6 year old hates school

Our child is a kindergartner at a well rated OUSD elementary school. 

It is an exhausting battle to get her to go to school almost every morning. She says school is boring, she doesn’t have friends, etc. she tries to fake illness sometimes and lobbies really hard to be tardy. As a result, we were tardy 40 days in a semester. On some days, we literally strong arm her to put her in the car.

The teacher says she is doing well at school. She is one of the older kids in class and is mature. Her academics are at grade level. She has had a bit of trouble finding good friends in class because most kids are so much younger than she is and there was a mean girl. We are working with the school about the bully. When we pick her up, we often see her happily playing with friends. The teacher has also moved her seating arrangement so she can sit with kids that are at a similar maturity level.

I wonder if the school work is too easy or the school is too much crowd control and not much on fostering the love of learning.

we both work full time, so we have to send her to after school and have a babysitter pick her up at 6 pm until we can get back home from SF by 7 pm. 

8:30-6 is a heck of a long day for 6 year olds... we get it but many other kids are on the same schedule and our friends don’t report that their kids protest school as much as our kid.

We make just enough not to qualify for any financial aid so private school is not possible for us. 

We moved here for the neighborhood school.

We don’t know what to do. Kid needs to go to school and after school so that we can work.we need both incomes to make a living in Oakland and job change is not possible.(We took out a 401k loan to buy a house so we are locked into our jobs.)

When we hear other people saying their kid loves school, we are puzzled. How do we get our kid to like school? 

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RE: 6 year old hates school ()

I think she needs more downtime at home. My kids liked/loved their OUSD elementary school, but no way, no how did they want to do after care, even with their friends, because they wanted and needed downtime at home, even if they couldn't articulate it very well. We were able to have a babysitter pick them up and bring them home. Some kids do fine with a long day at school and some do not. If she were at school for 6 hours instead of nearly 10 I think she would protest a lot less. My 5th grader's only complaint about school is that she has to wake up early. Otherwise she loves it, but still, no way, no how does she want to be in after care.

RE: 6 year old hates school ()

My son was similar at that age. Several times the principal called me to pick him up from school, as he would crawl under the classroom table and refuse to come out. Most of his issues stemmed from anxiety and the chaos created by the lack of control that the teacher had over the class. What worked for us was taking him out of the after-care program which was also very chaotic. As you said, 8:30-6 is a very long day for a 6-year-old, or even for an adult! Can you arrange to have a sitter pick her up right after school and watch her at home? If she has more downtime, she might make it through the school day more easily. Also, if her resistance stems from boredom, perhaps the teacher can give her different work/activities that are of high interest to her? It may also help her to have one close friend, although I do notice at that age that friendships seem to come and go quickly and few have truly close friendships. But if there isn't anyone in her class who she bonds with, maybe there is an opportunity during recess for her to meet kids from the other K classes? At my son's school, one of the K teachers started a social skills club where certain kids (such as my son) who had challenges in making friends all came together once per week. Another option is a buddy bench where children who don't have anything to do or anyone to play with at recess can sit on the bench and be joined by others who are seeking friendships. 

RE: 6 year old hates school ()

You might want to get your child tested to see if she's gifted. The work just might be too easy and maybe she is just incredibly bored. UC Berkeley Dept of Psy offers reduced fee IQ testing (and for different issues) 


RE: 6 year old hates school ()

If the situation is what it is and won't be changed, then I would suggest you stop trying to get her to like school and instead sit and listen and empathize with her. Reflect back what you hear her say: "you don't like school." "it feels like you don't have friends" "You wish you could stay home with us today. That would be nice" You could add your own thoughts and feelings "I wish you didn't have to do such a long day. It must be tiring for you. I bet some days it feels overwhelming for you." Usually when I move from trying to change my kid's mind to just being a listening partner for him I see his little body melt and the stress go away. They just want to be heard and understood, even if nothing can change. Good luck. It sounds tough. 

RE: 6 year old hates school ()

Maybe she just needs extra sleep? It seems she is doing fine at school and only has behavior problem in the morning. My daughter was like that since she started 1st grade (she is 6 as well), and we try to start her bed time 30 mins earlier. That makes a huge different. 

RE: 6 year old hates school ()

Hi there!  My background is bridge-k teacher, so I have a lot of experience helping kids transition to kindergarten.  Sounds like this school might not be a good fit for your kiddo.  Even though other people’s kids are doing fine, one size definitely does not fit all!  Every kid is different.  I have a friend who was having a very similar situation with their  kindergartener.  Top rated public school, and the super bright kid hated it.  They didn’t want her love of learning to be completely squashed, which was happening.  They ended up changing to Urban Montessori Charter.  She’s doing great now.  As hard as it is, you may want to think of checking out alternatives before your kid really gets a hatred of school ingrained.  

RE: 6 year old hates school ()

I am so sorry your family is having this experience, the jump from preschool to K is a big one! We had a similar struggle that is better now though still really tough now in 1st grade.

