“My teenager hates school, and I don’t know what I should do!”
Maybe this describes the situation you’re in.
Does your teen say that he hates school?
Does he complain about his teachers and classmates, and about how “useless” school is?
Or maybe your teen complains that the people in school are “fake”, and that it’s hard to make friends?
If so, I’m sure you feel concerned.
You want to help your teen, but whatever you’ve tried so far hasn’t worked.
Given that I work with students — the majority of whom are teens — for a living, I know how common it is for teens to dislike school.
Nonetheless, this is still an issue that must be addressed.
There are many powerful strategies you can employ to help the situation. In this article, I’ll outline 15 of them.
(Download the free bonus below to learn five more strategies.)
Enter your email below to download a PDF summary of this article. The PDF contains all the strategies found here, plus 5 exclusive bonus strategies that you’ll only find in the PDF.
Why do teens hate school?
As a parent and as a coach who works with teenagers, I understand how challenging it can be to see your child hating school.
You don’t want your teens to be miserable, but you also want what’s best for them in the long term.
While academics aren’t everything, doing well in school does lead to more opportunities for scholarships, higher education, and employment.
Here’s the thing…
Before you can motivate your teenagers to enjoy school, you must understand why they dislike school in the first place.
For many students, school is like a roller coaster — full of nerve-racking lows and exhilarating highs. Threatening or lecturing your teens won’t help them navigate the heart-pounding ride.
Instead, let’s explore a few answers to the all-important question: “Why do teens hate school?”
They feel like they have no control over their lives
The teenage years are a time when they’re discovering their identity: their motivations, interests, values, and goals.
Teenagers are also growing up, which means that they’re developing their independence.
So, your teens want to feel in control of their lives.
But the traditional school setting typically gives them few opportunities to exert this control, outside of setting academic goals.
Most teenagers have few options with regard to which classes they’re taking, so they don’t get to study the topics that genuinely interest them.
Add jam-packed schedules and strict rules to the mix, and it’s no wonder that teens find school frustrating and sometimes pointless.
If your teen hates school, it could be a lack of autonomy that’s driving this feeling of resentment.
They feel overwhelmed and stressed
Waking up early. High-pressure extracurriculars. Exams, homework, and projects.
Teens today are more stressed than ever before. In fact, nearly one-third of teens report feeling overwhelmed, a figure on par with adult stress levels.
These statistics are a cause for concern.
As American Psychological Association CEO Norman B. Anderson, PhD says:
It is alarming that the teen stress experience is so similar to that of adults. It is even more concerning that they seem to underestimate the potential impact that stress has on their physical and mental health.
(If you’re concerned about your teen’s mental well-being, here are seven tips to support your child’s mental health.)
Help your teenager to manage stress effectively, and you might find that you no longer say that “my teenager hates school”.
They feel that school is just about getting good grades
Does your teen feel pressured to achieve outstanding grades?
Most students do. Yet academic success is about so much more than report cards and grades.
It’s important to show your teen that it’s not the outcome but the process that matters most.
Sure, it feels good to get excellent grades. But what’s more important are the valuable life skills your child gains along the way, e.g. critical thinking, organisation, planning, self-management.
If your teens feel the only purpose of school is to memorise facts and equations, they’ll struggle to find joy in the learning process.
They’re being bullied
Many parents don’t know when their teen is being bullied.
If you keep saying to yourself that “my teen hates school”, check in with your child to ensure that he or she isn’t being bullied.
Just because your teen hasn’t mentioned the issue doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.
If there’s bullying going on, don’t blame yourself. Instead, support your child and empathise with him or her as you find a solution together.
What to do if your child hates school
As we’ve seen, there’s typically a reason why your child doesn’t enjoy school.
Now, let’s explore 15 proven strategies that will help anytime you’re wondering what to do about your child hating school:
1. Don’t assume that your teen is being defiant or rebellious
As children enter the teenage years, they crave autonomy. They’re also forming their identity, all while their bodies and brains are going through drastic changes.
As such, teens often exhibit rebellious behaviour.
But don’t assume that this is the only reason your teen tells you she hates school.
Many times, there are other issues at play, e.g., feeling overwhelmed, struggling to keep up with schoolwork, bullying, fear of exams.
2. Think about what you’ve been doing that may have contributed to the problem
Here are some questions to ask yourself when you find yourself saying “my teenager hates school”:
- Do I frequently nag my teen?
- Do I always talk about school-related topics?
- Do I talk as if my teen’s hobbies are a waste of time, or that they’re merely a distraction from her schoolwork?
- Do I compare my teen with her friends, cousins or siblings?
- Do I overemphasise the importance of performing well in school?
- Do I frequently force or coerce my teen into doing schoolwork?
- Do I sign my teen up for classes or programmes without first seeking her consent?
On their own, none of these behaviours will result in you having a disrespectful teenager who hates school.
But in combination, they’ll likely cause a power struggle between you and your teen.
Over time, your teen may develop even more negative emotional associations with school.
3. Use active listening techniques when talking to your teen about the issue
When you talk to your teen about why he hates school (and when you talk to him about other topics too), use active listening techniques such as the following:
- Give your teen your full attention
- Don’t multitask
- Don’t interrupt your teen while he’s talking
- Encourage your teen to keep talking, e.g. by saying “go on” or “tell me more”
- Empathise with your teen
- Seek to understand how he is feeling
- Don’t judge
- Don’t moralise
- As far as possible, don’t provide unsolicited advice
- Occasionally summarise what you think your teen has been saying and reflect it back to him, e.g. “It sounds like you feel as if your math teacher doesn’t explain the concepts well, so you dislike math.”
By using active listening techniques, your teen will be more likely to share with you what’s troubling him.
4. Don’t use threats
It’s tempting for parents to use threats to coerce their teens into behaving “correctly”.
Whether it’s threatening to reduce your teen’s allowance or take away her phone, it won’t work in the long run.
The use of power becomes less effective as children get older. By the time they’re teenagers, this approach doesn’t work, and tends to backfire instead.
In other words, it isn’t possible to threaten your teen into becoming a motivated and responsible student who loves going to school.
If your teen detests school, the root cause is probably emotional in nature. This is what must be addressed as a priority.
5. Don’t lecture
“My teen hates school — should I lecture him or her?”
Perhaps that’s the question on your mind.
I advise parents to avoid lecturing their teens. But if you really can’t help it, keep the lecture short.
Teens tell me that they start tuning their parents out about two minutes into the lecture. So you’ll be wasting your breath if your lecture lasts longer than that.
Your teen won’t respond well to you preaching about the importance of school. Nor will he start or stop performing specific behaviours because you told him that he “should” or “shouldn’t” do those things.
(When was the last time you started eating healthily just because a relative or friend told you that you “should”?)
Lecturing won’t help your teen’s anxiety either, if that’s something he’s struggling with.
Even students who have an intense hatred for school know that doing well in school is important. They don’t need you to remind them of that, because their teachers do that almost every day.
What does your teen need from you?
He needs you to listen to him, to understand him, to see things from his perspective – this is a parenting skill I encourage you to develop.
When your teen feels understood, he’ll change his behaviour and attitude.
6. Reduce your focus on school and academics
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t bring up school-related topics at all.
But many teens have told me that it seems as if school is the only thing their parents care about. And it’s true that many parents I talk to are mostly interested in how to get their teenagers to do their homework.
So make it a point to talk about topics that your teen is interested in, e.g. music, hobbies, gaming, social media.
When the conversations you have with your teen are more balanced, your teen’s attitude toward school will become more balanced too.
7. Help your teen to learn organisational and study skills
Many students who don’t like school feel overwhelmed by schoolwork, projects, tests, exams, etc.
Most of these students haven’t learned how to prioritise, plan, stay organised, manage their time, and focus when studying.
If this describes your teen, encourage – but don’t force – her to develop these skills. To do so, she can check out relevant resources and sign up for programmes.
This is the reason why I’ve developed courses like The Perfect Study Plan, and why I coach students 1-to-1.
When students develop the necessary organisational skills and apply effective study tips, they often stop hating school!
