HELP! My Kindergartener "Hates School"

Updated on September 12, 2011
G.M. asks from Crestline, CA
22 answers

I've been trying so hard to be positive and light hearted when I respond to my kindergartener who comes home from school and tells me he HATES school...and every morning telling me he doesn't want to go.
He doesn't like being told what to do and when to do it, he says and the worst part of all of this is, I hated school for 11 years until I took the G.E.D. in 11th grade and finally escaped. (I can't remember hating K, but 1st on up) I have trouble telling him what the great part is that he should be looking for, because it always illuded me! He's a perfectionist and gets irritated when he tries to complete his work but his hand can't produce what he thinks it should.
We both, I suppose, have issues with being patient and going though the motions of "practice makes perfect". And it has been really uncomfortably warm lately, which is not exactly a mood elevator. I'm hoping that the upcoming cooler weather will eliminate some of the stress, but...
Any suggestions?
Although he is a very wise little boy, I do not believe that advancement is the answer. He struggles to finish his assignments and becomes angry when asked to practice things he is unfamiliar with or not good at.

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answers from Charlotte on

You've gotten a lot of comments that I hope will help you. I want to talk about the upcoming years with you, G..

LIE THROUGH YOUR TEETH to your child about how you felt about school. He doesn't have a prayer if you tell him that you hated school too.

If you are not working outside of the home, start going to the school every single week and volunteer. Help the teacher, get to know the guidance counselor, befriend the principal. Put yourself out front and center. BE the mother who the staff really like. It will help you get your child the teachers in the coming years who will be the right "fit" for your son's temperment.

There are a lot of teachers whose personalities will make your son hate school even more, and dig in his heels so that you will all be miserable. Having a great relationship with the school will help you keep from getting these kinds of teachers.

The school psychologist might be a great help to you as well. She can work with the teacher to help your son cope. And your son DOES need to learn coping skills to deal with his internal anger with a perfectionist personality.

Good luck!

10 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I think what could be happening is your son's feelings are bringing up your own past feelings about school. Hating school is not inherited so I would try not to focus on that. However, if your son is strong willed, and used to getting things his way, and impatient, that can be inherited, lol. Sounds like my son and I. The best advice I can give you is to not feed into it, remain positive like you are, and set him straight firmly by telling him he needs to mind his teacher, he needs to listen when he is told what to do, he needs to follow the rules, and not to justify his feelings or allow him to believe that in any way the teacher is wrong. Sorry mom but behaving, listening, and following the rules, are things we have to instill in our children if we want them to have a positive experience in school. Teachers will not tolerate it, and they shouldn't. Being a perfectionist is another story, I think with my son, being a perfectionist came from praising too much, I know that sounds weird but too much praise can set our children up to thinking they can't fail, they have to do everything right. I always thought I was being a good mom by constantly praising and I realized later that I wasn't. Try to show him by pointing out your own mistakes that it is okay to not be perfect and even mommy makes mistakes. Good luck!!

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

I think people generally like what they are good at. Work with him at home so he becomes a good reader (check out the book "Teach your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons"). Play racing math games to get him to know his math facts. Foster friendships by inviting kids over to your house. He may not love school but perhaps he will want to go to see his friends. Volunteer at his school if you are able. My kids love seeing me at their school.
I also teach my children the importance of a good attitude. I also roled played what a good attitude looks like and what a bad attitude looks like. This always cracked them up. I also believe happiness is a choice and I try to teach them this too. Does your son really think staying home all day would be fun? If he wasn't in school he would have responsibilities like cleaning, folding laundry and picking weeds in the garden:) Make sure he knows we all do things we don't want to do but your best off to make the most of it. Good luck!

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Two things: make a personal and positive contact with the teacher. Your son will see this and realize that you are comfortable. As well as seeing that you have a "friend" in his teacher. Also, if you have the time. . . the younger grades love parent volunteers. Second item, offer a positive for your son in relation to school. Pick him up and go to the park or get a treat. Something he enjoys. This way he knows that if he attends school, then he also gets your time. He may be missing that time with you. It seems like you two have a great bond. What an awesome blessing.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Make a genuine attempt to make this work. Keep up your positive and light hearted attitude. This may just be first-week jitters. He may love school in a month.

Also start looking into alternatives like homeschooling. Public schools don't work for everyone. Start making inquiries of the local homeschool groups. Even if you're working full time, you might be able to set up some swaps that could be practical.

Hating school for a few weeks while you adjust to the new routine is fine. But don't leave your child to hate school for 11 years. There are so many good alternatives.

Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dover on

Your son sounds exactly like mine was last year in kindergarten. He would do just about anything to stay home or get out of class. Once he put a plastic craft eye in his ear and we spent the day in the emergency room. He got himself kicked off the school bus by the middle of the school year. I was called weekly by the principal or one of the schools counselors plus the emails from the teacher at least twice a week. He did struggle with his work and he would take so much time to do the simplest things. This year he is in first grade. My husband and I had a lot of anxiety over school starting and both of us didn't think he could get through the first week without getting into some kind of trouble. My son recently told me that this year was going to be different that he really liked school and that there were a lot of bullies that bothered him last year that are no longer there. Last year he never once said that anyone was bothering him. He's only been in school a few weeks and so far things have been really great. Kindergarten was new for him last year and he didn't know how to handle what was expected of him. This year he already knows that there is an expectation.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Barbara on

Please, please listen to Dawn!! She is so right!!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Colorado Springs on

Boys develop their fine motor skills later than girls. He may need to wait a year to get going in formal school. If you are able, I would seriously consider homeschooling him. It is much more enjoyable, less stressfull all around, and you can focus on things he enjoys, learn in a different way than what the school can offer. In other words, you can teach him in a way that fits his style of learning rather than a one-size-fits-all method. You can enjoy reading together with hot cocoa (in the winter) and cookies, you can teach concepts of distance by marking out an area for him to run (feet, vs yards, vs mile, for example). The sky is the limit, and it is very exciting to see what you can do with your children learning this way. Yes, there will be parts of the schooling that will need to be done even if nobody really wants to do it. That is a fact of life. I assume that one day when he is married, he will have to do things in a job that he may not enjoy, at least part of his job anyway. It's character building. Children do not actually do best in an institutional setting. They do best in a loving environment where they are encouaraged and heard. At least maybe consider it.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Indianapolis on

maybe he is bored and not being challenged enough. maybe he needs to be tested for advanced classes or to be moved up a grade, if he has the 1st grade "maturity". good luck

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

I'm with Sandy and Momofmany, he really might need another year. When did he turn 5? Did he go to preschool or PreK? If he's having trouble being "told what to do" it might really be good for him to have another year in a less intense environment.

Definitely talk to his teacher. Call Monday morning (or send an email right now) to make an appointment. See if the school has any other options. Ours just happens to have a transitional kindergarten for those who are old enough but not quite ready for kindergarten. We chose to place my son in that class, as he just turned 5 in July. He is loving it and will hopefully have a great kindergarten experience next fall.

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

My first thought is to give him another year to grow and mature, to make his kindergarten experience a more positive one, when his hand is more ready to produce what his mind is capable of! If he is one of the oldest and biggest in the class this may not be the right answer for him but if he is five and a half or younger -Why Not? I would cry if my child came home saying he hated school every day! Kindergarten today is very academic and set up for kids who can sit still and concentrate for at least 20 minutes in the fall and longer in the spring. As for being a perfectionist this is going to make school hard... Try reading "How Not to Talk to Kids" let us know what works!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

My son hated preschool andnhe was only there 2 days a week, now he started at a charter and loves it... I would try another school if u can..I also hates school and was worried but so far he is loving it..I got him psyched up for it talking about how he's a big kid now... And told him that it's the law that kids go to school.. His teacher is great so that helps... Maybe your son needs a different approach


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Colorado Springs on

Talk to your boy's teacher! Do it now. Don't wait for the weather to change.

Meanwhile, tell your son that he doesn't have to do things perfectly, or even do them "his own way." It's good to try others' ways, too. That doesn't mean he's been wrong.

Let him think about making a little private game of doing the best he can with the time he has. (It will stand him in good stead later on when he has timed tests about math facts.)

If he has "practice makes perfect" work to do, make the practices short and sweet. Let him concentrate on one little thing - for instance, if he's learning to write numbers, maybe he can work on how round he can make his circles for his 3s and 8s. Let him see if he can do a little better this time than last time.

As far as his being told what to do and when to do it, welcome to reality! Let him know you have to do what other people tell you to do! Everybody has to learn to be subject to other people - teachers, parents, doctors, police officers, etc. - before they can become leaders and/or do their own things, even as grownups. That's the way it is. His job is to see what can be good (and fun) about it.

Ask him every day what was good about school and what was good about something his teacher told him to do. Make it a solid routine; he has to look for the good things rather than your telling him. You can balance his more structured day with some "free-form" time at home.

To yourself, think about what you would have liked about school. What would your ideal school have been like? This isn't something to share with your son, who needs to find something good in what his teacher has planned instead. It's just for you to consider.

