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Ask the Experts

Help! My Child Dislikes School

By Dr. Susan Goldman, Family Psychologist

Question:

We have a kindergartner who does not want to go to school. She did not want to go from day one, and it is not getting any better. She does not like to sit still for very long, and she doesn't like to color or read. What can we do to help motivate her?

Answer:

By the time they have started kindergarten; many children are "old hands" at separating from their caretakers and spending several hours in school, especially if they attended preschool. But your daughter may still be struggling with spending time away from home. Perhaps she did not attend preschool or attended preschool for fewer hours than kindergarten requires.

If she successfully navigated the separation in preschool, think about what is different in this situation. Your daughter may be distressed by a longer day, more students in the class, or the loss of a favorite teacher or group of friends. It may be helpful to discuss these thoughts with her teacher and come up with a strategy to help make the transition to kindergarten easier. This may include a brief period of shorter school days as well as rewards of a favorite activity for school attendance and participation.

Your daughter may also be reacting to the transition from preschool to kindergarten as the demands on attention and visual motor skills increase. It may be helpful to speak with the teacher or spend some time observing your daughter in class (if this is not too disruptive) to get an idea if she is struggling with these demands. During the past few years, school systems have stepped up the pressure on the kindergarten year in terms of reading readiness and other skills. You may be able to practice these new skills at home to help her feel more comfortable in class.


Susan Goldman is a New York City and Westchester, NY-based child and family psychologist in private practice. She is also on staff at Social Bridges, a social skills program for children and adolescents located in Florida and New York.

 

