My 9 Year Old Hates School, No Matter What I Do I Can Not Get Thru.

Updated on March 16, 2011
H.B. asks from Cohoes, NY
11 answers

My 9 year old son is in 4th grade, he is a very shy. He is smart, but does not want to apply himself. In first and second grade towards the end of the year he would get tired and slack alittle but it was bareable, and the teachers were more than willing to help me. This year he had to change schools because of out schools systems in the area, so he went from a school that was K-3 and now at a school K-4, so I knew going to a new environment was going to be an issue for him. This year he is just not doing anything, his homework I struggle every night to get complete, and his teacher says he is disconnected from the class, he is there but not. I ask him often if there are troubles at school, and I explain to him the effects of not trying in school will have. My husband and I talk to him almost everyday, and he gets annoyed with us talking, and the answers are always "I don't know" He is happy and a normal kid when he is at home, except for when u do something he does not like he tends to get very angry. I do not want to have to put him on medication, I was hoping maybe someone out there had some suggestions.

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answers from Norfolk on

Instead of taking away things like games/computer/tv for bad behavior, let him know these things are earned by good behavior. He earns playing his favorite game by getting his homework done on time and to the best of his ability.
I'd also consider having him tested for being gifted. If he's bored he could be shutting down. The trick with gifted (at least with my son) is to tell him there is always going to be something very easy, very boring he has to get through, but once it's done he can do/learn some fun things - trips to science museums, aquariums, science summer camp, etc.
It's very much a process of finding the right carrot to dangle in front of him to motivate him.

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answers from Columbus on

Who, hold your horses! Why did you mention medication? I have plenty of information to help you, I am an educational advocate, and I have seen this issue many times, but let met get this rant out of the way first, because it is so often spoken her on this site, and it is a huge injustice to children, and I feel like it spreads the fear like wild fire. PLEASE, please do not perpetuate that aged old unfounded fear of medication being the answer to all that ills kids in school. Kids with medical issues that impact their educational pefromance need medications, but you have not mentioned getting him a proper evaluation that identified any of the medical issues that effect brain function and respond to medication, so put that way, way, way on the back burner, and for the sake of your child, consider it when it is appropriate, just as you would consider it for ANY medical condition for which medication could make them feel better. If they had a unirinary tract issue, you would not hessitate to medicate them if it meant that they would no longer pee themselves, right? Well, honestly, if, IF, you get a diagnosis that suggests medical intervention because it impacts his brain function, insert the word "pee" for every behavior or trouble that he has, and you will see just how unfair it is to say that brains are not flesh and blood, just like the rest of our bodies.

First, you do not do homework. Your son does homework. If he cannot do it, then he has an issue, and the more time you spend propping him up, the more the school will ignore his issue, because you are doing thier job for them. Stop. Hard, yes, but stop. You need to see what your son is capable of, and so does the school. Neither one of you knows, and what he is capable of is also what he is able to do independently. Independent work is impacted by many processing issues and relative weaknesses in intelectual functioning and acheievment. You need to find out which one is causing his issue.

The quickest way for you to find out is to call a Board certified Child psycihatrist, and make an appointment. As that your child be refered to the Neuropsychologist that your psyciatrist preferes for an evaluation to bring to his first appointment. Get the evaluation done. You will have many of your answers. He may have executive funcitoning issues, he may have highs and lows in his IQ, meaning that maybe he has the ablity to understand things that far exceeds his ablity to produce writen work, this is frustrating, and kids his age would rather not put forth the effort if they are going to fail (in relation to what they know they should be able to do...if you knew how to build a sky scrapper, but your hands and organizational skills only let you dig a hole, how often would you try?) It could be visual processing, it could be auditory processing, it could be any number of things. All require specific interventions, and just having the need to do better and try harder explained to him over and over again is not going to help him if what he really needs is his visual motor skills remediated by occupational therapy (which, if you will note, has zero to do with medication!)

If one of these issues was your problem, and you knew that you were smart, and you could not figure out how to access it by yourself, wouldn't you be angry? Get him an evaluation, and find out. You will be suprised that everything, everything that you have mentioned is going to be identified by what you find. Kids this age are not just "lazy." Older kids, sure, but not kids this age. I have been working as an educational advocate for 16 years, and I have never, never, never found a kid in elementary school whose issues could not be explained by the evaluation data. It is there, go look for it! In the mean time, lay off. Help him do the things that he does well, and praise him for it.