Hope this helps a bit.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dayton on

He sounds sooo much like my DD!
And I HATED school, too. ;)
We have chosen to I don't have real tips I can offer.
But I thank you for giving me a glimpse of what it would look like had we put her in 'away' school.
I would work w/ him at home as much as possible. I could easily see my very bright child getting left behind in a classroom setting.
She shuts down when she can't figure it out.
I have to try and keep it fun. If I can make her laugh she isn't so quick to quit. For example: we have been trying to write our letters and numbers the proper way-so I make funny noises when she needs to change directions-like a race car hitting the brakes.
We are also struggling w/ phonics. Just last night I was thinking I needed to check the book J.C. mentioned out at the library.
It supposed to be a really good one!



answers from Los Angeles on

I think the overall concern here is the long-term prospects for someone who doesn't succeed scholastically, in whatever setting. As a mother, that is my worst nightmare, which is why it is so incredibly important. Your little guy is still young, but there are school rankings at the website:, and you don't want to start seeing the problems that start coming if they can't figure school out. Addiction problems, poorly motivated friends, low expectations from life...that's why the problem is so important. Most of the parents I know are terribly concerned that their children are in the best possible environment to learn, even at the age of 4 or 5, which is not to say that there isn't a lot of time to change a bad trajectory. My son loves superheroes, so I tell him that superheroes like Batman and Spiderman can't save the city if they haven't studied how to use the scientific equipment, or read, etc... Sounds stupid, but we're trying to reach a 5 year old. I have spoken with all of my son's preschool teachers several times, when picking him up and dropping him off, and I get insights from them, which are valuable. As far as most of the parents I know are concerned, that's common and essential, even at this age. It's normal to be bored sometimes, or frustrated, especially with subjects you aren't good at, so even the most successful students have that issue, but you are very right to address this now, before it becomes much, much harder.


answers from Los Angeles on

You have received so many good responses. I do have one question, does your son have a friend in the class? I think that this makes a huge difference. You said that you disliked school too so the question is for you too! I knew a lot of people but as school progressed for me, I had few friends and I hated it. My older daughter did the same thing. Now our youngest hated Kindergarten and 1st and 2nd. She is now in 3rd. She always had ONE person who just irritated her so much she wanted to change classrooms or be home schooled. I notice that you never mentioned that as an option for you. BUT, I also spoke with my daughters last year and she said that my daughter would freeze and just not listen or move when told what to do. BIG LIGHT BULB MOMENT! Moms here on this site suggested that my daughter might have a social issue and they were right. My daughter sees the school counselor and actually likes school now. She has a few friends and since she is so smart she will be getting tested for the advanced learning program. I know that you feel for your child but all children need some sort of social skills and this might be an option or idea for you in your situation. I found that having someone else work with my child made the difference. WE still have bad days, don't get me wrong but after years of struggling with getting her to just go, there is light at the end of the tunnel!! Best wishes to you.


answers from St. Louis on

Talk to the teacher, ask questions about her routine, activities, expectations, curriculum, etc Also will help you to attend your little one's class and see what happens. Observe without interfere and may be you will find some answers. Play with your child at home like being in a class setting, make him participate and play to be quiet and calm for just minutes, play at raising a hand to speak, carry a tray, take turns etc. things like that. You will find many things, and you will find where the problem is coming from.
Enjoy activities outdoor while the weather is good and tolerable, enroll him in activities (not too many!) or sports, ask him questions about what he likes and what he dislikes at school, in the classroom, about his classmates, etc.
There are several things that may be bothering him: extremely high expectations or standards, boredom, a naughty classmate, adjustment. the teacher herself, etc. You have plenty of choices to help your kid, he is a smart and a very normal boy. Just pay attention and talk to him in a casual and nice way.
.....Just ideas I hope they help you....Good Luck!



answers from Los Angeles on

I was the over-acheiver and LOVED school, hence my 3 degrees. I hated the social aspect of it - fake, catty girls. I say what I think and feel and no one needs to wonder if I am mad at them or not.

So our son was dying to go to school at 3 years old. We finally agreed to 3 days and only 3 hours each day. Then, he went to kindergarten. He HATED it. He asked me everyday if that was the last day. I made a deal with him to get him to Christmas of K and then we can decide. He agreed. I figured by then he'd be in the swing of things. It worked. He wanted to stay. Once K graduation came, he was excited and happy - he was in a dual immersion class and learned to read, write and speak Spanish...and received an A. He came home and asked me if he "could never go back to school." WHAT? He hated it. Ummmm, ok.

So, after LONG discussions and lots of fear (What if WE fail him?), we decided to homeschool him. My husband was terrified and I was confident that I could do more for my one child than a teacher can do trying to teach 30 kids who ALL learn differently. Guess what? I was right. He LOVES home schooling. I ask him periodically if he wants to go back to school and he always replies, "No way!"