Is it financially possible to have your sitter pick her up any earlier, even if some of the days? We found this helpful with our daughter and found that by her getting picked up between 4:30-4:45 it helped some to lessen the length of the day, less meltdowns, etc. we also just let after school and after school be very mellow (quick and simple dinners she likes, maybe even one favorite show, stuff like that). The day is so packed and this really helped us all decompress before bedtime. Or maybe one day per week she comes home right after school, like on a Fridays with a sitter if possible. 

I do hope things improve for all of you! 

RE: 6 year old hates school ()


As a mother, I truly hear your pain and confusion and how difficult it is to make sense of your daughter's experience.  I would like to respond as a social/emotional learning specialist. It sounds as though from an external perspective your daughter is doing well - according to her teacher and what you witness when you pick her up. At the same time, there is clearly something going on for your daughter internally that is preventing her from enjoying school. Have you met with the school counselor? Since the issue lies not so much in external reality (she isn't being bullied, she isn't struggling academically, she isn't socially isolated) I would encourage you to help your daughter explore her inner experience. The ideal scenario would be to find a good child therapist who can do some play therapy and help your daughter process and work through whatever it is that she's experiencing. It's impossible to know but it might be related to her attachment to you both and some sense of insecurity, something that she needs but isn't able to express, perhaps she's very sensitive and the transition from pre-school to K has been challenging - bigger than what she as used to...I am just throwing some possible stressors out there. The bottom line is that meeting her where she is, providing a safe space in which to explore what's going on for her, is probably the most effective way to help her and to gain insight into the situation. I suspect that with some professional support to work through her experience, she will be able to move through this time and settle into her life at school.

RE: 6 year old hates school ()

Just occurred to me one more thing that helped our now first grader—I made an adjustment in my morning routine to get up earlier and I would try to have as much done as possible before my daughter woke up (lunches, get myself ready etc) so that when she was up I could focus on her having more quality time, not a rushed breakfast, etc. It meant about an hour less of sleep for me but I think have us both more quality connected time before the craziness of the day began. It helped lessen the morning struggles and tardiness too. 

RE: 6 year old hates school ()


I'm sorry to hear your daughter is not enjoying school. Public schools are rated by test scores only and test scores are only a reflection of the wealthy, educated parents who send their children to these schools. They are not a reflection of the teaching.

It is my suggestion you do apply to private schools. I wouldn't assume you make just enough to not qualify for FA. You might be presently surprised and find that you do. There are a number of great private schools in Oakland where learning is joyful even beyond Kindergarten! Try Aurora School to start! 

RE: 6 year old hates school ()

The fall birthday made me think... is it possible your daughter would be better off skipping a grade? My (4th grade) daughter's BFF has an October birthday and was apparently miserable until they pulled her out of 1st grade and stuck her in 2nd. She has been happy and thriving ever since. We are also at a highly regarded OUSD school. Something to explore with her teachers and the school admin, maybe...? 

RE: 6 year old hates school ()

That is a long day. My kid goes to preschool right now from 9-5 and even he protests. Every once in awhile I pick him up at 3 or 4 and take him to the library or shake things up, and it seems to make him feel much better about going through the slog of school as a result. 

I wonder if your budget would allow you to pay a babysitter to pick up your kid from school instead of after school care? Or at least to pick her up at 4, so it's not such a long day, maybe after an enrichment activity. 

RE: 6 year old hates school ()

I'm sorry you're going through this. You might consider having your daughter assessed by an independent or the school psychologist.  Both my children (now late teens) went through bouts of similar behavior.  Both are gifted with high levels of anxiety, one has the added complication of ADHD.  Knowing this allowed us to work with their schools as well as independent practitioners to support the underlaying causes of the behaviors.  For one, targeted support for a short time was all that was needed. For the other, it's an ongoing effort.

Kids this age cannot articulate why they are behaving the way they are. It may be helpful to have a professional assessment to better understand what's going on and for recommendations on how to support the underlaying cause and/or address the concerning behaviors.

Compassion and care for yourself as well as your child will go a long way in making a tough time manageable.

RE: 6 year old hates school ()

Hi-sorry you’re dealing with this!! We went through the same thing with our son many years ago. He was also at a great public school but the class was too big (27 kids) and, looking back, I think the classroom structure didn’t work for him. He was well behaved and quiet so he didn’t get a lot of attention. The teacher had to focus on bringing a wide range of kids up to a certain level and she spent a lot of time managing behavior. My son would have done better in a setting more like preschool or a private school kindergarten. The good news is that once he got to first grade, school started to work for him. When he didn’t want to go to school in first grade, 2 things helped. First, I knew he was ok once he got there so it was easier for me to insist. The other thing that helped was a sticker chart with rewards for getting to school on a time. Good luck!! This too shall pass. 

RE: 6 year old hates school ()

Long distance diagnosis here, but you asked for suggestions. You should of course talk with a school counselor and look into having her tested.

My guess is she's under-challenged intellectually and emotionally, and lonely. She plays well with classmates because every child needs friends, but she really needs interaction with children who are developmentally her peers. And she may need a different learning environment--that could be individualized instruction, tutoring, enrichment opportunities like dance or music or sports, children closer to her maturity level, or something else.