Tell the school that you are going to stop so that everyone can see where he really is. Then, write to them, and ask for an evaluation from them. You need to hold your own private evaluation, you never what to know less than any school about your child, and you need it to keep them honest.

Log on to This is a terrific site for kids whose parents need help to get their children the help they need. Start with "Understanding Tests and Measurements for parents and advocates." Read about processing disorders too. Wait for your evaluation data. Get a book by Dr. Mel Levine, "The Myth of Layzness." You will see many things in the book that will make sense to you.

Good luck, I hope you don't think I am blasting you, I just get so tired of the idea that every child with an issue will, or should, be offered medication. Parents need to know what to ask for, and when to drop bad pedicatricians who give them perscriptions "just to see if it works." That is not how it should be. Pediatricians do not do the kind of educational and psychological evaluation that is needed to fully identify kids who need medication for thes issues, Developmental Pediatricinans and Board Certified Child psychiatrists/ Nueropsychiatrist combos do. Don't settle. Find out exactly what your son needs, then get it for him, and put your effort into driving him to the therapy he needs, doing his theraputic homework (ot, speech, vision, etc) and in advocating well. You will not be sorry.

Finally, if your son gets a diagnosis and his specialist thinks that medication is worthwhile, find out a great deal more about it before you reject it. Medication is a small part of the treatment for kids who have these issues, but it can make the difference between wandering in the dark, and turning on the brightest lights, but only for those who truly need it, and if that is your son, I promise you, you will want that light burning as brightly as it can!

Good luck,

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answers from Chicago on

As a parent of a 4th grader, I feel your pain. 4th Grade is rough - for everybody!

Sometimes the hardest part of being a parent is asking for help. We had our 4th grader meet with the school counselor for one-on-one sessions. She also joined the Homework Club and got extra help in math (30 minutes tutoring during school).

She's much happier now that she knows there's help if she needs it. Like another mom said, it's time to call in the Professionals.

Good luck!

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answers from Springfield on

My first thought is, back off. It sounds like you're pushing education 24/7. Yes, ideally he needs to do his homework and he needs to do well in school, but his future is not going to be reuined by one bad year academically. Right now, you need to figure out what has gotten him into this funk, or at least what might help him get out of this funk.

My kids are young, but if memory serves, 4th & 5th grade is a time when many kids feel like they are weird or don't fit in. I think you need to find something (besides school) that he really likes. Maybe a sport, scouting, a class at the YMCA. For me, it was Girl Scouts (partly because I had a great troop leader and most of the girls went to other schools).

Try to focus on positive things about him, things he loves to do and things he's good at. You can gradually increase his interest, or at least tollerance, in academics.

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answers from Washington DC on

Oh how sad. I feel for him just reading your post. Poor baby.
I have a 10 year old in 4th. Moves are hard at this age. Especially for those who are more sensitive or have made friends in the old school and have difficulty making friends to start with.
We also moved this summer, we;re military.

Reward him at home for getting homework finished and handed in. We used to give chocolate milk--easy and cheap.
Try a martial arts class, mine takes fencing and loves it.
Do you have a church? Youth group is good.
Find something he will feel good at doing, soccer, baseball, piano lessons.
Have a friend come over, this has helped my guy out. Have him invite one boy over this weekend, if he can't then you go meet the moms and start having playdates.
Have the teacher compliment him on something, his clothes even. She needs to give him something positive. Even a Hey Johnny, Good to see you this morning, instead of Is your homework finished?? will set the day right.
The hardest moves for my kids have been the 3rd/4th grade moves and the high school moves. For some reason the middle school moves have been less traumatic. Moving with kids under 6 is easy. He's still feeling lost. I don't think you need to medicate.

