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Does Your Child <em>Really</em> Hate School?

Have you ever heard your child say, "I hate school"? If so, you know how deeply it can penetrate your heart. Parents can respond in a variety of ways.

Denial: "You've probably just had a bad day."

Blame: "If you didn't have such a bad teacher, this wouldn't be happening."

Anger: "Just deal with it. Why, when I was your age, I walked through snow, sat on a wooden bench, and ate dinosaur bones for lunch."

Empathy: "I can see how much you don't like school. Let's try and figure out how to solve this together."

When you determine the reasons behind your child's aversion to school, you'll be in the best position to help him or her. Without playing the "blame game," examine all factors, especially those involving the student, teachers and parents.

The Student Factor

Depending upon your child's age, there can be a wide range of contributing factors, some easier to resolve than others.

Preschool Angst

  • Your child is anxious about starting something new.
  • Your child hasn't spent much time away from you and has separation issues.
  • Your child has a fear of going to the bathroom unassisted.
  • Your child has social issues with other children.

Elementary Struggles

  • Your child may begin to notice that other kids in the class are catching on more quickly and fears falling behind. Your child may become withdrawn or overly aggressive, or he or she may become the class clown to cover up shame or embarrassment.
  • Your child may be subject to bullying on the playground, in the bathroom or at lunch. These areas should be safe places for your child but sometimes can be just the opposite.

On the positive side, in these earlier years, your child is still in a self-contained classroom. The teacher should be an advocate and communicate with parents to help determine, and intervene, if she's aware of bullying, a learning issue or some other contributing factor behind your child's negative feelings. Work together with the teacher to find a solution.

Middle School/Junior High Challenges

  • Your child feels vulnerable and is less likely to enjoy school during these years because everything that is changing—physically, emotionally, mentally and socially.
  • Your child is entering the "dialectic stage" in which he or she has a high need to debate, dialogue and dispute everything.
  • Your child is trying to discover his or her identity. The more confident your child is — knowing his or her unique personality and learning style and how it affects learning — the more he or she will feel equipped and empowered to learn.

The Teacher Factor

As a parent, it's natural to want the teacher to perfectly understand and instantly grasp how your child learns. Realistically, teachers have classrooms full of students who often learn in different ways.

Some years you are blessed to get a teacher who understands your child and his or her particular learning style, and other years that's just not the case. Unless there is an obvious "due cause" for concern, be careful not to impugn the teacher.

When you do feel it's appropriate to talk to your child's teacher, set up an appointment, be prepared to express your concerns with grace and begin positively. "I'm having a concern," you might start out, "and I thought you would have some good insights into how we can solve this."

The Parent Factor

Of course, we can't overlook another factor: ourselves. So, take a deep breath!

Could you possibly be part of the problem? Are your expectations too high? Does your child learn differently than you or others in your family? It's easy to think that the way we learn is the only right way, and then we attempt to mold others to our way of learning.

Remind yourself that your child is wired by God for a unique and specific purpose. Then remind your son or daughter of that truth from God's Word (see Ephesians 2:10, for example). Above all, listen with an open mind and a heart of wisdom, and pray to see the situation through the lens of love.