Improve Children’s Attitude Toward School

Many parents lament that their children’s attitude about school is that they only want to get by with the minimum. Even if the youth does the assigned homework, they often forget to turn it in. Their teachers often report that these are intelligent children, yet they are not doing well in their studies. Does this sound familiar? What’s a parent to do?

When I talk to these parents, I often point out that the problem lies in the fact that the adult is trying to control the youngster. By them not doing what the adults tell them, the youth are exercising control and power. Realize that they won’t change if the parents keep telling them what to do, no matter how much discipline they impose on the youth.

William Glasser, M.D., author of the book Unhappy Teenagers: A Way for Parents and Teachers to Reach Them, shares a dialog:

“What do most people do when you try to control them?”

“They resist.”

“What happens to the relationship between them and the people they are trying to control?”

“It harms it.”

“It’s like a contest. Teenagers do it with parents all the time.” (pp. 106-107)

The children may do the homework to get away from coercive nagging and avoid discipline, but since the homework is not their “quality world,” they forget to bring it to school. Therefore, develop a procedure, such as placing a clipboard by the door. Have the children complete a checklist of what they need for school and place it on the clipboard. No more reminding.

A child’s intelligence may have nothing to do with the “verbal-linguistic” and “logical-mathematical” abilities that most schooling rely on for grades. Schools generally test for information and knowledge. They rarely assess comprehension (meanings), application (using what has been learned), analysis (breaking down material so that organizational structure is understood), synthesis (putting parts together – creativeness), or evaluation (judgment).

Assuming that you have checked the child’s hearing and vision and they are normal, encourage the youth to become aware of inattentiveness in class. Have children keep a record for each class by dating a paper and making a mark each time their attention wanders during class time. Keeping a record will help them become aware and focus better. The more attention they pay and the more they participate in lessons, the more motivated they will become.

Jim Cathcart wrote a book entitled The Acorn Principle, wherein he argues that an acorn is capable of becoming a mighty oak, but it will never become a giant redwood—no matter how much you push it. His point is to discover your child’s nature and then nurture that nature.

Discover what your children enjoy or believe they are good at. Nurture that interest. As you talk, increase your listening and decrease your telling of what YOU want. Your relations with your children will dramatically improve.

Once your children FEEL and BELIEVE that you are more interested in them as people instead of their grades or success in school, you will be amazed at how much academic success they will achieve and how much less discipline is needed.