Child Hates Preschool

Parent Q&A

  • Smart 5yo hates her French preschool

    (6 replies)

    My 5 yo daughter is a very smart and curious kid who has recently started resenting school. It breakes my heart to see her cry so genuinly about not wanting to go to school as I know she is a very bright and smart child. She says she just doesn't like having teachers tell her what to do and that she would enjoy school if "there just weren't any teachers"! She goes to a french pre-school that follows the standard french public preschool curriculum with math, writing, reading, arts and crafts, drama, story time and some free play. And despite her complaints she is actually one of the "top" students in her class with teachers always raving about how fast she picks up new things and how well she listens and follows instructions etc. At this point she is perfectly bilingual in french and english and even speaks a third language at home. At school, when told what to do she actually listens but then comes home crying about it and saying how much she dislikes it. Teachers say she does great but she has started to really resent the structure and having to follow directions. She says she is tired of lessons and just wants to "play with no teachers !" The teachers are all very nice and very supportive but of course they have a set curriculum that they follow and that can't really be changed. So I have been looking at alternatives like Waldorf and Montessori etc. Any experience with these type of schools? What would you recommend for a smart kid who actually really loves learning but hates having structure/ teachers !!?

    I'd recommend Montessori, it is more child-driven within boundaries; they learn while playing/working on life skills.

    FYI, here's a great article on "smart" kids:

    Please listen to your child and move her from this restrictive environment that is making her miserable. She will thrive in a more child centered school such as Walden, Family Montessori, or similar. Public school is also a great option! She will continue to learn and grow, and she'll be able to pursue what she's interested in. There are so many great schools, and not all of them are the right fit for all kids. 

    We went through almost this exact same experience. In our case it was at Black Pine Circle, a private school in Berkeley, which we still hold in high esteem, but which was, nonetheless... school. No matter how much they said about their ability to differentiate for gifted kids, no matter how strongly they espoused a socratic philosophy, the bottom line is that they had one or two teachers with a classroom full of children, which meant they had to have a structure that worked for as many students as possible, and our kid was an outlier. We tried giving it another year, resulting in the total shutdown of our formerly happy, engaged, bright, beautiful little girl. :-( So whatever solution you have in mind, my advice is: don't wait.

    The good new is that, though it took a year to recover, she did come out of it, and has been a joyous, learning, creative, passionate, friendly child ever since. For us the answer was homeschooling. Fundamentally, school is school, but homeschooling is vastly more flexible. She's groving on a particular project or subject? We can roll with that for beyond the 40-minute bell. Not digging something that she has to get through? We can find another way to tackle the subject, or wait until she's more receptive (and then can get through it in a snap). And before you ask, socialization has been absolutely not a problem. In fact, because of the efficiency of homeschooling, she doesn't have 'homework,' and hence is able to spend ample time with her pals -- most of whom she knows through activities of common interest, rather than because they happen to be the same age and stuck behind desks in the same room.

    We have had good luck with Hickman Charter Annex, an Alameda County "public school" for homeschoolers, mostly for the community, but also for the academic support. But there are plenty of options out there. Feel free to contact me if you have questions, and good luck!

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Questions Related Pages

Pre-K going horribly for almost 5 year old boy

Oct 2010

Our almost 5 year old is HATING pre-k. He is getting in a lot of trouble for being too wild and silly and then, when he gets in trouble, doing horribly with his anger (Shouting, some hitting/biting,etc). Now some of the behavior is bleeding into home-life. Thisweekend he was so intense and mad and saying ''you stupid Mommy'' and lots of mean stuff.

Nothing is going on at home that is bad... this has all started since he started school.

From my perspective, having sat in on class for about 8 hours on different days, is that the teachers don't engage the boys enough. They are getting SO wild and silly. I feel like the teachers are too interested in having them sit there and not do the things little boys want/need to do. I do know that he has to learn to sit still and be in class at some point, but that seems like a lot to ask of a bunch of 4/5 year olds to sit in Spanish and learn words.

We gave the teachers VERY specific instructions about our son. He needs lots of positive reinforcement and quick action before he gets himself in too much trouble with these boys. They seem to not be able/willing to do that. When I have sat in, I have seen so many lost opportunities to praise him and bond with him. He HATES school and just keeps saying that his school is ''not a place for me''. Any thoughts? rafi

Dear Rafi, I feel your and your son's pain. We just went through a similar situation with our son's kindergarten and are in the process of transferring him to a more boy-friendly, developmentally focused program. What you've described sounds like a bad fit for your family, and I strongly suggest searching for a pre-K that really understands and supports boys' developmental needs. You might try The Model School or Rockridge Little School...

Good luck! Boys aren't ''bad''--just energetic!

