Why Do Kids Hate School and How You Can Help Them Get Motivated

“Why do kids hate school?” is a question we hear a lot.

If you get it, too, don’t worry. It’s perfectly normal if your students don’t love every minute of going to school.

Thankfully, there are a number of easily explainable causes and ways you can work with your kiddos’ parents to not only address the issue but turn those frowns upside down and get your little learners excited for the classroom.

At ChildCare Education Institute, we’ve spent over two decades helping teachers like you become the best versions of themselves. As a result, we’ve answered the question: “Why do kids hate school?” a number of times over the years.

Below, you’ll find some of the most common reasons why kids hate school and solutions for what to do when your kid hates school.

Waking up in time to make it out the door in the morning:

Let’s be honest, you probably find it difficult to wake up and get going some days (especially when you haven’t had your morning cup of Joe).

Your students are no different.

If you (or your students’ parents and caregivers) ask, “why do kids hate school?” this might be the simplest explanation.

There are any number of reasons a child might not like waking up early. However, the most common is usually because they aren’t getting enough rest at night. Another reason could be their morning routine at home. Regardless, this is one of the top reasons why kids hate school.

What to do when your kid hates school because they don’t want to wake up on time: 

As a teacher, the main thing you can do is to help parents and caregivers understand how they can help their kids with this and motivate them, so they’re up and at ‘em, out the door, and to the classroom on time.

The most important thing is ensuring a child is getting proper rest. In order to accomplish this, it’s good to remind parents that getting children to bed at a reasonable hour (along with consistent bedtimes) will help.

You may also coach parents on how they wake up their child in the morning. Light is important since your body’s circadian rhythm responds to it. Studies show that when light is incorporated, people find it easier to get out of bed. You might also recommend parents use a happy wake-up song to get their children moving in the morning.

Third, while we’re on the topic of morning rituals, there are a handful of other things you can recommend to parents to make routines easier on everyone. These can include choosing their child’s outfit the night before, prepping their snacks and lunch ahead of time, and ensuring there’s ample time in the morning for your family’s routine.

There are also a number of things you can do on your end, such as greeting each student with a smile and excitement as they enter the classroom. After all, attitude is contagious, so when you make arrival fun, it helps create a positive attitude for your little learners, and they’ll be excited to wake up and get to the classroom for the day’s activities.

There are several wonderful online resources to inspire you for setting the right morning mood in your classroom. We especially love this list from Primary Delight.

Being away from their parents/caregiver:

We’ve all been there. A seemingly happy and exuberant child melts into a puddle of tears when their parent turns to leave dropoff.

If you’re wondering why do kids hate school, look no further than they don’t like being away from their parents or caregiver.

In many cases, these tantrum-filled goodbyes are perfectly normal, and even the most well-adjusted child is bound to have an outburst here or there. However, for children who suffer from more severe separation anxiety, it’s a prime driver for why kids hate school.

What to do when your kid hates school because they don’t like being away from their parents or caregiver:

Regardless of how long separation anxiety lasts (in some cases, depending on the child, separation anxiety can last through the elementary school years), there are a few ways to help.

You can recommend parents work on being apart from their children. For example, suggest they practice time away by leaving their child with a babysitter or caregiver for longer and longer periods of time. We also suggest remaining calm during the goodbye ritual and making sure parents reassure their children they’ll be back.

It’s also important to remember while you see meltdowns on a regular basis, this is likely new for first-time parents, so it’s good to reassure them that this is perfectly normal and that it’s only a phase.

Being told what to do

This probably comes as no surprise, but another reason why kids hate school is because they simply don’t like being told what to do all day long (even though structure is so important for them – more on that below).

After all, who likes being told what to do? We don’t, and chances are you don’t either. And we all know toddlers don’t, which is another reason why kids hate school.

As children develop, they want to experience autonomy and independence – this gives them a sense of mastery of their bodies and environment. It’s important to help them understand the world around them, begin learning how to express themselves, and help boost their self-esteem.

So, when they feel their autonomy is under attack, they’re going to rebel.

What to do when your kid hates school because they don’t like being told what to do:

Luckily, you can combat this issue with a number of tactics, including giving them opportunities to make choices. For example, let them choose which book to read during storytime. Or, give them free play where they’re allowed to choose whichever toy they want. When you give them choices versus telling them what to do, they get to explore their independence.

You can also give them responsibilities. For example, have them help you with simple classroom tasks. This will give them a sense of independence, and accomplishment and is also a great way to channel all their energy.

Not enough structure 

Toddlers crave routines and structure because it creates an environment of predictability. At this young age, kids need this to feel safe and better understand how to master the world around them. Structure also helps students better understand boundaries.

When structure is absent, your students will feel anxious, which is another common reason why kids hate school.

What to do when your kid hates school because there’s not enough structure

There are a number of ways to create structure in the classroom, and below are our top three.

Consider the physical layout of your room. You want to maximize your teacher-student interaction, minimize disruptions and make transitions as efficient as possible.

Make sure you set expectations and stick to them. Once you’ve got your list of classroom rules, make sure you review each rule one-by-one with your students, so everyone understands them, and don’t be afraid to revisit them every day throughout the day.

Ensure you set a daily schedule and stick to it. When you implement a consistent schedule, your kiddos know what to expect and when which eliminates a lot of uncertainty and helps you eliminate disruptions, and keeps everyone happy and learning.

Struggling with the lessons

It’s no secret we’re all drawn to the things we’re good at, and we tend to shy away from the things we have trouble mastering. And the same goes for toddlers.

In most cases, adults can simply choose to pursue other interests, but toddlers don’t have the same luxury. After all, at this stage in their lives, there are a number of developmental milestones, including gross motor, fine motor, sensory, language, and social skills, they need to master to reach their full potential.

If you’re asking yourself why do kids hate school, this is probably the most likely reason, but also one of the most complex ones to address.

What to do when your kid hates school because they struggle with learning: 

It’s important to identify the potential reasons a child is struggling. Is it because they simply aren’t progressing at the same rate as their classmates, or is there something more serious going on, like a developmental delay?

Regardless, if you believe this is the reason a child hates school, it’s important to act quickly and develop a course of action that includes the parents or caregiver.

At CCEI, we offer a number of relevant courses to help you address this issue and further answer the question of “why do kids hate school?” including Assessing Young Children (parts one, two, and three), Brain Development and Learning: What Every Early Care and Education Professional Should Know and more.

If you’re interested in learning more about these offerings, as well as our entire catalog of 150+ courses, visit our catalog today to learn why we’re the number one provider of professional learning for teachers just like you.