8. Acknowledge your teen’s progress and effort
One piece of feedback I get from many teens is that they’re discouraged.
They feel as if they’ll never be good enough to live up to their parents’ expectations.
Instead of focusing on your teen’s grades, focus on their effort instead. Whenever you observe her exhibiting positive behaviour, acknowledge it.
This simple act will mean a lot to her. It will also remind her that the reward is found in the journey itself, not just the destination.
By acknowledging her progress, she’ll be more likely to develop intrinsic motivation.
9. Talk to your teen’s teachers
Reach out to your teen’s teachers. Given that they interact with your teen almost every day, they’re likely to have insights into why he hates school.
All the teachers I know are insanely busy. So even if you’re only able to schedule a 10-minute phone call with your teen’s teacher, make the most of the opportunity.
10. Talk to the parents of your teen’s friends
On a related note, to get a better picture of what’s going on, talk to the parents of your teen’s friends.
These parents would have heard from their children about what’s been frustrating them at school. Based on this feedback, you’ll understand your teen’s concerns better too.
11. Ensure that your home is an emotionally safe environment
Teens frequently tell me that they don’t feel emotionally safe at home.
Why do they say this?
Because they feel that when they’re at home, they can be nagged, criticised, blamed, reprimanded or lectured to at any time. They feel as if they can be “attacked” without forewarning.
It’s only natural that they withdraw, locking themselves in their room if possible.
If the home environment isn’t emotionally safe, teens won’t share what’s on their minds. This will only make the situation worse, and you’ll keep wondering why your teen hates school so much.
When parenting teens, do your best to cultivate a home environment that’s full of appreciation, respect and kindness.
Emphasise that there are standards that must be upheld, but that every family member will always receive unconditional acceptance.
12. Determine if there’s something more serious going on
If your teen says that she hates school, it may be a sign of something more serious, e.g. depression, panic disorder, anxiety disorders.
Here are some symptoms to look out for:
- Feeling tired most of the time
- Poor concentration
- Feeling worthless
- Feelings of self-hatred
- Changes in appetite
- Persistent sadness
- Thoughts of suicide
- Loss of interest in hobbies
- Change in sleep habits
- Frequent crying
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Loss of motivation to study or do schoolwork
If your teen is exhibiting several of these symptoms, seek help right away.
13. Ensure that your teen’s life isn’t overscheduled
Sometimes, teens who hate school are simply worn out. They feel overwhelmed by the demands of school, extracurricular activities, etc.
They may be physically exhausted and sleep-deprived. This affects their mood, which makes them more likely to perceive situations negatively.
Teens need time to think, reflect, explore and dream.
Do what you can to ensure that your teen’s life isn’t overscheduled. Over time, you’ll see improvements in his attitude toward school.
14. Be patient and encouraging toward your teen
No matter how old we are, we’re all on a journey of learning, growing and maturing.
It’s a process for your teen to change her mindset, so be patient with her.
Encourage her. Support her. Empathise with her. Listen to her. Remind her that you’ll be with her every step of the way.
As you implement the other strategies listed in this article, you’ll see improvements such that you no longer think to yourself that “my teenager hates school”.
15. Help your teen to find a mentor
Teens who detest school need some perspective on their situation.
It’s hard for teens to develop this perspective because their problems seem so overwhelming.
From their point of view, the situation might even appear hopeless.
Furthermore, teens spend the majority of their waking hours surrounded by their peers, who have a similar worldview. This makes it even more challenging for teens to view their situation through a different lens.
Parents have a difficult time getting through to teens. This is because parents’ guidance is often perceived as nagging or lecturing.
This is the reason your teen needs a mentor. The benefits of having a mentor are well-documented, which is why I mentor teens to help them become motivated, responsible, and resilient.
Your teen is just one mentor away from making the most of his potential!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is hating school normal?
While I’m not fond of the term normal, I will say it’s common for teens to dislike things related to school.
Just remember, most teenagers aren’t rebellious for the sake of it. There’s likely a good reason for their frustrations, so it’s crucial to apply the tips in this article to get to the root of the issue.
What can I do if my teenager refuses to go to school?
It’s tempting to scold and lecture your teenagers if they refuse to go to school.
But nagging your teens won’t work. More often than not, it will exacerbate the problem.
The good news is that there are tactics you can use to deal with challenging teenagers. Read my top 10 tips for dealing with disrespectful teens here.
How do you motivate an intelligent but unmotivated teenager?
Do you feel like your teenager doesn’t work hard enough or plan for the future, even though you know he or she is intelligent?
Or maybe your teen lacks motivation and gets distracted easily?
If so, you’re not alone. There’s a huge number of parents trying to figure out how to motivate a teenager to study and perform better in school.
I have good news for you…
I’ve spoken to and worked with more than 20,000 students around the globe. I’ve discovered that the vast majority of unmotivated teenagers want to do well in school. They simply lack the necessary mindset and skills to do so.
That’s why I wrote a free e-book to help parents learn how to motivate their teens. Discover my 16 keys to motivating teenagers here.
Do most teens hate school?
While I’m hesitant to say that most teens hate school, many do.
I know it’s frustrating to see that your children dislike school. But if you work with them day by day — by implementing the tips in this article — to embrace a new attitude, you’ll start to see improvements.
Conclusion: Huge changes occur one tiny step at a time
No matter how dire your teen’s situation may seem, remember that there’s always hope.
I’ve worked with teens who have gone from being unmotivated school-haters to being driven, focused, and independent learners.
Of course, the transformation to become happy, successful students didn’t happen overnight.
(I went through my own transformation as a teen, which you can read about here if you’re interested.)
But change is possible.
As is often said, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”
In the same way, huge changes occur one tiny step at a time. So apply the strategies described in this article, as well as the bonus strategies you can get access to at the end of this article.
With your love, support, and guidance, your teen can experience a transformation too!
Like this article? Please share it with your friends.
Fatuma Balinda says
This is very useful Thank you
Daniel Wong says
You’re most welcome.
and she’s tell me she’s doing good but really she’s not I have finals of the teachers telling me that she doesn’t look good in the class she talks to anybody I am and that she doesn’t finish your classwork says
Good afternoon well I really don’t know what to do with my daughter anymore I try I talk to herAnd ask her what she needs if I’m doing something wrong she doesn’t talk much I ask her how was your day I am what she thinks about anything but she doesn’t say anythingAnd I asked her how she’s doing school and she’s tell me she’s doing good but really she’s not I have finals of the teachers telling me that she doesn’t look good in the class she talks to anybody I am and that she doesn’t finish your classwork
what if you hate school because you always get in trouble and your teachers are mean to you
Why are you always in trouble?
Incredible article! Great advice!
My son is 18 and I’m from the school open day where I realised that he is really struggling yet is not putting more effort on his books…my point to him was he is not committed to his books and need to study a lot as the class he is in is very challenging…that’s when he told me he feels he doesn’t need school anymore…I felt very bad and I’m failing to cope…he is well mannered but I’m confused as to where did I go wrong
I am going through the same exact thing with my 15 year old daughter. She even said about quitting but I told her if she quits then she will have to work full time. I am so worried and stressed and she cried often. Help!
My 15 year old son is feeling and saying the same thing. Have you found anything to help?
Hi know how you feel Alisa,
I am going thru the exact with my 15yr old son.
He has missed a full first term and hasn’t gone back so far this term.
I don’t know what to do.
Have you figured out anything that helps? My 17 yr old son won’t go to school either he makes me out to be the bad guy untill he gets his way. We tried going to the counselor and that didn’t work either.
Erica Ham says
Sounds like my 16yr old son. Ive been thrown in jail over him missing school. And he’s only been 2 out of the 7days this year already. The school had n I interest in helping us. Ill go back to jail Ima sure as he will go to juvie again sadly he is going to be a dad also in 7mths and I just dont know what else to do. Ive begged the school for help but they keep saying we dont know what to tell you. Smh they’ve pushed him thru with straight F’s since 3rd grade but they are not at fault for his struggles in school.
i am a 15 yr old let him do it trust me i dropped out learned the real important stuff like how taxes work got to spend time with people i love way more often learned the importance of money how to save it and it also just gives you future money like working at mcdonalds is like 15 $ an hr and working full time isnt so bad i get to interact and become more socially active.
