How to deal with a child who hates school


When a child announces that he or she hates school, it's often because of a problem that has nothing to do with school work. Parenting expert and author Ann Pleshette Murphy has excellent advice for parents who need to know how to respond to a child who hates school.

How to deal with a child who hates school

Children can have different reasons for disliking school depending upon their age and grade level. Ann Pleshette Murphy has suggestions for what to do if your child hates school due to social or academic problems.

When young children hate school:

  • When children are little, they resist going to school because of something that may be small and innocuous to us, but is important to them. It could be a bathroom accident, or maybe their teacher seemed mean. Start with the teacher and see if some kind of incident happened.
  • If it’s workload, or your child is having a problem with understanding school work, the teacher should be made aware so s/he can respond.
  • It might be a social problem, and the teacher should know that, too.
When your tween or teen hates school:
  • The other age in which you hear kids say they hate school is the preteen years. Junior high is so difficult, with cliques, with emotional and physical bullying, and parents have to navigate that with their kids very carefully. Teens don’t want parents calling their teachers.
  • Bullying must be taken seriously because research shows it has a profoundly negative effect on kids. It contributes to poor school performance, low self-esteem, depression and suicidal thoughts.
  • Talk to your child about bullying and let him know he’s not alone, maybe it even happened to you.
  • Make sure the school is aware of the situation, too. Most schools know to take bullying very seriously.
Transcript <!--StartFragment-->

KATRINA: I’m Katrina Szish for, joining me is Ann Pleshette Murphy, parenting expert and the author of The 7 Stages of Motherhood. Nice to see you, Ann.

ANN: Good to be here.

KATRINA: School and learning can be a wonderful thing; it should be a wonderful thing, but sometimes kids just hate it.

ANN: Yes, and that’s really not something you want to hear when you’re rushing off to work: ‘I hate school, I don’t want to go.’ It does happen; when kids are little, it often happens because of something you think is really innocuous – they couldn’t get to the bathroom on time or the teacher was mean, or something happened that really made them step back and say, ‘hey, I don’t really want to do this again tomorrow.’ Start with the teacher; try to find out if something did happen, if your child isn’t telling you. And if it does involve maybe workload, or the kid feeling they don’t understand something, then you often can work with the teacher to have a little extra help provided for your child. If it’s a social situation, that’s also something teachers need to be aware of. It’s hard, if a teacher has a lot of kids in the classroom, for her to keep an eye, but if you’ve cued her into what’s going on at home, chances are, it can get better a lot quicker.

KATRINA: Now tell me a little bit about the difference between a kinder, kindergartener who hates school versus a high schooler who hates school. How do you manage those two different age groups?

ANN: Well the other age group where you really hear this is the pre-teen years, you know, the junior high, because most people remember seventh grade as hell.

KATRINA: Junior high was, yes, junior high was the worst.

ANN: Because it’s when a lot of the cliques and the bullying and the emotional bullying happens, and that can be really painful for kids. And so that’s something that parents, again, have to navigate very carefully, because a lot of teenagers will not want you to get involved. They certainly won’t want you to call the teacher and tell them you’re having a hard time. But bullying, you have to take very seriously because we know, again, from a lot of research that it can have a profoundly negative effect on kids. Not just on their schoolwork, on whether they want to go to school, but on the self-esteem, it can contribute to depression and suicide. So if you suspect that your child’s being bullied, and that’s often what’s behind a teenager or pre-teen’s refusal to go to school, then you get involved first with your kid, talking it through and telling them you’ve been through it, too, and then you do need to get the school’s administrators involved because this is something that most schools are taking seriously.

KATRINA: Ann Pleshette Murphy, thank you so much, excellent points.

ANN: You’re so welcome.

meet theexpert
  • Ann Pleshette

    Ann Pleshette Parenting Contributor, Good Morning America, ABC Ann Pleshette Murphy has been the Parenting Contributor for Good Morning America since November 1998, and her “American Family” segments are a recurring feature on GMA. Murphy is the author of The 7 Stages of Motherhood: Loving Your Life Without Losing Your Mind (Anchor Books) and travels the country speaking to mothers’ groups about such themes as striking a balance between work and family, wrestling with guilt and setting loving limits. She was Editor-in-Chief of Parents magazine from 19 more about this expert »

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