Curing the School Blues

When a child expresses hatred of school or a teacher, we often go into overdrive to ferret out the problem. But all too often, there generally isn’t something sinister going on. Here’s how you can figure out how to react when a kid says she “hates” school.

Q: My second grader claims she hates school and her teacher. What can I do to help her love school and be positive?

A: When my four children were in the second half of first grade, each one of them wrote at least once on their homework paper, “I hate school!” The first grade teacher for three of them lived in our neighborhood, and she often walked her dogs by our house. After receiving back the papers with “I hate school” written across it for one of my kids, I apologized to the teacher for my child’s words. She laughed it off, saying, “At least once during the year, sometimes more, all of my students say they hate school.”

I share that story because it reminds us that kids say they “hate” things all the time. Sometimes because they’re feeling ornery. Sometimes because math has become harder and therefore not fun anymore. Sometimes because their best friend from first grade is no longer in their class. Sometimes because the teacher isn’t trying to be their friend, but instead is a figure of authority.

Kids often don’t like their teachers initially, and I usually take that as a good sign because most teachers worth their salt will lay down the law during the first couple of weeks of school and will jump on any infraction lightning quick. That’s because they want to cement their authority in the classroom and give the kids no doubt as to who is in charge. Most of the time, these teachers them gradually lighten up a little bit, and pupils who thought they hated their teacher, realize what a gem they have.

I share that story because it reminds us that kids say they “hate” things all the time.

Now to your question about how to get your daughter to love school and be positive. The short answer is you can’t make your daughter enjoy school. However, you can put guardrails in place that will keep her from being overly negative about school. Those rails include not allowing her to whine about school, talk bad about her teacher, or make trouble in the classroom. As we’ve told our students, “You’d better not be the reason your teacher can’t teach.” We followed that up by telling their elementary school teachers that we expected to be informed if one of our kids was hindering his or her ability to teach. Happened once or twice, but we nipped that in the bud in the younger grades to avoid a larger hassle in the upper ones.

I’d also stop asking your daughter how she feels about school and her teacher, and if she tries to complain about either of them, send her to the complaining room (i.e, a downstairs guest room or powder room where she can whine and complain to her heart’s content…out of earshot of Mom and Dad). The less oxygen you give this “hate,” the more likely your daughter will get over it.


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