What do I need to do or where to go if my teen is showing most of those traits in #12? Also why must I seek help Immediately?
You should seek help right away because he’s at risk for hurting himself.
My son is a popular good looking boy.. but hates school and is now refusing to go. He had suggested in the past about moving schools, but I thought this was pointless as his school was good and my daughter has been very successful there. He hates teachers and just just generally hates everybody! He’s asking to go to college early, he is 15 16 next September? I’m separated from his father, 10 yrs now, charlie has received counselling with school and struggles with anger not at me.. I believe the school feel it’s just being spoilt as I’ve over compensated with him lots to always try and make him happy.. but I believe he really hates school and just want him to be somewhere he is happy and have the chance to thrive, he was recently scouted at the school for rugby to trial for a brilliant team but turned it down, even with me and his dad giving him rewards if he went! I just don’t know what to do! I worry about drugs and suiceied and getting in with the wrong crowd, and can’t help by blame myself as I’m too weak with him! I’ve patented my children the same, my daughter has just gone to the uni of her dreams, so I know I’ve done my best!
I read your comment and I feel the same way. I have a 17 yr daughter who is a motivated straight A student with an already figured out life, and a 15 1/2 son who tells me that he hates school, that he doesn’t learn anything in school and that he would rather stay home or be homeschooled. I am married. I tried so many techniques with him, from being understanding and open minded to giving him space… nothing works. He already failed a class and even though he’s making it up now, he’s borderline failing 2 other classes. I aslo worry about drugs, vaping, and whether or not he’s even going to college. As of now he wants to drop HS and he said that he doesn’t want to go to college. According to him he would rather drop off now and get a job. Like you, I don’t understand how I can have one kid one way and the other exactly the opposite. If parenting were to be the issue than both kids should’ve been doing bad in school. This is so frustrating. My husband keeps on saying to let him be, but I fear that if I do so, he will fail and won’t get a chance to make up for all this mistakes, won’t graduate,won’t go to college and end up with a low paying job trying to make ends meet for the rest of his life 🙁
I am in exactly the same position with my 15-year old son. I’m about to pay for online private school but I’m so scared that he won’t put forth the effort and we will be in the same position, minus $1700. He has just told me that he is not going to a “crap college” and will just start working after high school, which I’m certain will lead to drugs and/or jail. I am petrified. 😢
Yes!! Reading your comment makes me feel better and that I’m not alone! I have a 15 year old son and if I even mention school and his grades he goes into a rage. He is normally a GREAT, very well mannered kid. He told me that school is useless and he wants to drop out. I am at a loss! Of course I won’t allow him to drop out but I have no idea how to make it better. I feel like I am failing as a parent.
Sooo, I am a 16 year old boy who hates school, and reading your comments I can pretty much relate to your children. Wanna ask any questions? I’m here to answer them!
So what do you recommend as a 16 year old ? My son says the only thing keeping him from a breakdown is playing on his xbox. How can I get him to put just a little effort into school? His teachers want to have a parent/student/teacher conference.
My son is 15. He hates school, I just spoke to his 8 teachers and all of them says same thing that he is disturbing the class and gets easily distributed himself. His grades significantly dropped and he isn’t. Doing well academically at all . What can I do?
Amy L. Lyndaker says
I have some questions! My 16 year old son is smart, well-liked, interested in so many things. But, he sees school as holding him back. This pandemic has not helped. I don’t really focus on grades, but he does because he wants to get into a “good school.” I don’t expect him to like school, I just don’t know how to make it not “ruin his life.”
Torey W Smith says
I have a 13 yr old that hates school. He doesn’t even try. I’m his grand parent. I fell as I’ve failed him. I’m so concerned and confused.
What are you doing if you hate school, how are you managing your teenage years and what are your plans for future?
You say you hate school but do you still go to school?
My son is 14 years old and tells me he hates school. He won’t specify exactly what he hates about it other than saying that he doesn’t learn anything useful. He just started high school and I want to make sure his next 4 years aren’t going to go in the wrong direction by not helping him. But I don’t know how to help if he just doesn’t like school. 🤷🏻♀️
My 15 yr ild grandson and 17 yr old grad daughter will be late 2 out of 5 days and the days they are at school they dont go to but maybe 2 out of 5 classes a day I asked why doesnt security make them go to class they said the hid from them. Now they want to put them on a contract and if that doesnt work they will be suspended and if that dont work they will have to go to another school. Which they wont have a way to get there. They don’t like to get up early to go to school and they never bring hime homework. I dont know what to do.
What is it that you hate the most about school?
Are there parts of it you like?
Would you do online school instead?
Was there a time in your life when you did like school?
Are you in any extra curricular activities?
Best of luck!
Janine Hodges says
I have the same problem with our son, although he has always school from early years he is now 13 and know he is going through adolescence and we try our best not to judge him when his school rings us saying he doesn’t do the work in class or he won’t listen in class our son generally is a fun loving bubbly person but lately seem sad fed up with school and although we agree with our son on some reasons for this we also agree with teacher that it can’t continue I just want him to be happy do his best in school which would show he’s trying we have got 1-1 teaching in certain classes but just want him to know we are supporting him and want to help the situation
Sonja Quinn says
Maybe let him get a job huni as maybe he has to learn the hard way and see how hard it is out there. Hugs darling. I got two kids 10, 13 refusing to go to school. Sob
Tania Delacruz says
My daughter has been having issues at school for a while I have tried home school and she hated that as well now she is back is regular school with her peers and wants to be home schooled again what should I do ? Yes she has tried to hurt herself yes she has been to hospitals and yes she is on medication and therapy what now cause now she tells me she wants to quit therapy cause her therapist is t getting her at all she is not improving in my eyes and I’m at a lost some sound advice would really help me I’m afraid for her future and her current situation Please Help
Search for another therapist
Perhaps the therapist isn’t right for her, it is common that sometimes a certain therapist just doesn’t “click” with the one in the therapy, try changing therapist until you found the right one would be my suggestion.
This is very helpful. But, what happens when my 15 years old son start saying that school is not important for life, and don’t attend school because of that?
He was always a smart boy, had big dreams in life… but now he lost any interest in school or studying, he sits at home doing nothing, says that he will be a millionaire by saling things (because of the videos all over the Internet about how to make big money and don’t work) on the internat but doesn’t do anything for that…
He says that school doesn’t help you and that he will drop of school when it is possible, until then he barely attend the classes, go home in the middle of a school day, of course doesn’t do any homework or projects at school…
And the worst part is that he even lost interest in making friends, meetings people or go somewhere…
It started last year at his middle school when he has friends and continuing now in the first year of high school where he doesn’t want to meet anyone… The point is that there is no bullying involved in this case.
I don’t know what is happening with him and why he lost any interest in social life and studying…
What can I do? He is such a smart boy and he can ruin his future by this actions and I don’t know what to do…
ana v Bougles says
IAM GOING THRUE THE SAME ISSUE WITH MY 14 YRD OLD…WHAT DID YOU DO TO HELP HIM? HELP PLEASE
Having the same problem. 14 year old boy going into high school next year. Almost same exact details.
Amelia Lindsay says
I’m a teenager right now, trying to figure out how to get motivation for something pointless. I mean yeah, most places require a high school education, but most places should also rethink the value of that. Going to be a CEO? I’m thinking you might not need that biology class. Accountant. Did you really need all that extensive world history? Going to drive semi-trucks? Nobody’s gonna care about that Calculus class. How about a lawyer? Chances are, nobody is going to care in the least about how you had to dissect Romeo and Juliet. It is pointless. So many teachers take PRIDE in the fact that no one likes their class. They all force massive amounts of work onto you, leaving no time for anything else. Teenagers are young, right? They’re supposed to have energy, right? So that means they must not need sleep. Which means they could be memorizing useless facts so they can spit them out onto a test paper and then immediately forget them. It would be a much better use of time. Us students are forming a Union to abolish this meaningless and stupid program. But… we’re not 18 so we can’t possibly know anything about the world even with all these facts they shove in our faces. Don’t try to make your teenager like school. Let them hate it, encourage them to despise it, support them in that intelligent opinion. Hate it with them. Schools cause so many mental problems for so many kids. It’s not the other kids. It’s the teachers, the principals, the administrators. We can’t stand up for ourselves, so help us. If there are enough of us, we just may be able to abolish this horrible and useless system.
