for the past several years does not mean that it’s still the right school they need right now. With that being said here are some OTHER tips than evaluating your child’s school needs (which should always be considered).
Identify the problem.
Easier said than done right?
Sometimes kids can’t tell you WHY they hate school, just that they do. If they don’t have an answer for you or can’t seem to understand why they don’t like school pretend you’re playing the game “20 Questions” with them and instead of drilling them with WHY WHY WHY do you hate school, try asking other questions that might help prod them into a better explanation like “Did you have any problems with your teacher today?”, “Were you behind on your classwork?”, “What was boring to you today?”, “Did someone say something not nice to you today?”, etc. Don’t be too forceful however or your child might close up. Sometimes they just need the tools to express themselves I usually take it slow asking random questions over a period of an hour or two as my son has had some unwinding time and is doing something he enjoys.
The first real typical frustration I see in the school years hits around 2nd/3rd grade, especially with boys, as it’s a huge transition from less fun and more work. Also as kids push through their puberty years – brace yourself for some swings! This is a VITAL time to work hard and helping your kids love learning. That doesn’t mean push more work on them, sometimes it’s showing them how fun learning can be outside of school too (make slime, shoot off rockets, read oddities books like Ripley’s, etc.). And yes, there are those few scenarios where some kids just simply don’t like school – no reason needed.
- Social Disconnect or Loneliness– Sometimes the child is simply feeling left out and it isn’t anyone’s fault but simply an oversight. Help walk through scenarios with them and give them the tools to understand that it’s ok to walk up to groups of kids on the playground and ask if they can join in, etc. A teacher or coach can be a great tool to involve here to help prod other kids to include your child in activities. Not all children are natural “social butterflies” and sometimes not being able to find a friend or someone to play with at recess can really turn a child’s positive attitude into feeling like he isn’t loved or has no friends – regardless of how well they get along with their classmates. Try to get to the root of the issue and collaborate with his/her teacher to help curb these issues.My oldest son who has asperger’s would have a fantastic day at school but when recess rolled around his entire persona changed. He felt lonely and like no one wanted him simply because everyone was happily playing on the playground but no one specifically was playing with him for that short period of the day. Although we walked through scenarios with him of how to approach other kids and ask to play we also brought the teacher in on the issue who prompted a few children to help out and get involved with including him in their play time. If there is a band of kids purposefully excluding your child this is a tough lesson to learn and deal with. Give them the tools and encouragement to stand on their own and not be put down by others.
- Bullying – Although personally I feel the word “bullying” is overused in schools now thanks to awareness find out if your child is being teased or verbally abused by either students OR teachers. This is not an issue to take lightly and it can be a fine line to determine whether it’s a situation of true bullying or simply kid’s that don’t get along. Help your child understand the way that they should act and react regardless of the situation and teach them who to go to for help. There are plenty of articles out there on this so I’m not going to “beat a dead horse” here!
- Boredom – It’s no surprise that many schools now “teach to the test” so there are less hands on activities and recess time so kids are having a more difficult time staying still for long periods of time. Determine whether the boredom comes from not being challenged enough or from the strict regiment required at your child’s school. These can be 2 very different issues. Address the issue with the teacher who many times can give alternative activities to stimulate learning on the side during class. If your child simply just has a hard time staying still for such long periods of time and the teacher will not give shorts breaks periodically consider fidgets and quiet desk toys to help keep your child’s hands and feet moving throughout the day. Personally we use and love the Boinks Fidgets because they can easily slip into my son’s pockets or be used in his desk. We also bought a cheap resistance band to tie around the bottom of his desk for his feet to bounce on.
- Teacher Problems – I even hate to mention it but on occasion you can run into a teacher that simply just has problems with your child. Whether it’s a personality clash, a racist issue, a teacher who is so disorganized your child isn’t able to cope, etc. – fight hard to work out these problems – don’t wait for a parent/teacher conference! I’ve seen them all! Although it’s hard for both the students and the parents it can be used as a valuable learning lesson for your child. As a last resort you can certainly request a room change if you’ve explored all other options.
- Unrealized learning disability or other special need. Pay for a private assessment or utilize services through your school district. I’ve been there and am going through it right now with one of my children. You KNOW there’s something “off” but can’t put your finger on it. Teachers and principals, as much as we wish they do – they just do NOT have all the answers, just like parents. Again, you are your child’s best advocate. If you feel like there is something just not connecting with your child’s ability to learn or function it may be time to consider a behavioral evaluation or neuropsychological evaluation to determine if there is a deficit of cognitive function, a sensory processing disorder, dyslexia, dysgraphia, vision or hearing problems, or any other number of issues.
My middle child has always complained of not being able to hear things ever since he was about 18 months but after passing 5 hearing tests I was just stumped at why he would still be mentioning it. After meeting with his teacher to better understand how he reacts in a classroom we are finally getting him tested for a central auditory processing disorder. It took me several years to nail it down and put my finger on it but I never stopped researching, monitoring, and advocating for my son. Never ever stop advocating for your child – even if you aren’t sure of what the problem is.
Helping the Problem:
I say “helping” the problem because sometimes there IS no good fix, only BETTER solutions and lessons to be learned the hard way. Depending on what your child’s issue is here are some ideas that may help (or solve!) the issue.
