How many children have shouted this statement in frustration? Even kids who don’t really hate school have said the words once or twice over an academic struggle or conflict with classmates they didn’t want to face. Yet, there are those who genuinely do hate school and their parents are often left struggling as well, wondering how to help them.

Cooper Vella has always hated school. He’s sixteen now, has his driver’s permit and is a really bright teen. His mom, Bonnie Vella of Courtice, ON, finally resorted to withholding his allowance if he missed a class. It motivated him to at least go to school, but she worries that in his final years of high school, his grades won’t be high enough for him to attend college or university.

Why Some Kids Don’t Like School

It’s a valid concern some parents may not consider when their five-year-old exclaims “I HATE school! Why do I have to go? I don’t want to!”, as many youngsters do when they’re first learning the ropes and routines of how school works. Unfortunately, some kids never lose those negative feelings. Parents can ensure their child isn’t being bullied, have their vision and hearing tested, have assessments for learning disabilities or cognitive disorders conducted, but can still end up with no solid explanation for why they encounter resistance every school morning.

Finding the problem is often where you find the solution, but sometimes kids just aren’t emotionally mature or self-aware enough to fully understand themselves why they hate school so much, so asking them doesn’t generate many answers. Is our education system to blame? From starting reading and writing before kids are physically and cognitively ready, to having traditional curriculum-centred teaching without creatively stimulating curiosity and other vital learning traits enough, kids often have a uncontrollable subconscious “fight-flight-or-freeze” brain response to being asked to do tasks they just are ready to do.

Ways To Help Your Child Enjoy Learning

To help mitigate this type of reaction, parents need to do some detective work with the teacher and see where an academic challenge may lie. Building connections between what is being taught in school and a relatable experience or enjoyable activity sometimes stimulates understanding and further interest. For example, if a child is bored learning about European explorers to North America, parents can relate those lessons to a camping trip the family has made and what they had to deal with while “roughing it” in the wilderness. Parents can also turn challenging subjects or tasks into games or activities their kid enjoys, like making a rap song from multiplication tables. Yes, some creativity is needed, but the internet is full of ways to help kids learn in interesting ways if a parent doubts their own imagination. Even allowing kids to use educational programs or Google (with parental controls on) for pre-set time periods can generate an interest in learning far better than having a daily fight to get your kid on the bus. Allowing kids to explore topics of interest to them may produce a passion for learning that overrides their hatred for school.

Parents can also focus on coping skills. After all, life does throw us plenty of situations we don’t “like” but have to endure, right? Psychotherapist Kelly Bos agrees and shares, “When I work with people who feel stuck in a situation, we focus less on what they can’t do, and more on what they can. For kids who hate school, spending a whole day in class might seem impossible, but focusing on staying in the moment can help. If a child can segment their day and focus on getting through one smaller task at a time, or one lesser chunk of time – like making it to first recess without worrying about the rest of the day – it makes what they perceive to be a large, overwhelming duty more manageable and hopefully less stressful.”

Despite all of these suggestions, kids may still hate school, and that’s also ok as long as it’s not causing more stress than everyone can handle. Let a child who hates school have a meltdown occasionally. We all have a big cry or venting session sometimes, even as adults, and kids who have so much frustration inside need to let it out also. Tantrums won’t always be specifically about school and may even be directed at parents, but recognizing this and giving kids the freedom to use this coping mechanism without forcing them to stop or disciplining them, is actually helpful. Verbalizing their emotions like “I’m sure it’s hard to go to school when you dislike it so much” and offering a hug or hand to hold if the child wants it can help kids move on more quickly than trying to shut down their emotional expression.

Most importantly, keep communicating. In calm times, open up discussion by asking “If you could change anything you wanted about school, what would it look like for you?” and truly consider the feasibility of the answers, which may just provide a solution previously unconsidered.

Jackie Gillard is a freelance writer who lives on the suburban fringe of Toronto. Between writing the thousands of stories she has in her mind, she is busy as the second wife to her second husband (no, she’s not a sister-wife) and mom to a nine-going-on-nineteen-year-old daughter and a teen stepson. Coffee fuels her days and she used to enjoy wine occasionally in the evenings, but now generally falls asleep after saying goodnight to her daughter. You’ll find links to Jackie’s published work on her neglected blog MyPapayaJambalaya or you can follow her on Twitter or Instagram to see what shenanigans she’s up to.