Amelia I am sorry you feel this way. I do understand that school sucks. I think most of the classes are pointless and a lot of wasted time and not teaching real-life issues. The only thing I do know is that school teaches you to be on time, to have structure, to socialize in a public setting and deal with people you may not like (like bosses and co-workers), it teaches you to apply yourself in a work environment in the future, to do tasks at work that you are going to hate. So that is what I see about school. But unfortunately to succeed in life MOST of the time employers like to see that you have graduated school, because you were able to be responsible and apply yourself at all tasks. So therefore, jobs will be given to those who “seem” responsible and educated by having a diploma. My son is 15 years old and has always been super smart. We have always said he is going to be an engineer one day. This is his first year of highschool, he got mixed up with the wrong kids, and in the last 6 months has gotten into drugs (some heavy but mostly pot), he has done illegal things, he sneaks out at night. We removed him from school and started virtual school. He only has 4 classes to take, almost 3 because he is about done with the easy driver’s ed class. He only has to do one class a day and can be done by Thursday. He refuses to do the lessons, he cheats and gets reported for copying and pasting answers. When I try to talk to him calmly and explain how this is important and we just care and we get it’s a pain in the butt but it needs to be done. We give him only 2 assignments a day to complete. Sometimes he doesn’t even do that. He says he doesn’t need an education to be a mechanic (he does), and talks to me as if he hates me. I do nag him because I see he is not doing a thing ALL DAY long. Tell me as a teenager what I can do to help him. What would help you? I will do whatever I can, I just don’t know anymore. I cannot as a parent say, OK quit and don’t do school anymore. So what’s next? Fight every day? Watch him fail. We give him incentives to look forward to if he keeps a C or higher and if he completes the few assignments each day. He still will stare at a wall rather than complete the work and receive the incentives. It has caused so much pain with all of us my heart breaks for his future. It’s a sad, tough world we live in. I know how hard it must be for teens these days, and I sympathize. But how do I help. I don’t want my son to run away, be a drop out, become a drug addict when he sees life isn’t the way he pictured it. And to you, I will pray for you as I do my son because I don’t want any teenager to feel this way. I was a pain in the butt teen as well, but times were different when I was in highschool than they are now. I wish you the absolute best in life and I hope you succeed even though school sucks…I hope you graduate and get to feel that amazing sense of accomplishment.
hi im also a teen and here’s something that helped with my friend. their parents made a system where for every test that they get 80% and more they get $25 and when report cards come for every class that they get a 85% or more they get $50, money is a good motivation for us cause we can spend it on what we want, like food, games and just about anything, also i noticed a lot of these comments are from america and im in canada so im not sure what 80% is in letter grades but i think it might be a B+ i could be wrong though so look up a conversion chart to make sure. i hope this helps
Since your son knows what he wants to do, maybe you could try get him an apprenticeship with a mechanic?
It would give him a sense of purpose during his day and hopefully a ‘mentor’ who he can relate to and something he enjoys doing.
All the best and good luck!! keep strong!!
Kids grow up and eventually realise you love them!
Hi Amelia, I’m also a teen (technically a young adult because I’m 18, but I was fresh out of high school last year and in the 1st year of university), and I FEEL THAT! Schools and universities really do make us learn useless things! Heck, even in universities where there are specific majors, they still have useless units as prerequisites! E.g. if you want to develop apps, why aren’t all the classes and assignments wholly dedicated to simply creating apps? Why is it peppered with useless unrelated assignments and units? And they’d claim that being well-rounded is extremely important. If anything, being intensely focused on one thing is better than being well-rounded in everything, only having the basics of everything but never mastering anything in particular. What’s the point?
Do schools teach seemingly useless things? Yes, but having a well-rounded education is so very important to be an informed citizen and to think critically. Also, who says you won’t change your mind or major later if you decide all of a sudden you like literature more than computer science, or whatever? Also, it’s a fall back if for some reason that career you want is no longer viable anymore.
I started off as a Spanish major in school. I also have a background in education and technology through other classes I took… so now I teach 1 Spanish class a semester, but my regular full-time job is teaching technology to faculty in higher ed…
Also, take a look at this election cycle we are in! There are so many uninformed citizens who obviously didn’t pay attention in history or government classes! I wouldn’t want to be that person!
Saying all that, I have a 14-year-old who refuses to do school work in school and is constantly off-task. I have to practically sit on top of him to get him to do anything. I have spent the past 3 weeks trying to catch him up in school… but I can ONLY control what he does at home. His teachers are pissed because he’s not doing stuff in class. He is ADHD/Autistic, he goes to therapy and we are trying a new behavior contract to give him 10 minutes of phone time per completed assignment… some days it works, some days it doesn’t… I just am so very frustrated and stressed over it all… I’m trying to do my own work from home + he’s doing remote 3 days a week + 2 days in (but the days he’s in school he does nothing)… I don’t know what the answer is myself. I have tried almost everything!
My 15-year-old much the same. There has to be a better way than behavior mods. These kids are smart; they won’t be manipulated. I am thinking maybe we unschool him and start a business together or something. Why do we continue to disrespect what he’s saying and ignore his feelings? It’s really hard to parent today!
Danielle Rose says
You know, I feel the same way… because as a 16 year old, i have been in high school for a year now, and the only reason I passed my classes last year was bc the district allowed us to have an option of just showing that we completed a class instead of the actual grade, (which was most of my classes), but of course only if you didn’t fail them. Now yes, I feel that elementry school is something that everyone should do, even they also teach things and have there flaws in the system as well. But middle school and high school are a different subject. They should make it so that the students pick what they want to learn and have the basics sure, like how to do your taxes or how to write a resume. But we don’t need to know that that the mitochondria is the power house of the cell. I want us to all come toghether and change the school system for the better of students and society! Think about it. Wouldn’t you be more happier if your child was happy doing what they love and actually enjoy learning the subject. And that if you fail that you can still graduate high school. I feel that students should have the choice of picking what they want to learn. This will help them develop their own skills and find out who they are. And if they don’t like the class, THEN THAT’S OK. We should not be pressured into reading shakespere if we don’t want to. Any who, I hope this helped you all understand how students feel. Thank u and I rly do want to change this school system for the better of everyone, so let me know your thoughts about the subject and your opinions. Thank u all again and I hope this helps!
Great points! Thank you for your time in helping us understand how our kids are feeling. Adult college students feel the same way too!
Amy L. Lyndaker says
You know what? I think you are right. Let kids hate school. I really think you are onto something.
Great points! Thank you for your comments and perspective!
Hi i have same problem with my son
He is 15
But worst thing he start bullying ours family
And i really don’t know what to do
All supports are trying to help
But is getting worse
I was reading your situation and looks like you are writing about my son. I have exactly the same problem and don’t know what to do. I even already think about getting a help from psychologist.
I also have a 15 year old son that we are having a really hard time with. He is fine as long as he gets his way and he doesn’t have to any schoolwork at all. He can be horribly mean and cruel and looks at us with such hate any time we remind him to get on task with his schoolwork. He started therapy right before this pandemic and we have been easier on him by having him only do 2 assignments a day and he still doesn’t want to do that. He feels like he doesn’t need an education to succeed (be a mechanic). It is a constant battle even when we are being nice and giving him incentives. Nothing seems to motivate him or help him. It is like he is in a battle for control with us. If we ask him to do something (clean room even), he just ignores us and doesn’t do it. If we remind him again he is nasty, says we are nagging him, and blames us for every single thing that he does wrong. I need help because I fear his battle of control and this new sense of thinking he is an adult is going to lead to him running away again and just keep getting into trouble. He has always been a sweet boy, but the last 6 months since he started high school is when things changed. He is someone we don’t even know. We took him out of school and put him in virtual school.
