6 Tips for Getting Kids to Like School

6 Tips for Getting Kids to Like School

Does your child not like school? Try these tips to get to the root of the problem.


By: Judy Koutsky

Sure, kids are going to have their days when they say they hate school. Maybe there’s a big test or a project that they’re just not into. But if your child is repeatedly telling you that he doesn’t like school, then something is up. Here’s how to find out what’s wrong, and six tips for getting him back on track.

1. Focus on the learning, not on the grades. “Studies show that kindergartners are the most enthusiastic about learning, and that their enthusiasm drops sharply as they progress through elementary school,” says Jake La Jeunesse, an instructor at the University of Minnesota Duluth. “The research suggests that an emphasis on behaviorism (telling kids to ‘Do this and I'll give you a reward’ or ‘Don't do that or I'll give you a punishment’) contributes strongly to this decline.” Instead, the goal of education should be learning, which is something most kids like to do naturally. When stressing grades, rewards, and gold stars, kids become frustrated and lose interest in school. Instead of asking how well they did on a test, ask what they learned today. Ask them which subjects they are most interested in and try to find outside interests related to that theme (like a poetry club for someone who likes English class).

2. Talk to your child about any issues he may be having. Find out specifically what your child doesn’t like about school and address that particular issue. Does she enjoy the subjects she is learning, but doesn’t get along well with her teacher? Or does she really enjoy her teacher, but is having a hard time connecting positively to her classmates? “Parents need to ask their kids specific questions to find out the underlying drivers of their child's dissatisfaction with school, and encourage strategic changes,” says Adam King, BA, SSP, MPH, an early childhood development consultant. Once you know what’s making your child unhappy at school, you can work with her to put a plan in place to address it.

3. Talk to the teacher. Parents and teachers should be a team, says Barbara
Harvey, an educator and author of Journeys Through Parenthood: An
Educator Guides You Down the Path to Quality Child Care
. Set up a parent-teacher conference and try to get to the bottom of why your child doesn’t like school. Teachers have great insight into what goes on in the classroom, as well as what happens at lunch, recess, and free time.

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4. Investigate if your child has a learning disability. “Many children experience learning disabilities, most notably with respect to reading,” notes Jeaninne Escallier Kato, who taught in public school for 36 years. This can make your child feel isolated, or have feelings of self-doubt regarding his ability to keep up with his classmates. If you think your child might have a learning disability, have him tested, so he’s able to get the help he may need.

5. Make sure your child is not being bullied. If your child is being bullied, he may not be sharing that information. Talking to his friends or the teacher is often a good step to see what’s going on. “I would ask the other students in the class if they knew of any issues on the playground, and often other students would 'spill the beans,' so to speak,” says Kato. She advises getting the principal involved if there are any signs of bullying. Most schools take this issue seriously.

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6. See if your child could benefit from a tutor. If the problem is academic, it can be resolved by hiring the right tutor. If his grades are low in one area, or if he does not like going to school on a specific day – the day they have math, for example – your child might not like school because of a specific subject. Getting a tutor can not only help improve your child’s grades, but it can give him a positive outlook on his academic career.

How do you get your kids to like school?

Judy Koutsky is the former Editorial Director of KIWI magazine, a green parenting publication. She was also Executive Editor of Parenting.com, AOL Parent and BabyTalk.com. Follow her on Twitter @JudyKoutsky.

Image ©iStock.com/CEFutcher

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