Hi, I have a boy of the same age and recently changed his preschool from a home daycare and somewhat more academic based, to a ''center'' type preschool where there was a lot more outside activity with a lot more room to run. My son had always been quite well behaved (never pushing or destructive)but when he reached 4 years old he seemed to need a lot more room to run and yell and be a boy, so to speak and his behavior went from being compliant and passive to mischevious and at times quite rambunctious, at school anyhow. So although we'd been happy with his daycare for over 3 years (he'd learned to read here and so much more), we realized that he'd outgrown it and that there was nothing wrong with our child's behavior, which I was really surprised and even hurt that the teacher who knew him for so long was trying to imply.He is thriving in his new placement, no behavior problems reported. They do classroom type work in the morning but have outside time before and after to ''get the wiggles out''. I guess what I'm trying to convey here is that it seems like the school may not be a good fit, even if you like the teachers and they seem to be trying everything. Feel free to email me back if you want to chat about the mysteries of 4 year old boys,LOL! biy

I think you should listen to your son. This school is not for him. He is telling you in every way he can. Lots of things stand out for me in what you have written. For one thing, 4/5 year olds should not be getting in trouble for being wild and silly. They should be given some time and space for acting wild at silly and redirected when necessary. Children this age should get in 'trouble' for aggressive behavior or disregarding safety rules but not for normal/ age appropriate behavior.

If the hitting, kicking and biting just started with the change in school setting I would guess that is the biggest problem and focus on finding his a better fit. If the aggression problems pre-date this school there may be other work to do as well. Feel free to get in touch if you would like more assistance in sorting this out. KF

Just wanted to put in a good word for Berkeley Hills Nursery School . I know from personal experience that this school works with children and families to meet the needs of each child. There are current openings in the 4-5 year old room. The program in play based and very aware of the energy that 4-5 year old boys (and girls!) have. The teachers' approach to the children is very hands on and they quite successfully engage the children in play, allow for creative exploration, and redirect behavior in a loving, yet firm manner. Check it might be perfect for your son! Happy BHNS Parent

I didn't see your original post, but I have a very active boy who's now in first grade. When he was in pre-K, we were at the Child Education Center in Berkeley and it was so great because one of the two preK teachers is a man who totally understands boy energy. (The other teacher is a woman with an active son my son's age who understands boys, too.) There was a group of active boys in with my son and their teacher was so great with them, and there is lots of room to run around outside. My daughter is two and is at that school now so I know these preK teachers are still there. You may want to try them out: Andi


3.5-year-old now hates preschool after a year of happy

Sept 2003


My 3.5 yr. old daughter has been happily attending preschool (Chatham) for about a year. She is smart, outgoing and friendly. About a month ago, we switched her schedule from 3 half-days to one half day and two full days.

Shortly after this switch, she has become very reluctant, and mostly refuses, to go to school at all. She cries every time we drop her off, and a couple of times this crying has persisted throughout the entire day.

The teachers are great; they hold her, comfort her, etc. But it has gotten to the point where if we even mention the word ''school'' she freaks out. She starts crying and chanting ''I don't want to go to school. Don't make me go to school''. Her sobs soon become uncontrollable fits (and this is just in the morning before we even get in the car!). I have spoken to the director of the school, who said she is just going through something and it will pass. In the meantime, I am at a loss of how to handle her when she gets this way. I tried to reason with her, ask her specifically what she doesn't like about school, but with no success.

My husband and I suspect the the 2 long days are just too much for her, plus there is a new teacher and many new kids. Maybe she just feels out of her element b/c of all these changes.

We have decided to change her schedule to 5 half-days per week, due to my husband's work hours (he works pt from home) and are hoping this will make things better. In the meantime, does anyone have advice on what we can do to make our daughter feel better about school, and get her to want to go again? I feel so bad for her, especially when she says things like ''Mommy, I don't want to cry at school, but I can't stop.'' On the other hand, we can't let her think its ok to throw fits every morning, so have had to give her time outs, which I feel bad for and end up driving to work in tears. Its just a very difficult situation.

Thanks in advance for your advice. worried mamma

This is a tough situation because you know your daughter liked the school before. I would ask your daughter first if she feels like things have changed at school. Maybe there is a new child that makes her very uncomfortable and the teachers just can't detect it. Crazy as it seems, I remember still the boy that made me feel afraid in ''nursery'' school - and that was 33 years ago! It sounds to me like more than just the new schedule. Follow your instincts if your daughter cannot articulate her fears. Maybe they will lead you to a different pre-school. Best of luck to you. I am sympathetic to your concerns. Anon.

I suggest you take a day and spend it with your child at preschool -- there may be some reason that is hard to see in discussion with the teachers that your child hates preschool -- conflict with another child, or some part of the day that isn't working for your child, or a less than sensitive adult. You might also consider skipping the time-outs and just making your daughter do what you need her to do -- i.e. dressing her yourself or carrying her to the car and buckling her in. It will convey the message that she needs to do what she's asked to do with natural consequences rather than punishment; and will also save time. After all, she is already fussy and miserable, and the goal is to train them to behave, not to hide their unhappiness. This part does get better as they get older -- by 5 or so they can get ready for something even if they don't want to do it. veteran of some rough mornings