Bharti jain says
Very useful article. Thanks you
Why am I reading it instead of my parents
Maybe just try having them read the article. And say mom and dad… This is me reaching out for your help please. Say, I need this. It takes time to work through things but as a family if you ask for help and hopefully they’re willing to give it, things will get better. Your school years go by so quickly… Before you know it you will be out of school and then you make your decisions for the rest of your life from there. Enjoy this time being young! 💚
Rashmi Pawar says
This article is extremely useful for me as I go through the content I can so much relate it to the the situation me and my son are undergoing.
Extremely helpful, will be adopting your techniques for sure and as u said how to eat an elephant well!!it implies to me, I am also seeking a mentor for him(son) will soo seek your support.
very useful blog👍
Michelle Caswell says
Hi my 15 year old son just refuses to go to school . He says he doesn’t like it or the teachers etc. He just shuts himself away in his room all day coming out only to eat and drink . He doesn’t have any friends only the ones he talks to online when on his PS4 . But I’ve confiscated that whilst he’s not in school . I do think he has no self esteem And the doctor has been out to see him but she doesn’t know what the problem is aswell. He is very rude to me and his father and very disrespectful and he hates his younger sister .
We are at our wits end and don’t know what to do ?
My son was like this hated school from age 14 he is now 18 and tried self-harming the attempted suicide we had no idea … he was rude disrespectful and selfish and also started self medicating with drugs .. turns out he is a very emotional person who was so anxious and did not know how to manage counselling certainly helped but the road is long and has been painful
Marcy Cohen Turner says
Thank you for this great info! I have a daughter in 8th grade who hates school and often refuses to go. She’s working with a therapist now which has helped but it’s very slow going. She actually expressed her feelings and ideas in a letter she wrote to get her feelings out. I think it is helpful for parents to see what middle schooler are thinking. I posted it on my blog: http://www.fabulousclassroom.com/2018/11/teenage-anxiety-a-letter-from-my-14-year-old-daughter/
In the article and in the comments no one has mentioned bullying. Bullying in schools is the major cause of kids not wanting to go to school and unfortunately the effects of bullying can cause many mental health issues for the victims. Very often children do not want to admit they are being bullied. Very important for parents to take immediate action if they believe their child is being bullied at school. Do not confront the bully or the parents of the bully.
Do not expect the school to have a system in place to resolve the problem .If you communicate with the school, document dates and time, whom you have spoken with, all meetings, conversations, you have had on the subject. Educate yourself on bullying. There is an abundance of information on the web.
Thank you I found your article very insightful and helpful. In my son’s case it is the school/teachers themselves that are the cause of his anxiety and dislike for it. He has additional needs and is expected to conform to their expectations rather than their approach being adapted to suit his abilities. It’s an on-going battle but he isn’t quite at point of refusal thankfully and is fine when at home and will talk to us openly and has a good sense of humour which is key. Enjoying the small things in life helps us cope with the bigger things.
Karen Hodgson says
Thank you so mich. Was feeling so overwhelmed and stressed this morning and found you on google. Off to work and will tackle this after reading your article. It is never an easy road but it helps when someone brings it back to perspective
While googling, found it very useful.
As I tried so many techinques, seemed to work and again fails.
We moved last year of middle school. Before to middle school , in another city. He does not like school as feels he can do self study and no.point in going, as learning nothing new except math. I ask gim to make friends, but not many are willing to.
I myself observed this in some occasions. We tell him, just few months, highschool will be diff with many opportunities.
He likes music editing, video games…says atleast he get to talk to people. I feel bad, as he even tried post school activities, again already have their own groups. he hates hw, bug manages to finish last moment and get good grades.
I cant buy him friends. but hoping to get done r months and praying, highschool will have better friends.
This all sounds great, but my husband and I have tried pretty much all of these suggestions. Our 15 year old son is failing in school. We try to speak to him in an encouragingtone and don’t yell at him or make demands. He is now lying to us about things and has a very poor attitude about school. I’ve reached out to teachers and feel they see him as a distraction in their classes. At the end of the day, these teachers don’t have time to try to help those who are uninterested and not paying attention. Sad, but true. He isn’t in sports or other activities. He has tried things but we didn’t force him to continue when he became uninterested. So many factors…. he has lost privileges and can only earn them back by showing academic improvement. At this point, we are so frustrated and feel like failures as parents. Our next step is contacting a school counselor. Any thoughts are appreciated……
What can I do my daughter is 14 and she doesn’t respect me or her stepmother or stepfather or her father she is constantly playing with young children and doesn’t want to learn or do homework and she fails to do small things like help with cleaning or washing dishes I don’t know what to do anymore
Becky D says
It’s like air being let out of a balloon half way – I’m decompressing a little just seeing her by these comments I’m not alone. My daughter started with anxiety and then depression in grade 8. She’s in Grade 10 now and after 3 different counsellors over 2 years we are now on the 3rd. Fourth change of medication. In Grade 10 now she’s missed about 80% of school year saying it’s anxiety and fear of having an attack. I feel she’s clinging on to the illness as if it’s wanted. She also lies about reasons not to go to school as well. Yesdaterday she wouldn’t go afraid to ask the math teacher when she could right the last missed test (after having 3 hours with a home tutor to prepare) saying she’ll panic. This morning up but wouldn’t go because no internet working in the half an hour before we left home. Excuse after excuse. Rude to younger brother, everything about her, no respect for me or her Dad. Now she’s saying she’s transgender and after everything in the last two years and the fact that this seems so completely out of the blue I don’t know how to parent this child. Do you all think the widespread flux of teen mental illness is a social contagion? Monkey see monkey do? I am at my wits end – I don’t know if I can cope with all of these mood swings and refusal to go more than a day a week (school). My blood pressure is through the roof and my husband and son is sick of this wheel of manipulation and acting 5 years old asked to do something she has no interest in doing like making her own sandwich or going to school. What am I going to do?
This article assumes the child is going to school. My child wont get out of the bed and it’s the 3rd day of school in a brand new private school for children with anxiety and learning disabilities that has been purposely designed to be stress free. No homework, and no high stakes tests. It seems very much she is just being defiant and doesnt care how much money this school costs. She wouldnt go to middle school and so we out her in virtal school. She wouldnt do the classes and was kicked out of all but one that she only ended up finishing half of. I obviously haven’t nagged her about attending school because she wasnt in school and by the 3rd day with no nagging at all, no homework, nothing like that, she already refuses to attend. I have done nothing but give her space to make her own choices. This doesnt seem to be working.
Hi. Just came across this site, which I find very helpful.
My son who’s 13 going on 14 in a few months has already stated that he hates school( grade 9). My son has a learning disability and is so worried that he won’t be able to do the work. On top of everything this is a new school where he doesn’t know anyone as yet. He seems very sad and withdrawn. Any anyone has any suggestions please share. Thanks
I can relate to many of the comments above. My 10th grade son did great in school up to 7th grade. Then he stopped paying attention and doing homework. If we don’t check on a daily basis, his assignments won’t get completed. He will lie to us if we don’t actually check. He is also very disorganized and we do weekly check ins to make sure his binders and folders are organized.
After many conversations and lectures (I now know I shouldn’t lecture) he just told us he doesn’t like school. He doesn’t say why. I’m very open minded and just want to help him but he doesn’t want to open up to me. I’m not sure how to get through to him.
I just want him to have a good happy life. This articles says that I shouldn’t overemphasize the importance of school but how is he going to have a good future without an education.? I don’t expect “A” grades. I just want him to graduate high school. I lowered my expectations so that I don’t put pressure on him but it doesn’t seem to be helping.
My daughter is a straight A student and doesn’t need me to check that she’s up to date on her assignments. I don’t say that in front of them, because I don’t want him to feel bad. I’ve changed jobs and switched to part time so I can be home more too. I’ve done a lot for him and don’t understand why he won’t try to meet me half way.
