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My son hates school

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My son hates school


My 14 year old son (year 9) hates school and I’m not sure how to help him. He’s never really thrived in the school system, I think he is just one of those kids who it simply doesn’t suit.

His teachers think he’s lazy, because he is actually very clever and capable, so when he underachieves he is told he didn’t put in enough effort. The truth is that he’s disengaged; he doesn’t see the relevance of school and he struggles to focus at all. He gets in trouble all the time for not focusing, not doing his homework, not wearing his uniform correctly, talking to his friends… never major things, he’s not in the challenging behaviours category or anything, just constant small things that wear him down. He hates being made to wear a uniform and conform to so many rules, and he is bored out of his mind in class all the time. He feels like it’s a waste of time and he hates the fact that it takes up so much of his life; it causes him so much stress, but when he’s home he doesn’t want to think about it so he doesn’t ask for my help and I don’t know he needed it until he fails an assessment.

He is far from lazy. He’s a gifted pianist and that’s what he wants to do with his life. He practices every day and plays at university level; he also learns advanced theory. He’s taken lessons since he was 5 and worked consistently at it ever since. So he does learn effectively when it’s something he cares about, and he does work hard. But he can’t see why he needs to learn all these non-music things at school when he already knows he wants to be a musician. He intends to audition for a European Conservatorium and study there. My husband and I support him in that 100%.

I have explained that to do that he needs to finish school, and he understands that, but he’s so miserable at the thought of 3 more years. I am at a loss in how to get him through. He is not bullied, he has a great group of friends and is otherwise happy. I know he’s capable of doing well but I also know that putting more pressure on him will make things worse and that’s not what I want. He doesn’t need straight A’s and that’s not what we expect. I just want to get him through so he can go on and do what he wants to do.

Re: My son hates school

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Hi, thank you for sharing what has been going on for you and your son lately. I am sorry to hear that you are feeling at loss with how to get your son through his schooling. It sounds like it has been a difficult time for both you and for your son. Something that struck me when reading your post was what supportive parents you and your partner have been for your son. It is evident that you care a tremendous amount about his well-being and future, and you have the utmost belief in him and his capabilities. 

I was wondering whether the school has offered any support around your son's struggles with school? I am also curious to know whether there is any specific support at his school for students who are looking to pursue music? 

You mentioned that your son has never really thrived in the school system. I can definitely understand your son’s struggles with conventional schooling, it can be really tough for children that have other ideas for education and career pathways. ReachOut has put together a video clip for parents that talks about when school just isn’t working for children, which I thought might interest you.  

While it sounds like you have thought of many possible avenues, I thought it might be helpful to share the resources we have on our website on school refusal and things to try when there are problems with school. I wonder if any of these might give you some ideas? 

Thank you again for sharing what has been going on for you and your son, it takes courage to reach out. We are here for you Smiley Happy

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Re: My son hates school

Thank you Hannah for your kind and empathetic response.

It is difficult to see him so miserable. At the same time I am trying to help him understand his own role in this - his attitude towards school is pretty bad. Whilst there are factors that aren’t his fault and I feel sorry for him in that, I can also see that his attitude is holding him back. He got in trouble this week because he refused to attend a lunchtime detention he got for something minor and it ended up escalating because he was being defiant and argumentative about it. I have taken a harder stance with that because I won’t tolerate him being disrespectful. Ultimately it’s led to me telling him he’s in the wrong, his attitude sucks and he needs to take some responsibility for his own outcomes. And it led to an after school detention that I made him attend.

His school is big on pastoral care and I’m sure he would find them very supportive, but unfortunately he is his own barrier. He tends to put it all under the ‘authority’ umbrella, and doesn’t respond positively to school-based support. I’m trying to make him realise that he’s only hurting himself by doing that; people are there to help him, for him, not for themselves. I think he’s reached that (very familiar if I’m honest) teenage phase where he thinks everyone in a position of authority just lives to ruin his life.

It doesn’t really help that his brother, who is one year older, is a model student - top academic performer in his year, scholarship holder and all round star pupil. They have a lot of the same teachers and the feedback they give about the kids is obviously very different. I’m sure that has an impact, although we have never compared the two or expected the same things of them academically; they both have their strengths and get to shine in their own ways. They have a great relationship with each other, they both support each other’s achievements and there is no negativity whatsoever between them about this. The younger one doesn’t express any resentment or anything like that, I just wonder sometimes if he doesn’t try to impress his teachers because he doesn’t think he’ll measure up to the very high standard his brother has set.

With regards to music support, there is a program at his school which he engages with. It’s fairly new (the school is less than 10 years old) and not super well established, but we have found the music staff to be very supportive in helping to find opportunities for him in music at school.

Thanks again for your support, and I will certainly check out the links in your response.