My kid hates school and the best thing I ever did was stop trying to change his mind. I stopped trying to convince him that school was great or had value… and I started really listening. What was it about school that he hated so much? What was happening in his world that made him feel that school was a waste of his time? I loved school and I really wanted my own kid to love school. Here are some of the strategies I used to help my kid navigate school and strengthen my relationship with him.
Acknowledge Their Feelings
It’s tempting to say “No you don’t” when your child says that they hate school or that there’s no value in it. As adults, we have a more sophisticated understanding of the word ‘hate’ and we’re also able to see the value in education for the long game. However, at that moment, our perspective actually feels dismissive. Not having your feelings validated can cause a person to feel invisible and unimportant. Emotions provide us with crucial information about ourselves and act as a guidance and protection system and we don’t want to inadvertently suppress our child’s emotional intelligence. Self-worth and self-esteem are positively impacted when our loved ones see us and acknowledge our feelings.
By understanding how our child is really experiencing school, we have more information on how to support them or advocate for them at school. Sometimes, their hatred of a subject or a teacher lets us know that something is wrong. We wouldn’t want to ignore the clues they gave us because they expressed them in a way we didn’t understand.
Reduce The Pressure of School
Many times we hold the institution of education as the only gateway to future success. However, doing well in school does not guarantee success, just like not doing well in school is not a guarantee of failure. If your child really hates school and sees no value in it, you will not convince them that it is a good use of their time, especially if the payout is in ten or more years. However, you can focus on what it takes to pass at each level. You can use entrepreneur-type language like turning in a minimal viable product rather than striving for perfection. Essentially, help them learn how to hack school.
You can also help them understand that other kids do like school or do find it important. They can learn how to be a respectful classmate so others can succeed as well as how to be an effective project partner during group work. This is a valuable life skill as collaboration is critically important in today’s world.
Invest Heavily In Their Interests
When our kiddo expressed interest in something outside of school, we offered to invest in it.
- Curious about how to make videos to put on Youtube: sure, let’s find a way to learn how to do that.
- Coding: what language do you want to start with?
- Sports: which one is available this season?
- Art: What medium do you want to work in? Paints? Wood? Metal?
There’s so much to learn out there. He didn’t hate learning, he just hated the box he was being forced to learn inside at school. The investment can be money, but it can also be your time. So buy extra courses and programs. Enroll them in camps. Help them find resources online and at the library. You never know what they may find that really lights them up and then school is a means to an end. For example, the subscription to learn how to hack computer programs that we bought years ago has morphed into conversations about going to college for cybersecurity.
Why Is This Hard for Parents?
For so many of us, we see the traditional path of going to school and doing well as being what led us to a successful career as adults. So, veering from this path can feel risky, like we’re enabling failure or jeopardizing their success. Yet, when we really look around, there are so many ways to be successful! And, success for our kids is being defined in very different ways.
It’s also hard for many of us because our kids spend so much time at school every day and for so many years and to hear them gripe and complain doesn’t feel great! This is why it is so important to take the fight out of the situation. School is definitely not worth ruining your relationship over. Your positive loving influence has a much greater impact on their happiness and success than any academic achievement.
Let us know in the comments below how school is going.