Michelle W says
Dang, Michelle, I feel like I could have written this! My name is Michelle & I have a 10th grader that also did great up through 7th. He learned to read easily. Teachers like his personality. He has a small but good friend group. (His best friend is in the top of the class & super smart so he hangs out with people that model good grades.) I have been wondering if it’s because he’s an only child so no sibling rivalry to push him but I see your son has a sibling so that doesn’t explain things. I also thought it was a rough transition from middle school to high school & I was glad freshman year was behind him. We’re 2 months into a new school year & he has an F in Honors English from not turning things in. Right now my plan is to meet with the school counselor. I’m setting up hearing & eye tests even though I’m confident that’s not the problem. We’re also willing to do family counseling. I just want him to know we’re not giving up on him. If he makes questionable life decisions as an adult that’s on him. For these next couple years, I’m going to try my best. It’s hard & it makes me feel like a failure. To all the parents on here looking for answers, you’re not alone. Thanks for posting, Michelle!
My story is very similar to most comments, l have a son who is in grade 9, he refuses to go to school when l ask him why he hasn’t been to school he tells me that school is boring. “When l get ready for school each morning then something tells me not to go then l stay home” thats him telling me. What should l do in this case, please help.
Karla Blue says
Very useful article before giving up with my teenage son.
I have a 14 year old freshman daughter who is high achieving/gifted. All Honors, small Catholic school her grades near perfect. The issue is she full on hates school and for 3 years has had complete emotional meltdowns about going to school. She cries often and calls school prison for children. It seems mainly stemming from difficulty connecting with kids her age even her friends. She is seeing a psychologist about this but she calls her therapist a waste of time. Alternative options such as home school, cyber school seems either untenable or not as good as her present school. Looking for strategies to help her.
I relate to the “school prision” concept because my 15 year old daughter also feels that way. All I can say is that Meditation practice has helped me to stay calm about all this situation and that is very important to be ok as parents so we can help our kids in the best way possible. It is not easy to have this problem and wish all the best to all the parents and kids that are going through this. Great advice in this article.
May all be well, happy and peaceful.
Would it be a bad idea to share this article with my son as a “restart” on how to deal with this situation together? He is 15 and very reserved.
Daniel Wong says
I think that would be worth a try, Theresa. All the best!
My 13 year old son is always angry. Tells me he hates school so much and his teachers. He’s not bullied and has lots of friends. I just think he is overwhelmed as he has adhd and always struggled in school. He has no special help which I think he needs, but I live in a small town so there’s no resources available. He’s missed so much school because he gets upset stomachs in the morning before school. I just don’t know what to do anymore. I feel like I’m losing this battle. I try to explain to him that school is important and to just try your best but it doesn’t work.
Kids are curious and when they want to know the answer to their question they google it. Therefore they don’t have the patience to sit and listen to a teacher yaking about some boring topic They are used to quick fast information coming from there phone, instant gratification.
Having to read excessive information, learning math equations that they don’t see themselves using in life feels like a waste of their brain cells. School has become long and daunting ,nothing but high pressure, The result is go to an expensive college and then to try and find a job probably out of state away from family and friends where the wages may not be high enough to purchase a home, nice car or to meet the high prices of today’s economy. The exceptionally smart and gifted will meet those goals. What about the average or below average? Where is the reward?
Sad but absolutely true 🙁
Teens are have many cross roads to traverse. They’re sort of leaving behind the child that they were and find they now have to walk in another skin/body. My son has lost a lot of interest in school work. It’s just not a big deal to him to hand in projects on time. A secure future is simply not floating in their brain whereas it’s all we as adults think about.
I thought of finding a common ground with him. I’m trying to be interested in his music. It’s the one thing he is vocal about. Funny thing: they have their own perspectives. I hear useless swearing that grates on my nerves and he hears it as the artist emphasising pain or anger etc.
So I bite. I listen. I try to understand and when I don’t… I bite.
Thank you Daniel for my new mantra – elephant, small bites
Maybe the next time I’m about to explode, i’ll visualise him as an elephant
I’m having the same challenges with my 15 year old daughter.
In response to the article and in reading some of the comments here – it’s not fair to assume or to make all parents feel like they’re to blame for their child’s attitude towards school. In reading the comments, it seems like a lot of these parents are thinking they’re the ones doing something wrong . How can any of us be doing something wrong when we are seeking help. It seems like everyone here has tried something to help their kids in one way or another. One answer is not the cure-all for everyone.
Kids are being homeschooled, put on medication, taken to hospitals, put in therapy, etc (mine included for all four and then some…) and we should be proud of ourselves for doing what we can to make the situation better. We are helping. We are doing the right thing. If you all can’t see or believe that, then all your attempts at helping your child mean nothing. Just because nothing seems to be working doesn’t mean you’re doing it all wrong.
School (especially high school) is much, much different today than when we went. Teachers don’t care, they bully our kids as much as other students do. It’s amazing how one stupid comment from a higher authority can turn your entire world around. We as adults know how to deal with that, teenagers don ‘t. When one teacher treats a kid like crap, that kid assumes they all do. They feel there’s no one at school they can trust. the school setting is enough to ruin a kid -even honor roll students -social anxiety kills their abilities. That is mental HELL for any kid. That can start the whole ball rolling.
Our kids are going to stand their ground and try to get their own way – think back to when you were a teenager. Parents suck and no one’s gonna tell us what to do. No one cares. No one is trying to help (even though we bust our asses to do anything and everything we can). They can’t see that and they won’t until they get older and “grow up”. They won’t talk to us because they think WE won’t understand.
An education is important. It’s drilled into our heads from the time we learn to talk. I think the turning point is when they begin to realize that for themselves. Not everyone is going to college, not everyone is going to be another Bill Gates. That does not mean they’re a failure. But, when they finally realize what they want to get out of life, they’ll realize that they have to work for what they want.
I can tell you one thing – a GED makes no difference in anybody’s eyes except your own. You still have to study, you still have to learn. As a matter of fact, it’s harder than going through 4 years of school. It’s more like 4 years crammed into one then taking a big 10 hour test over 2 days time reviewing everything you learned at once. It’s HARD. And if your kid can pull it off, they are smarter than any kid living through hell in a high school setting.
What I’m getting at with that is – that kid was ME. I’m 45, I dropped out of school in 10th grade – was being bullied by my peers and teachers. That September I enrolled in a GED class at a community college – spent a year studying – passed my GED with flying colors and graduated high school a year earlier than I would have. Later, I attended that same community college for 2 years, got accepted into a 4 year college, later passed the Bar and I’m currently a Lawyer practicing in New York.I
I don’t expect the same from my daughter and I’m not pushing her in that direction just because I did it. She doesn’t even know about it. All I can say is We can just continue what we’re doing – without thinking we’re to blame – knowing that we love our kids and hoping eventually they may get out of this funk. Let’s not kill ourselves trying to do the best we can.
I am glad to hear I am not alone in this. My 15 yr old likes going to the school but ditches classes to hang out. Sometimes with friends, sometimes just by herself. She is on anxiety medication because the first semester of this year she was throwing up almost everyday. Now with the virtual school she cannot go a whole week of logging into her classes and participating. It is so frustrating, I have her on a 504 plan for extra help and tools to de-stress but she is not interested in helping herself at all. Her younger sisters are tired of her not having to do school or homework. I am at a loss here to help her.
My son 17 year a high school senior very rude , selfish and disrespectful to us mean to his brother. He is always in his room and on his phone . Now with this pandemic and everyone staying home I can’t see him like this all day . He is not doing any work posted by teachers almost failing each subject . He thinks school doesn’t matter now that he already admitted in college. My worry is how will he survive in college. Any suggestions to deal this situation.
Lisa (California) says
Currently, I am an unemployed school counselor. It’s been a while since I was college counseling for high schoolers. I think it’s easy for some students to assume all is good once they are accepted into their college. You\he might want to look into how the college handles final semester grades. From memory, some colleges may retract the offer to attend based on these “not so good” final grades. Something to look into and think about.
Also, in college there is academic probation keeping students on track. If he wants to graduate, he would not be able to fail courses for very long. Fortunately, there are tutors (even at the college level) that he could have assess to and of course counselors. I always found college to be a very different environment and he will most likely enjoy the experience.
I hope this helps.