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answers from Washington DC on

medicate him for what?
i don't like ironing. can i get a med to fix that?
i'd be annoyed too if someone just kept talking at me, telling me that my feelings were somehow wrong.
he doesn't need explanations about how he must start trying at school. he needs to have learning re-presented to him as something irresistably wonderful, something to be yearned for and passionately involved in, not something boring and distasteful.
you need to learn your son. learn his learning style, his approach to life, how to work WITH his brain instead of trying to re-wire him to be part of the herd. of course he needs to learn to tackle things he doesn't love, but kids don't learn that from having their noses shoved in it. they learn it from being offered opportunities, and being pleasantly surprised when they try things they thought they wouldn't like. if constantly reinforced, this teaches a child that even less pleasant tasks have hidden treasures and they don't balk completely at new or hard propositions. but this is an ongoing attitude, a parenting philosophy, not a quick fix.
i'd get this kid into a montessori program, or homeschool him pronto.

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answers from Albany on

Hi H., my oldest son went through a phase where he was just absolutely miserable all the time. I tried many different things to improve his demeanor, nothing worked, I was at a loss (a difficult thing to admit, that I couldn't fix my own kid).

Finally I discussed it with his ped, and asked for a referral to a Child Psychologist. I told my son we were going to see a lady who knew a LOT about boys and might be able to help us be happier.

It only took 2 visits. She shed an AMAZING amount of light, and helped me look at things a totally different way.

My son is now a Merit Scholar at an engineering college. And never had any further behavioral issues (at school OR home).

So, maybe it's time for you to bring in a pro? I found it a tremendous relief to have her on our side!

Good Luck!


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answers from Cleveland on

Have you asked him if he's having trouble learning or understanding what he's being taught at school??

I'm not sayin that he has a learning disability or anything like that.

Sometimes kids just do not understand. There are so many words & ideas that are taught in school the wrong way. If a kid is being taught about tractors, but is never really shown a picture or told what it really is, how is that child going to learn?
If you do not understand the words, phrases, images, number etc you will not retain the information you are trying to learn. That goes for children, teens, adults and so on.

Try and see if he feels confused or nervous about certain subject over others. Then see if he understands what is going on.

And I do NOT mean he has to understand and know EVERYTHING... I just mean, if he's doing math, but doesn't know what Addition means, he is NOT going to learn or understand what the heck to do :)

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answers from Lynchburg on

I could be way off base, but my k'er is having trouble b/c he's being bullied at school. Any chance that's going on? My son is so sensitive and really internalizes everything, and it was like all of a sudden he didn't get what he wanted and he cried, whined, or got really angry, and then we found out he was being threatened at school and having stuff stolen from him, etc. The school actually didn't do much to help, so I emailed a girl in the superintendent's office, and she made the school fall in line. It's been just a few days, and the plan is for my son to go to the counselor every day, and then I should be getting weekly reports. I've already seen a change, and I think it's b/c he gets to leave class where he's just being bullied. If you haven't tried counseling, I would do that first, whether you do it through the school or through a private practice. Then if he needs medication, they can refer you to a clinical psychologist or you pediatrician may be able to, but if it's more of an emotional issue (rather than a chemical imbalance or something) you may not really be helping. If it's emotional, it's the difference between treating symptoms (which is sometimes truly the best we can do), and treating the cause. If it's chemical or biological, then of course medication would be treating the cause. So sorry you're going through this.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Homeschool him! Okay, I know that this is not always an option for families, but I think it could be something you could look into. If he is happy and fine at home, then he would probably thrive off of learning at home. He could learn at home and you could find other homeschooling families in your area for him to be friends with. Do some research and see if this is an option for your family.

Good luck!

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answers from Boston on

Hi H.,

I like the advice people have been giving you about a child psychiatrist. Your son needs an evaluation. My twins, b/g, are in 10 in 4th grade. I've seen similar issues, and got help. What you're looking at is he got sick a lot last year and is fatigued this year (check his diet--talk to a homeopathic nutritionist, he might have food intolerances), when he got sick he fell behind in certain skills (he needs help to catch up--think of a tutoring program--my kids were at Huntington for a very short time), then he feels awful about how he can't "get it" when he thinks he should and he's at a new school away from his friend (consider a psychiatrist -- can help him put things into perspective). Maybe he is being bullied. Maybe not. If you take care of the other three issues, that will be easier to resolve. And YOU can focus on being loving and supportive. The first thing I would do however is tell the teachers this isn't your son's norm and you're going to get him help and in the meantime, everyone needs to back off. He'll be fine, because you've taken the first step and realized it's not him, it's something he's going through.

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