Seven-year-old May is curious, intelligent, and generous; she is full of life and gets along well with her friends. Kindergarten was a breeze, first grade could not have gone better. Then, around the first week of second grade, she started to wake up with a stomachache. “I don’t like school,” she said, “and I don’t want to go anymore.”
Jake is a seventh-grader who often stays up too late playing video games and then moves so slowly in the morning he misses the bus. “I don’t like school!” he told his dad. “It’s like going to prison!”
Rafael is on the verge of dropping out of high school. “I’m bored and it feels like a huge waste of time,” he said. “Nothing they teach has anything to do with my life and besides, I need to start earning money to help my family.”
Students in every age group struggle with disliking school and it’s not just one thing. There are many reasons children in school dislike it. Check out the following 10 interventions and discern how you can intervene in helpful ways.
1. Create opportunities to connect with peers.
There is a lot we can do to equip our children for relationships. “Kid-pool” with other dads and moms, coach a team, sponsor class activities, get to know the other parents, encourage alliances to avoid isolation. When children feel isolated, school is neither nurturing nor safe.
2. Make sleep a priority.
A recent National Health study in the United Kingdom labeled lack of sleep “a hidden health crisis.” Staying up late with unsupervised screen time affects attendance, concentration, performance, and behavior. Kids who get enough sleep tend to like school more.
3. Provide reading support.
Reading impacts everything. Once a child falls behind in reading, grades and confidence suffer. Tutoring, encouragement, and practice at home are critical from the early grades.
4. Engaged children feel less restricted.
Most students feel “hemmed in” at some time or other. “Joyful learning,” Peter Gray argues in Psychology Today, “requires freedom.” Children crave freedom. They are kids and they don’t like to be restricted, hedged in, and told what to do. In the short-term, get involved in PTA as a volunteer, encourage your child’s teacher to be imaginative, and be a positive part of the solution. In the long-term, invest yourself in the ongoing conversation around what education may possibly look like going forward.
5. School doesn’t have to be boring.
Your child may need to be challenged and motivated. As parents, it is important that we understand our child’s capacity to learn and take responsibility for engaging that potential—both at school and at home.
6. Increased engagement makes school more relevant.
Teens need to feel a connection between school and the next step of college or career. As parents, we need to make sure not only that our kids remain engaged, but also that schools meet our child’s individual needs in terms of preparation for what comes next.
7. Support for Family Challenges.
When home life is unsettled, children often lose focus at school. When a student loses focus, it is hard to enjoy learning. Your child may well struggle at school because of something that is happening at home. Rather than let home challenges hurt school, focus on helping your child stay engaged.
Every child is unique. But life can be difficult when a child stands out for any reason. With the rise in childhood obesity, many young people feel rejected, out of place, or isolated by their peers. A positive school experience can help here by promoting a healthy lifestyle. School can be a place where children are taught confidence.
9. School Staff.
Teachers and other school staff often provide encouragement support, motivation, counsel, coaching, and other critically important interventions. Young people can access these support systems to their potential only when they are engaged in an active learning community.
10. Learning Focus and Tenacity.
School takes all day and lasts all week, and then there is homework. Make it clear that you understand how your kids feel. At the same time, remind them that a little investment in homework today translates into better grades, clearer comprehension, and a portfolio more likely to open doors of opportunity down the road.
- “They’re too tired” – The Guardian (Newspaper): https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/sep/30/childrens-lack-of-sleep-is-hidden-health-crisis-experts-say
- “School feels like prison” – Peter Gray, Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/freedom-learn/200909/why-don-t-students-school-well-duhhhh
What are some ways to keep kids engaged in school?