I kept reading and re-reading some of the entries left here and it just breaks my heart. I also agree with everything Kelly said on April 30th. We have to stop beating ourselves up if we’re doing everything in our power to support our kids.
My son is 17 and would be a junior in high school if he were still in a brick and mortar building. My story starts on the last day of 1st grade for him when his teacher said “We’ll have to keep an eye on him, he’s not reading at the first grade level.” I was speechless! I thought “We had parent/teacher conferences all through the school year and she never made it sound that serious”. In 4th grade I took him to an eye doctor who diagnosed him with Dyslexia. Every time I brought it up to his teachers, I was ignored or I was told that they had “checked” him and said he didn’t have Dyslexia, even though I saw it in his school papers. That was my first (enormous) mistake. I trusted the school to be the expert on his education. If someone would have told me that they couldn’t test him for Dyslexia (by law, I found out years later), then I would have taken him to an expert then when he was still young enough to go along with (most of) what we wanted him to do. By the time I realized what had really been going on it was much too late. In reality, he was never taught how to read. Kids/people with dyslexia need to be taught to read with Structured Literacy, not a blend of Traditional Literacy and Structured Literacy that is taught in most schools. It is just too confusing for them. So week after week, month after month and year after year, school just got more and more difficult for him. He always hated school. He was always late getting up and gradually being late more and more often. Finally, by 8th grade, his IEP teacher started teaching him Structured Literacy and he got up to almost grade level in reading for the first time ever in school. When he started Middle School he was reading at 4th grade level. His teacher never told me that she was teaching that – I’m not sure she was supposed to be. We were cautiously optimistic about high school. We worked very hard to make it look like a technical school because the other side of his brain is a decade ahead of his peers. His 1st project vehicle was when he was 15, and he switched out a transmission in a 99 Chevy Blazer with some help from his dad. Most backyard (adult) mechanics would not EVER attempt a project like that. The very first week of 9th grade, his social studies teacher introduced herself as having received a degree in Special Education, that’s why she was hired at that high school – to teach Special Education, and that’s why she was teaching that class. He took it to mean Special Needs and it DESTROYED him. He started refusing to go to school. We were horrified. We told him you can’t do this. Ultimately, it’s against the law. We had no idea what to do. We had meeting after meeting with the teachers and vice-principal all year long. He continued to refuse to go to school. I begged him to just go for his auto tech and wood shop classes. Just go for lunch. Just get in the building. He couldn’t make himself do it. I worked part-time and would get home at 1:15p – 1:30p. He would be laying in the dark in his room just staring at the wall. He wouldn’t be home all day watching tv or playing video games. He wouldn’t come out of his room until his dad left for work at 1:45p.; he works 3p – 11p. Some times when we pushed him to hard to go to school, he wouldn’t eat all day until 9:30p at night. We kept trying to find the right motivation for him to go to school and kept failing. My son learned to drive a skid steer when he was 5 and a pick up truck when he was 7. He couldn’t understand why he couldn’t get his license when he was 8. Driving was all he has ever wanted to do. When he was a few weeks away from turning 15, I told him that we needed to see some kind of effort from him to get up in the morning to try to go to school. Even if he didn’t go to school right away, we needed to see some kind of effort from him. I told him that if we didn’t see even the least bit of effort, we didn’t know if we could let him get his permit when he turned 15. I thought this was my ultimate weapon; this was going to be the ultimate factor to get him to make some kind of effort. He thought about it for all of 3 – 5 seconds and said, “Well, we both know that’s not going to happen.” That was the exact moment that I knew that success in school was not about finding the right motivation for him . I was never going to be able to explain that to his school or anyone at school. However, that’s when I got on his side. It was a very fine line between supporting him and trying to run interference with the school. He had texted me several times, that he would rather die than go to school. He texted the same thing to my adult daughter who has been very close to him. (She has a masters degree in psychology). When my son’t best friend texted me asking if he was ok, he was talking about hurting himself, I knew I had to do something else.
We tried the following:
Seeing a psychologist – this psychologist was a specialist with kids with school issues, my son didn’t make a connection with him, and I couldn’t get him to agree to see another one. The psychologist worked with me to make situations easier to deal with at the time.
We had a MRI done – my son used to bang his head on the floor or the wall when he was upset or angry. I wanted to make sure there hadn’t been any unknown damage done. It came back normal.
We had Brain Wave testing done. There was certainly some areas of his brain that were very slow at time and very fast at other levels. We still haven’t decided to do the treatment. It’s very expensive and my son has to be willing to do it.
We talked to another psychologist/specialist who deals with learning challenges and differences.
We did on-line schooling for a year. It was better than going to the brick and mortar, for sure. We started that about 2 months into 10th grade because we got served papers by the school to go to court for truancy. He wouldn’t go to school at the beginning of the school year and this was the only re-course they had apparently.
We have not been going to court since October 2018 and it’s still not over. Last October, the court agreed to let him get his GED so he could learn just what he needs to pass the GED. The magistrate told him that it’s now up to him to decide when he wants to get it done. He still isn’t spending any time on it, but the court-appointed Guardian-ad-Litem keeps wanting an update. My battle in that whole situation isn’t over.
However, about 4-5 weeks after he started the online schooling, I heard him laugh. I thought to myself, he has a funny little laugh. I kept thinking about it and wondered why it sounded so strange, and it occurred to me that I hadn’t heard him laugh in over a year and a half!
Here is what I’ve decided –
Some kids are not cut out for school, our school system is not right for all kids, and unfortunately, schools lack the funding and the general motivation to make fundamental changes. Our kids are growing up in a completely different culture than ANY generation before them. The internet, gives them a world view that no one had before at their age and no way to help them deal with it. Kids are dealing with adult topics and not knowing the first thing about it, or adults aren’t letting them do things that we didn’t do when we were that age. Nothing illegal, obviously, but my son is a great driver. He passed his drivers’ ed classes with flying colors. His first (road) instructor said that is all kids were as good as he was, they wouldn’t have to have a drivers’ ed school. She had to find things to challenge him on his driving test.
I think it’s one of God’s cruel jokes that the last part of a kids brain to develop is common sense, logic and reasoning. This doesn’t usually happen till the age of 21, and in boys can be as late as 24. I’m still not laughing…
One good book I read was Boys Adrift by Leonard Sax, MD, PhD
I don’t know if he will get his GED. I don’t like to think that he won’t, but he’s going to make his own way, and he’s going to be okay.
I hear constantly about “famous people” who had dyslexia or struggled in school and hated school and their are quite successful, including
Richard Branson. …
Tom Cruise. …
Leonardo da Vinci. …
Walt Disney. …
Jim Carrey. …
Albert Einstein – enough said!
Another important thing that happened was he started taking melatonin. He could tell right away that he could get a better night’s sleep. I found a formula that was 2 layers. The first layer helped him get to sleep and the other layer helped him stay asleep. Before melatonin, mornings were horrible. He would just growl at us when we were trying to wake him up for school. Turns out he wasn’t able to get to sleep till about 3am and we were trying to wake him up out of a deep sleep for school. He couldn’t even form a sentence and all he could say was NO! Melatonin made a huge difference.
The most interesting thing that I’ve found recently is a study out of the U.K. that said “School Refusers” (that’s a real term) have often suffered a traumatic event that caused them to feel unsafe, insecure, etc., and when left untreated can be considered PTSD. My son’s event was that teacher in 9th grade 2 1/2 years ago. It destroyed him. His best friend was in the exact same class, with the exact same classes in middle school with the exact same teacher, and the statement that new teacher made didn’t affect him at all. I don’t know why it happened, but it did and I’m just dealing with it. Some times it’s one day at a time, some times an hour at a time because any time that nasty word (school) comes up he retreats, won’t talk to me and we all get the flashbacks, just like PTSD.
My son is much happier now. He works on trucks and cars, helps out friends all the time, works for our (elderly) neighbors and helps with afternoon chores at a no-kill animal shelter – feeding horses, cleaning stalls, and much more. He has a girlfriend and works part-time with her dad with construction and snow removal. I don’t know where we’ll end up in court, but I believe that some day some one will influence him to finish his GED.