We finished 1st grade in 2 months. I figured that I must have missed something, so I went through the state and federal standards again - nope, didn't miss a thing. I was spending all of the hours we were suppose to, but when he knew something, we didn't do busy work or wait until everyone got the concept. If he got it, we moved on - not to bore him. We'd go back and test him to make certain he really did "get it" and he had. So, we started 2nd grade - that only took 7 months and that was only doing 1 hour each day of work! If I had put in the recommended 6 hours each day, he would be graduating HS right now. So, we do about an horu each day, sometimes more, depending on his mood (If he's being lazy, it takes longer.) and some days, we don't do a darn thing. (We all have our off days.).

He's now 8 and starting 5th grade. (We've slowed him down a bit, so if he ever decides to go back to school, then he won't be totally immature for the grade he's in.) He LOVES learning and we do it all of the time. When we go to the store, it's all about multiplcation (6 jars of peanut butter @ $4 each = $24. Do we have enough money?) and we discuss the clouds - Cumulus Nimbus (Is it going to rain?), etc. THE BEST PART? His 5 year old brother and 3 year old sister learn all of it too!

Our 5 year old sounds like your son - he wants to be perfect and hates not knowing something. He and our oldest (8 year old) sit in the back seat of our Expedition and discuss math, geology, English, geography, etc. It's amazingly easy and I don't have to deal with all the junk related (PTA, etc) to school.

OH WAIT, the best part is vacationing ( field trips) after school gets in. It's cheaper and no crowds. In fact, we are leaving this week to head north. We will be gone for 2.5 weeks and going to Alcatraz, Mt. Shasta, Klamath Falls, Crater Lake, hiking to all of the lighthouses along Oregon's coast, Orgeon caves, Grant's Pass, etc...all part of our studies for this year. How much more can you learn by being somehwere, than reading it in some boring book?

A lot of people don't think they can do it, but there are so many options and it SO easier than I EVER imagined. I mean, who else knows your child better than you?

I work, homeschool and have 4 kids - the youngest being 4 months old. It can be done. A friend of mine was a school bus driver and she homeschooled her kids. (Her daughter got a full scholarship to Pepperdine at 16 and graduated at 19 with a double major. Not extra smart, just without busy work, knew how to get through things efficiently.) There are co-ops, charter schools where they go all day or 2 days each week and then the parent homeschools them the other 3 days. We file a Private School Affidavit each October and just do our own curriculum.

If you have any questions, let me know!



answers from Los Angeles on

Is he in a public school? Maybe looking for a different kind of teaching environment like RIE or Waldorf might be more to his liking. Someplace where they really nurture the individual and try and tailor the teaching to each specific kid. These types of schools are based on a "child led" philosophy which may work better for his personality.

Hope this helps.



answers from Denver on

You need to drop in the class once and a while, watch from outside the door. Try to figure out what he hates about it. My son did this also, and it turned out the teacher was picking on him. I actually sounds like he may be a bit sensitive also, maybe he just wants to be home with you. Have you thought about a private school or home schooling. Maybe it would be more comfortable for him.

Good luck!



answers from Los Angeles on

Hi G.,

You've gotten lots of good answers and ideas, but here's one thought I haven't seen.

Your son has been in school all of one week (assuming your district started just after labor day). That's not a lot of time for your little guy to adjust. Did he go to preschool, or is this the first time he's been away from you, everyday, for an extended period of time?

He may not really "hate" school, he may just not yet be comfortable separating from you. I don't know what his language skills are like, or what his general behavior patterns are, so I'm only making a wild guess here and may be way off base. Perhaps he doesn't yet have the language skills to communicate how he really feels (A little lost? Missing you? Overwhelmed by new expectations and experiences?) He may be using the only word he has in his lexicon to sum up very complex emotions. And, kids are AMAZING manipulators. He may simply be using a word that he knows will hit you hard and get the result he thinks he wants, that is, no school, more time with mommy.

It is worth trying to find out what the specifics are. Talk to him, talk to his teacher, watch from outside the door, talk to other moms in the class and find our what their kids are saying about school (maybe he really does have the teacher from hell!). But don't, as at least one other mom said, project your feelings about school onto him.



answers from San Francisco on

I don't understand why he has all these "assignments" to complete in kindergarten. Giving kids a load of assignments in kindergarten is one great way to turn a child off of school.

Remember that education should be the lighting of a fire, and not the filling of a bucket. If your son's school is already trying to fill a bucket, and not giving him joy in learning and discovery, then maybe you should look for another school. I don't think all public schools are bad, by a long shot, but teaching to the test HAS created a lot of problems.

Any charter schools in your area? You want your son to be in a school that makes learning fun. I will never forget walking into my son's 4th grade class one day, and the kids were all on the floor excitedly racing cars that they had built. And there was a math lesson or something that was related to the cars. And I remember thinking -- now THIS is what school should be all about. Not a bunch of homework. Especially in Kindergarten.

And I agree with volunteering if you have the time.

p.s. Also, it's very early in the year. He may just be adjusting to having to go to school every day.

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