Friday, March 11, 2011

What Can I Do if My Child Hates School?

Many children claim that they hate school, and they may ask or beg not to go. Sometimes this response is quite reasonable. For example a fun weekend at home often makes Monday morning a time when students ask not to go to school. Really, it’s difficult to blame kids for asking, since it means adjusting from an unstructured exciting environment, into a much more structured and sometimes less fun environment.

Other children may dislike school for very valid reasons. These can be broken down into three categories: social ostracism, learning challenges, and difficulty functioning in the school environment, as with kids with hyperactivity. All of these reasons should be taken seriously, and investigated. The first thing a parent must do is find out what is causing problems at school. Talk to kids first, and let them articulate. When children can't give you enough information, talk to the child's teachers, as many have a lot of ideas about what may be causing the problems.
A child who has no friends, for example, may find school a very lonely place. If the child is unsuccessful at making friends, one can ask the assistance of a teacher or the principal in pairing the child with another person who might need a friend as well. Schools often get new students too, and a child without friends might volunteer to be the “tour guide” for a new student in his or her class.

Many schools have friendship clubs that can help a child learn the ways to be a good friend. Often kids who attend friendship clubs end up becoming friends as they practice new social skills. Alternately, new skills may be practiced on longtime classmates. Parents can facilitate by setting up play dates after school or on weekends for kids to try out friendship in a less competitive environment.

In some cases, a child doesn’t like school because of teasing or bullying. Even though most schools have zero tolerancepolicies about such behavior, unless the teasing is directly observed, it may not be obvious to teachers or staff. Finding out from a child if there are one or more kids making life difficult at school can help put an end to bullying. It’s important to stay proactive on this, and continue to report any instances of a return of bullying or teasing behavior.

Children, who are having a hard time keeping up with the academics, may also claim to hate school. It has to be very difficult for a child to realize that everyone else seems to be able to understand things that elude the child. Answering questions wrong or getting poor grades are good indications that the child is challenged, perhaps too much, by the curricula.
Overall poor performance in school and on standardized tests suggests kids may have learning challenges or learning differences. If a child’s performance has declined, one should request testing for the child to rule out learning disabilities. When learning disabilities are identified, assistance from the school can result in a more positive attitude.
Kids with attentional disorders often find the very act of sitting still in school challenging and difficult. Further, a teacher may inadvertently worsen dislike of school by calling attention to the problem repeatedly, or by punishing the child for failure to focus. Often such punishment means inaccessibility to things like recess, the one chance the child has to burn off the energy that keeps him or her from being still.
Being aware of attentional issues is important to the parent because he or she can help the teacher arrive at a system of rewards, rather than punishment, for behavior. When a child is diagnosed with any type of learning disorder, schools can make specific plans, called Individualized Education Programs (IEP) for dealing with ongoing issues.
Sadly, learning disabilities and poor attention span may result in social ostracism. Thus a child with problems academically may also have fewer friends. Unfortunately, too, kids often judge other children on not only how they behave now, but also how they behaved in the past. So allowing one’s child to have a first chance with new schoolmates is ideal, since these schoolmates don’t have years of accumulated memories about the child.
Talking with your child, and working closely with the school can help reduce a child’s dislike of school. They may not always enjoy school, but as problems are dealt with, school may seem a less threatening place. Remember also that a child is not likely to respect a school or his or her teachers unless you pay them due respect as well.

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