If it’s possible, find out what they love to do and find a way to let them do it. This could take some time because they’ve spent so much time and energy fighting against what make them unhappy that they don’t know what they love to do.
The one thing I have always told him is that no matter what – I love him. I also told him that I’m not going to give up on his dream – he wants to be a diesel mechanic and a welder. Even when he told me that he wanted to give up on his dream, I haven’t; I’m just not shoving it down his throat. He’s just not the same as other kids. It doesn’t mean he’s not as good as other kids, but he is better in other ways. I support him in any way I can. I’ve been way outside my comfort zone many time during this journey, but I keep putting one step in from of the other and I’m still standing.
I hope this helps some of you to see it from another perspective entirely.
You said so much of what I wanted to point out. In the entire article above there is no mention of the possibility of learning disabilities. My kiddo is 13 and just drew me the most heartbreaking picture of what school feels like to them… crushing, dark, attacking, joyless.
The same kid who spends ten hours learning their first computer animation–motivation is not the problem.
We are doing our best for our extraordinary kids in a system that is geared for the most ordinary.
Wow, you gave me so much to think about. My son is 15 and refusing to go to school. Unfortunately, he had a traumatic event happen to him when he was in 1st grade. I know he has struggled with school for years but until this year, he went to school. Then covid hit and school went online. He has spent the last months refusing to do anything. I’ve had no help from the school, teachers, and psychologist. I think I need to come up with a new plan thanks to reading your letter. Thanks for sharing your story.
First of all thank you for your words of wisdom. In a desperate moment I started browsing the internet for a miracle answer to all my questions .
I wish I could put in writing all my feelings . Basically I am not desperate parent searching for a solution to my son’s lack of desire to attend school and do all his assignments.
He is now 15 years old. He seems to be a normal kid in terms of learning ability however there is something that makes him different from most a/b students. My son goes to school simply because he knows he does not have a choice but he totally ignores his assignments without any fear of consequences from the teachers . He has been struggling since elementary school. Back then when he was a little boy I offered my assistance in class to the teachers just to keep an eye on him. At 15 years old in high school the same approach will not happen.
He would he mortified if were to show up in class.
This weekend the school principal asked to talk to us ( unfortunately I am divorced from his father ).
Of course I blame myself and question how much my broken relationship with the father has damaged my son.
As a child of divorced parents it must be very difficult to adapt to two completely different household rules and ideas. Bottom line i am the structure and strict parent . My son’s father ( my son adores his father) is the laid back guy without any rules- messy home and free phone and video games !
I tell the school technology has been the major negative contributing factor- my son would stay on the phone watching utube videos all day if he could .
Obviously my son has no desire in school. He says he loves to draw but he hates when his art teachers make him draw what they want him to draw.
Just like any other parent I want my child to be happy doing whatever makes him happy. Sometimes I feel like society forces all children to go through the school system – not all children are the same. It must be hard for a child to be forced to attend school the same way an adult has to get up evey morning to go to work and do a job they hate.
My son is a respectful kid according to all the teachers but they all mention the same thing ” he is a respectful student but it seems that he out there in his own bubble the entire class”
I know some of these comments werw from 2020 which was a very difficult and stressful time . I wonder now how your son is doing two years later.
I will read the book mentioned ” Boys” and I also will look for a doctor to do a total check up . Maybe an MRI will show if there is any abnormalities with his brain/ learning abilities.
Life is a huge challenge – as a female professional in a make dominated world i have introduced my son to a very wealthy and prestigious career .
Of course my dream may not be his dream .
At this point I am searching for help trying to figure out how to help him without making him miserable by forcing his to wake up every morning to do something he hates.
I pray I pray and I pray.
Thank you all for your comments. It makes me feel a little better to know I am not alone in this journey .
April Roberts says
I have a beautiful 13 year old daughter that has so many signs of depression,anxiety,anger issues,isolation,anxiety, has trouble learning ,hates school, and I recently found out she cut herself for the first time. I have found help here in our town as of yesterday I pray to our Lord they can help I’ve tried and have done all I know how and keep looking for more ways before it’s to late. I’ve never felt so helpless but feeling hopeful.
Hi I’m a 13 yr old boy and I have an 11 yr old brother with pda (a type of autism thing, it stands for pathoalogical demand avoidance) and he hates school and hates my little sister who is 6 yrs old. We find that having a dog helps a lot.
Very useful commentary. I guess I should just give my son a break and not nag him. But it’s hard when he’s in detention every day and doesn’t do his homework.
The only thing that irked me a bit is “If your teen is exhibiting several of these symptoms, seek help right away.”. I have sought help and there is very little available. We have even paid a small fortune for a private pyschologist assessment which concluded that my teen has ADHD but it hasn’t really changed anything because now we’re waiting for the NHS/CAHMS (UK medical services) to take the next steps, i.e. to figure out whether medication would be of benefit, and prescribing it if so… and it seems to take literally years for them to do anything.
I agree. “Seek help right away” is useless. Down here in Melbourne AU we have a mental health crisis thanks to all the COVID fear and lockdowns and many counsellors and psychologists aren’t even taking waiting lists they are so overloaded. Having watched my family head down the path of pharmaceutical drugs for my brother’s depression and anxiety I would beg anybody to try a therapeutic approach before putting their child on medication. My brother finally met the right person who got him involved in daily exercise, being in the outdoors and taking mental health vitamins and organic food and it has literally changed his life. There is a guy called Jacques Duff in Melbourne who you can read about. He treats ADHD through diet and hormone balancing. He’s amazing. All the best to you and your family – I really do understand
My son is now 15 and has hated school since he was 7. I can’t put words to what it’s like trying to support and encourage a child with processing delays, low self esteem and a socially-resistant personality type. Add 2 years of ‘COVID’ hell to the problem and I am now living a daily hell of trying to get him out of bed. He has been “abandoned” by his friends who have moved on during COVID while he was avoiding school in between lockdowns and now I just have a drop out. I am paying AU$40k pa for a private school he hates and doesn’t want to attend but he won’t open his mind to alternative situations either. As a parent it feels like a dead end at every turn when you are dealing with mainstream education. I have lost all trust in the ‘system’ and don’t trust the school counsellor as she ambushed me in a meeting by bringing in other teachers who took notes. My son has no behavioural problems but lots of mental blocks and anxiety. I am so lost. My older child never experienced anything like this and I am a sole parent with nowhere to turn. I’ve tried everything from sports, road trips, art projects, coding camps – you name it, I’ve done it. This child is like a rock who I’m trying to get something out of. I’ve been positive and supportive 9 years but I’m just about ready to collapse with him. None of the teachers care, nobody seems to ‘care’. It’s just a despairing situation with few options living in a backward country like Melbourne Australia
wow, 15 seems to be the common age for this. Mine is 14 going on 15 in december
My daughters a good girl, always been very smart, well behaved etc. but she’s having anxiety . This pandemic surely didn’t help.
At first I played the good guy, i’ve been nothing but understanding for about 2 weeks as i know anxiety runs in my family. But I’ve tried so many things, i’ve switched to the school she originally wanted to go to…that never worked out so i tried to get her into a school where a bigger crowd of her friends go, but they are full so powerless there.
So I asked the vice principal if they can switch her back to online learning (even though it is offered as mandatory by the school board and when we first went in he gave us the option, funny ), but nope he says my reason wasn’t good enough its only for kids suscepticle to covid — i know she wouldn’t have a huge problem with that, atleast she’d be getting her credits. She didn’t want to do online learning because “none of her friends are anymore” (like if they jumped off a cliff would she ?) but atleast she would be getting her credits !
I’ve also never cared how well she does in her grades as long as she passes, she is the one who gets down on herself if her grades aren’t 70s,80s,90,100s. I always say who cares?you passed, i had a hard time in school too. Nobody likes it.
So not i am calling everywhere, the school board,her old school to try to figure something out. Shes a good girl i hate to see her potential go to waste. Anyway i got fraustrated and decided to play the bad guy which i assume hasnt helped. Not sure what else to do at this point. Hoping the school board will help when they get back to me