Nancy Dyer, 9, of Longview, TX, came home from fourth grade one day and, out of the blue, announced, "I hate school!" Her mom, Michelle, was taken aback. "Nancy had always enjoyed school, so we were all confused by her change of heart," she says.
Why the sudden hatred? "Once a child gets to third or fourth grade, school becomes a lot more academic," says Cynthia Tobias, author of I Hate School: How to Help Your Child Love Learning. Tests become the key measure of what kids have learned, and the focus often changes to what they can't do well. Combine this with growing social pressure, and it's not surprising your child is less than thrilled about her classes. To make school more appealing:
Pinpoint the problem. Get your child to identify exactly what frustrates her -- this may take a series of conversations -- and brainstorm solutions together. She can't keep up with all the notes? Arrange for an after-school study buddy. She loses focus before lunchtime? Give her a larger, higher-protein breakfast (it'll keep her full longer). She feels unpopular? Let her invite some friends over after school to hang out.
Get her teacher involved. Share your child's issues, but don't put all the burden on her. "Start the conversation with 'What can I do'?'" says Tobias.
Be honest. It's okay to acknowledge that some subjects may always be boring or difficult. "You need to convey that she may not love every class, but school's still important," says Tobias. Which is exactly how Dyer approached it. "Nancy's dream is to be a pediatrician, so I explained that she can't achieve it without getting through school. It's been smooth sailing ever since."