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

05/2/2012:
"My 4.5 year old is in Jk, she loved it at first and then just before Christmas she started crying eveyday before school, I found out that a classmate had been calling her names. I resolved this issue with the teacher, or so I thought, because the crying only got worse, we now olnly have 8 weeks left and I don't know if I can do it anymore, she gets so worked up the night before that getting her to bed without tears is impossiable then as soon as she wakes up it starts again. I have spoken to the teacher and she tells me everything is fine just a few tears, I can't help but think there is more to it then just missing her Mommy. My husband says to leave it, other think I need to speak with the teacher and principal, I just want to send her to a new school. HELP "
03/5/2012:
"I have a son age 5 who is in kindergarten 2.All the years of schooling,he have no issue of going to school except this year,since January til march,he have not attended school for nearly a month.every morning,he will cry and refuse to wear his school uniform and gave lots of excuses as he is having back pain and he hates spelling test.I'm so stressed up til the certain extend that I have to cane him.how do I overcome this?it's been so emotionally and mentally challenging to me as a mother.He also said that he prefer to stay at home than going to school.How do I make him love school??help.... "
01/9/2012:
"I have a 5 yr old in kindergarten with the same issues as everyone else on here he loved pre-k & was ready for kindergarten but on the 3rd day he changed didnt want 2 eat breakfast or go 2 school at all he started vominting every day right before he walked in school! He is a very happy child & it hurts me 2 see him so unhappy at school : ( I talked 2 the teacher but nothing has changed he is still very unhappy about school what should we do ????? PLEASE HELP !!! "
01/6/2012:
"My 5 year old is getting ready to start kindergarten this fall and every time we talk about it, he cries and gets angry saying that he is NOT going. We tried preschool last year and had to pull him out after only 3 months. He cried everyday, he got in trouble daily and I even had to sit down with his teachers about his temper 2 times. Unfortunately, I am having a lot of problems with him at home too. He is reading at a 2nd grade level and can do math with ease - his vocabulary is advanced and his social skills are awful. I can't take him anywhere and playing with other children his age is an awful experience - we've lost a lot of friends. I need help! "
11/9/2011:
"I have a grandson, Alex, who is defiantly won't do his work. We've been through alot in the last couple of years and I feel the changes have created a lack of interest for Alex. He is in Grade 4 and will not do his assignments, he has not shown his daily planner to me and I just spoke with the teacher a few minutes ago. I will be meeting with him tomorrow. Alex has been staring into space, does not listen to the teacher, even when he keeps him in from recess and lunch to catch up on his work. I feel helpless, but I'll talk with Alex and see if I can get him to concentrate. We have family problem with his parents (not being around for him) and he has a 12 yr old sister (who's getting at the age of not wanting little brother around her and her friends) but she's smart and so is Alex and the teacher does recognize that he is very intelligent and we can't come up with the answer to get him to participate in his academics. Help please. "
09/14/2011:
"i would love some help too...my son is 4 yrs old and he started pre k august 22 since then my child has been cryin ever since in the morning and our way to school too...i get sad because i have to leave him there, but i have to is his education..what can i do to solve this problem "
09/12/2011:
"My son hates going to school. He will cry every morning he cries to a point were he starts vomiting. He just to attend pre-k and he loved it. This year he was excited for the first day of school, but the second day of school his hole attitude changed and is just getting really bad. How can I help him? "
01/24/2011:
"My 6yr old son says he hates school. His teacher has been sending notes home saying he wont listen. Cant stay still in line. Trying to hit other children. Then when he is home he is so disrespecful. Doesnt listen. Always has a smart mouth and doesnt do what he is asked. Have taken things from him but he doesnt care. I ask him why he doesnt listen in school, and why he doesn't like it he says its boring and he says he cant stay still. he has went down on his report card since last semester. Im so worried he is going to fail Kindergarden. Please help me with some advice."
09/21/2010:
"My 5 year old grandaughter cries at school,says she misses her mom,she won't eat breakfast or lunch or drink anything or she will throw up,How can we help her through this"
01/11/2010:
"I enrolled my 2 year old son in the Montessorri toddler program. At first he seemed to really enjoy it. He attends 3 half days out of the week. However a few months later he starts saying he does not like school; cries the night before and in the morning. Now my son really does not have separation anxiety. And he loves activities and playing. I can't understand what is going on. Some days he cries but when he gets to school he gets all happy and other days he will cry and refuse to participate. I want my child to know I will listen to him and trust his words and judgement. But I can't tell what the heck is going on. Please help! By the way the school costs me $6,000 a year, so if he really is not comfortable I really don't mind taking him out. Thanks"
09/18/2009:
"my child is 5 years old and cries all day in kindergarten and his teacher is fed up what am i suppose to do"
09/14/2009:
"Thank you for this post,I am dealing with a my son who will be 5 in November who cries when i leave him at his pre-k classroom. I don't know what to do to make things better for him and I. He as voiced he doesn't like the full days of school compared to the half days in pre-school.I had social anxiety as a child and I guess this is my fear for him."
09/11/2009:
"hi my 5 years old son , is crieying every morning to go to kindergarden , he was with me since he was born , he is scaried and dont want to go without me , what can i do ??/"
09/4/2009:
"It is much easier for a kindergartener to seperate from their parent in famliar surroundings. Put your child on the bus in the morning and be there to get your child off of the bus in the afternoon. Be excited about school for your child. When a child senses the parent is stressed about them, they will be stressed also."
09/4/2009:
"Often, if there is another younger sibling at home, the child may be acting that way because they are worried they will miss out on what will be going on while they are gone to school. Often times, children act at home like they don't want to go, but once they are there, they have a great time. Give the child a while to adjust to going to school. If you know the teacher ahead of time, ask if you can bring the child to the school a few times before the school year starts just to familiarize the child with the new school, room, and teacher while the parent is with the child. Often, it is the anxiety of not knowing that upsets the child."
05/22/2009:
"My daughter who is going to be 4yrs old this August, cries every morning when I send her to school. She keeps telling me that she doesn't like to go school. She doesn't like her friends and the teachers there. At home or at the mall, she is quite a sociable little girl, everybody likes her. I would have thought she will have a good time at school as well since she's quite sociable. Her behavior is completely different when she's at school. She will be shy, quiet and will cry if she's not comfortable. But when she's at home or at the mall, she's quite vocal on what she wants. I an not sure how to handle this, it's such a torture sending her to school every morning."
04/15/2009:
"My son had been with me at home since he was born. He started Kinder in August of 2008 at the age of 5yrs old. He cried for the first week, but then he got used to it, until about 3 weeks ago. He has been crying on and off in class and it is a battle every morning to get him to school. He cries and cries and say's that he does not like school and misses his dad and me. I drop him off every morning and I have to leave him whaling and begging me not to leave him. He is now 6 yrs old and he is still doing good as far as his school work, but I just do not know how to deal with his constant crying and begging not to go to school. When he is at home, he act's normal and play's with his 4yr old brother, who attend's Pre-Kinder, and his 2yr old sister, who stay's home with me, and is happy to see me and my husband every day. I have asked him if someone has been bulling him or if someone has done something to him, or hurt him at school and he insist's that his answer is no. I have al! ready explained to him that not going to school is not an option, because he needs to have a good education and that it is mandatory by law. I have tried rewarding him and also grounding him, but nothing is working. My husband does not believe in home schooling and I just do not know how to help my son. Can you please give some insight on my situation? Thank you. Maggie Serrato"
03/5/2009:
"My daughter is 6 years old and in kindergarten this year and gets so down on herself when she cant get things right, like reading words or counting like she says the other kids can. I think kindergarteners these day are being made to learn things way to early and in a short amount of time. Teachers are cramming them with work trying to fit it all in but when i was in kinder, we learned ABC's and numbers and days of the week and played in centers..now..omg.They are teaching algebra concepts to my 6 year old. They are really pressuring these kids. And i think it is because they are expected to already know alot that they learned in pre school except not all of them went to pre school. Now they have to read a book by themselves before they can leave kinder. I have a box filled to the rim of homework she has did this year already. possibly 550 pages of it. They give her like 22 words to learn a week and thats immposible for these children to take in. On top of everything else. I! m thinking of homeschooling mine next year before her esteem and liking for learning is ruined."
04/22/2008:
"My daughter says she hates school and we have a battle everyday just to get her to go to school. She was in preschool for two years but kindergarden started she has been difficult and even 'fakes' illness sometimes. She doesn't get into trouble and seems to be doing well when she's there. She doesn't seem to like her teacher/paraprofessional. The class has an approximate 60-75 minute rest period. If she is like this in K won't it be worse as she goes on to first, etc.? Help!"
03/24/2008:
"reply to: 02/17/2006 I would suggest to question the school and the teacher first before questioning the child's ability and focus in the classroom. I always remind myself a statement from the movie 'Sound of Music' when Maria asks 'what's wrong with the children, Sir' after learning that they changed several governesses in a short period of time. The father's answer is: 'THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THE CHILDREN, ONLY THE GOVERNESSES!'.I strongly believe that this is the case in most of the classrooms today. Teachers do not want to wor hard perhaps because they do not have the right training, are lazy or simply do not know how to."
03/24/2008:
"My daughter use to enjoy school but now she is constantly complaining, she fill bombarded with homework Spring break alone she was sent home with 22 pages. the whole class usually misses recess about twice a month and the teacher has also punished them by having them miss computer lab. they do no crafts only some coloring which bores hers. i understand my daughters fustrations i would like to find a way to encourage my kindergartener to go to school despite all her hardship."
03/20/2008:
"i keep on reading the suggested solutions for children not wanting to go to school and all of them sort of put the 'blame' on the child. Perhaps there is a teacher problem, perhaps the teacher is not just and shows a great deal of favoritism, perhaps she scolds and judges the child which the child naturally does not want to tolerate?? why doesn't anyone cover this aspect of school dislike and how to resolve that problem????"
09/27/2007:
"My son just started Kinder this fall and is a bit reluctant to go every day. I have found that using a positive reinforcement chart. Like a sticker at the end of each good day has helped a lot. When the chart is filled at the end of each week, he gets a prize."
08/30/2006:
"I think that maybe this mother should consider holding her child out of kindergarten for another year. One more year could make all the difference. The problem could possibly be that she is simply not ready for kindergarten yet. I say keep her home one more year. During this time she should definitely attend preschool at least part time. The preschool could help her to learn to adjust to a classroom environment. I started my son in kindergarten a year late for the same reason. He did not want to go and was going to be one of the youngest kids in his class. He is now 17 and starting his Junior year. He is doing great in school."
08/15/2006:
"I had the same problem with my daughter. She will cry every morning and we always had to force her to get into the car. One day, I decided to take her to her doctor and he suggested therapy for her. She is still attending therapy one a month until the new school year(2006-2007)starts. Therapy has helped her very much and now she is excited to return to school."
02/17/2006:
"I have these similar problems with my 5 year old son, who is also in kindergarten. He doesn't always want to go to school. He has been getting in trouble lately with his teacher because he will not pay attention in class. The teacher had to move him from his assigned table in class and put him to sit by himself so he can focus during class and not bother the other kids at his table. He's also been trying to bite other kids. I don't know if he's doing this as his defense against the other kids that are bothering him or teasing him for whatever reasons. He is the youngest child in his class. His birthday is on Sept. 1 which is the last day for the age cutoff for all schools. He entered kindergarten at the age of 4 because school started in August before his 5th birthday. His teacher said that maybe because he's younger than the other kids in his class, he still acts like a baby and probably has trouble relating or fitting in with the older kids. I see this as a problem he's al! ways going to have to face as he goes throughout his school years. He has been warned that he will be sent to the principal's office if he doesn't stop misbehaving in class. Also he is not up to speed with certain learning skills that the rest of the class knows, for example, he does not know the sounds for all of the letters of the alphabet, and cannot remember to count up to or past 30, we try helping him at home as much as possible and he's shown an improvement with us when we use the flashcards and when we talk out loud by making the sounds of the letters and identifying the letters to words of food, objects, and other things that he sees and says everyday. I do not want to know that he may have to repeat kindergarten again. He can learn, he just needs more one-on-one basis interaction. He does not always do well in the classroom as a whole with the other kids when it comes to learning and focusing on what the teacher is saying. I try to give him as much of my time as p! ossible at home to help him but it is hard, especially when I ! have to work full-time everyday. Do you suggest that I get him tutoring as soon as possible? This may help him in time to improve and be re-tested by his teacher to see if he can move on to first grade. Please advise as soon as possible. Thanks."
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