WHY KIDS HATE SCHOOL—AND HOW TO CHANGE THAT
“Do I have to go to school?!” is standard comic-strip fodder, but it’s no joke to the parent trying to get two surly kids out of bed, or for the teacher facing a roomful of clock-watchers. And it doesn’t help to tell them about thousands of illiterate kids who would welcome the opportunity for an education. Get to the root of the problem instead:
“I can’t stand getting up that early.”
Often this is a legitimate gripe. Sleep deprivation on school days is a common problem, especially for adolescents who often function better with later bedtime and getting-up hours. Unless you’re willing to homeschool, though, you’re probably stuck with a schedule geared toward the convenience of working adults: so here are a few ideas for reducing the “I’m still tired” problem:
- Do set an evening bedtime and/or curfew. And do solicit the kids’ input on when that will be. If they’re resistant to a time that would allow them 8–9 hours of sleep, let them help plan an enjoyable winding-down ritual for the end of the day.
- Give them additional incentive to get up: make their favorite home-cooked breakfast and, instead of rushing off to your own job, make some family time to chat while eating.
- Make sure your whole family knows and practices the secrets of good sleep—and set an example by being someone who wakes up ready and eager to take on the day’s challenges.
"I’d rather play than sit in a classroom.”
The key word is “sit”—too many schools are so busy trying to cram information into kids’ heads, they practically tie everyone to desks for hours. If you’re a teacher, build active learning and exercise breaks into daily classroom routine. Parents can help by encouraging kids to play vigorously after school, rather than surfing the Internet or starting homework immediately.
“The teachers/other kids pick on me.”
Possible reasons include:
- The child has difficulty learning in “standard” or “expected” ways. Have him tested for natural learning differences.
- The child is failing to understand others clearly—or to communicate so others can understand her clearly. Again, this can often be remedied by diagnosing and compensating for neurological differences.
- The child has a personality clash with a teacher. Encourage the child to consider the teacher’s point of view and places of common ground. If problems continue, talk to the teacher about seeking solutions together.
- The school or classroom has a bullying problem. Check on the school’s no-bullying rules and how these are enforced. (If you’re a teacher, be sure not to tolerate bullying in your classes.) Speak to someone in charge—and take the complaint as high as it needs to go, until the problem is remedied. Never brush off teasing with “Kids will be kids”—seemingly minor problems can escalate to violence or suicide.
And never forget: ask the child herself why she dislikes school, and listen to her answer. Whether or not you can remedy the problem in the way she prefers, just feeling respected often generates confidence to deal with tough situations. And to become more optimistic about everything!