- Get the teacher (and/or principal) involved! – Sometimes teachers are so busy they might not pick up on the small issues or see what’s going on when their back is turned. You need someone on your side to help monitor things “on the inside” per se and building a good solid relationship with your child’s teacher can go a long way. If you have a teacher who seems out of touch, too busy, or just flippant about what is going on (unfortunately it does happen) then go to the principal and ask for help. DON’T be afraid to advocate for your child (or request a change) if there is something wrong.
- Shadow your Child- Obviously depending on the age of your child and the type of school situation they are in this may or may not be an option for you. Monitor a day to see if there is something that you can do to help your child have things run smoother for him/her – and not in a helicopter overbearing type of way. Shadowing can best be done by a guidance counselor or outside specialist if you have a counselor to turn to that can monitor things with a more discreet ability. This can help see if your child is having difficulty concentrating in class, being secretly picked on or snubbed by other children, having difficulties keeping up with classwork, etc.
- Invest in a counselor / Guidance counselor – Sometimes, no matter if I give 200% towards helping my child work out his problems, I can’t always seem to come to the right solution. Having some “outside” help whose qualified in helping kids work through their issues and school problems can be a worthwhile investment for everyone. It’s a “safe” place for your child to talk and the counselor has more experience in helping kids with the tools they need to hammer out issues.
- Change Schools – I’m not going to spend a lot of time here either as there are countless other articles out there on this issue but it should always stay in the back of your mind! Although you don’t want to just pull your kid and run to a new school every time there is a problem, sometimes there truly are legitimate reasons for finding a different school or teaching style for your child. EVERY child in your family is different and what works for one of your children may not work for your other child.
- Incentives – Depending on the issue of course incentives can be a phenomenal tool to spurring your child into better decisions and attitudes. If your child is becoming overly anxious about homework, having behavioral problems in school, etc. design a system to reward them if they earn it. I like to let my children’s teachers know so they can help encourage my child at school if a difficulty arises. I’m a little “old school” and although I don’t think kids need to be rewarded for every little thing we do have an incentive program in place for each of my children which has done wonders for motivating them this year. Each child has a DIFFERENT problem with DIFFERENT options in place. Prizes should be earned NOT expected.One of my kids earns an incentive with 5 green (good) behaviors in the week. And after serious anxiety breakdowns my other child earns an incentive for completing homework in a timely manner with a good attitude. Incentives can be anything from a movie night on Friday night with popcorn, choosing a reward from a prize bag of toys from the dollar store, etc. Make sure the child KNOWS what is expected of them and although the prize does not have to be expensive at all make sure it is something your child will want to work for.
- Encouraging Notes – It never hurts to slip a handwritten note into your child’s agenda or lunch box for encouragement throughout the day. Especially when they are in need of praise or a friend to make them smile.
- Fill in the Gaps – No education system is meant to teach your child 100% of everything – that’s what parents are there for! Sometimes we have to fill in more gaps than others depending on the school and education they are receiving. Take the time to help your kids LOVE learning after school, on the weekends, and during holiday breaks/summer. Whether it’s reading crazy fact books together at night, taking “field trips” to various museums and locations on the weekends, building rockets or roller coasters together, etc. “Educational” encompasses SO many areas of life and spurring that love for learning in a child can be so incredibly simple. I know, many of you will proclaim “Well there shouldn’t be any gaps!” I can’t say that I necessarily disagree with you. We all know the education system as a whole is broken but ultimately it is your job as a parent to be your child’s advocate. If you can’t fix what is going on at his/her school meet your child’s needs the best way you can. There are some things you CAN control. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Pinterest is FULL of DIY ideas, sensory recipes, STEM activities…..not to mention I’ve found all sorts of crazy and awesome things at thrift stores over the years to foster my children’s love for learning.
Work on solutions at home AND school – surround your children with all encompassing support.
Parents – YOU are your child’s advocate!
My daughter struggled when she started Kinder. We thought it was just an adjustment issue but after volunteering in the class once I saw the problem for myself. The TA was a yeller and she jumped in and answered for the kids if they didn’t answer fast enough. Later my daughter told me that she was too afraid of saying the wrong thing since she didn’t want to be yelled at. I went straight to the principal and requested that my child get moved. That was hard for me being a former teacher but I knew it was needed. It was a unique situation since we were getting a 5th teacher due to overcrowding so a few students from every class were getting moved. This was in October. It was the best decision! She thrived in the new class in a calmer environment.
It’s such a tough thing when we see our kids struggle! It sounds like you made a fantastic choice – no kids need to be in a yelling environment like that! I’m so happy to hear she is thriving and happier in school again!
My granddaughter hated school. Her mother did all the above and more.
One school flat out refused to help.
The second school tried but didn’t help much.
The third school really tried but could only do so much with the time alotted.
The only solution we found was home schooling. She has only just begun but already she seems like a different child.
I’m sure there will be stubble along the way but it will be worth it to see the pressure lifted off that child.
Sincerely Mary Kotas
Thank you for your guidance God bless you.
This is good research.
This is also my situation also! First grade now and I still have my daughter crying in the back seat that she doesn’t want to go in. I’ve also done the charts, focused on positives and other avenues like those. It seems that nothing works and I am at my wit’s end with how much she doesn’t like school. She has wonderful friends, she loves her teacher, she is smart and is above average in testing. It seems like everything should be fine. But then I get the other side of clinginess and wanting to be with Mommy all day. It is really frustrating and hard to know what to do. I would also love a follow up with this question.
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