I recall being super bored at school for years, staring in 3rd grade.  I really wanted to be engaged, but the work was not challenging and smart kids (girls in particular) were not well-liked. Knowing the answers was not cool. Then everyone wondered why I seemed inattentive and depressed and lonely. I started balking and doing everything I could to avoid going to school, it was soooo boring and lonely and of course I was bullied. And I was constantly sick. Finally as a junior in high school we moved temporarily and I had the chance to attend a more challenging school with a cultural attitude that it was okay to be smart. Hey! Suddenly I liked school! My grades went up! I made friends! I no longer felt like such an oddball.

To give you some added issues to consider: Just because a school has a "good reputation" doesn't mean it's enough for her. A friend moved to Albany for the schools and later told me she did not feel they met her children's academic and social needs very well. I went to school in a university town, and I still found it inadequate.

Also, maybe she needs a little more bonding time with her parents. You do love and are worried about her but you also want her to get with the program so you can continue on your treadmill. I know you feel very trapped between housing costs and the demands of your job, and that "other children" seem okay with this long day. But this is YOUR kid, and she's probably picking up on your own sense of being caught between a rock and a hard place. 

So please, consider your priorities and open up your thinking. The big picture is: If you have to work for the mortgage and your mortgage is high to afford a good school and the good school isn't good for her ... you're boxed in for no good reason.  What you are showing her is that adulthood is not an improvement on childhood, you're still trapped with no good alternatives. But that isn't true. You CAN make changes, big or small. But before you make a huge change, you have a lot of options to explore. Talk to the school about other ways to challenge her; look into after-school activities (physical, intellectual, artistic); focus a little more on family time. Give her some ways to stretch and grow and see what works; then you can make bigger changes if you need to.

My 2 cents. I wish you good luck and a thriving family.

RE: 6 year old hates school ()

I would request an SST (Student Success Team), a meeting with the teacher, coordinator and other stakeholders to brainstorm some supports and solutions.

Kindergarten is primarily a social experience for kids, have you tried having any 1:1 play dates with some likely prospects?

Good luck to you!

RE: 6 year old hates school ()

Hello -

I wouldn't feel alone.  Stories like yours are out there and are often what send parents looking into other options, like private school.  I am a parent of a kindergartener at Aurora School in Oakland, and many parents who are there shared your story.  The progressive curriculum is one that is child centered and fosters a love of learning.  Aurora teachers are phenomenal at finding what truly sparks your kid's love of learning.  The teacher to student ratio at Aurora is about 12-15 to one teacher & aide, and this makes it possible for them to really get to know your child and find out what they like.  This way the motivation comes from within.  They want to learn more, want to go to school.  

And, please don't make any assumptions regarding financial aid.  You never know what you'll get until you try.  

RE: 6 year old hates school ()

My heart goes out to you! We went through something very similar! We chose to send our daughter to a local public charter school because we thought it would be a great program for her. She hated it. We also had to practically manhandle her to get her into the school. I felt like such a failure as a parent! At the end of the year we had around 79 tardies and most were from us being an hour or two late. 

We were able to put her in a smaller public school for first grade and it was a night and day difference. Smaller class, warm caring teacher...she thrived. 

If you can look at other schools public or private I would do that. As others have said you might be surprised at the amount of aid you might get. Or another public school might be a better fit. I know that changing schools isn't always a possibility so if you can't, I'd sit down with her or cuddle on the couch and really try to listen to her and do all you can to let her know you're on her side. Find as many ways to connect with her as you can. That helped a little bit in our case...I had started to feel like all our interactions were negative and I'm sure she did too. 

Again my heart goes out to you both, it's so hard!

RE: 6 year old hates school ()

Late to the party, but this sounds quite a lot like my daughter's experience last year in K. First grade has been completely different. I mean 100% better. We did not switch schools because like you, we bought our house for the schools it feeds into.

We did a couple of the things that have already been mentioned, and I do think they were helpful.

1. Hire a babysitter to pick her up at the end of class, or at least by 4 or 4:30. You're right that the day is too long for a person that small. Doesn't matter that her peers seem fine with it; it doesn't work for your kid. Didn't work for mine either. The girl across the street, who is younger than my child, had the same long day with no problems. We hired a high schooler to get her at 3pm every day and bring her home. They played till Dad got off work at 6. Sometimes went to the park or out for ice cream. Coming home made a huge, immediate difference in behavior during the classroom day.

2. Sent her to a play therapist every two weeks. I actually don't think this did one thing for my kid, but it made the school feel like we were doing something and kept our K teacher not exactly happy, but feeling like we took her frustration with our challenging child seriously. My daughter enjoyed the play therapist's toys very much lol.

3. Set up weekend play dates every single Sunday of the year. Maybe we missed a few weeks. But invested in positive experiences with the 1 or 2 kids she liked in class. That was a great foundation for giving her someone to play with at recess. (Doesn't have to be Sunday of course, but we had more success with that because people don't have as many sports or other kid activities.)

4. Make sure she always had an extracurricular activity (only one! meeting only once a week!) that she liked and felt good about. 

We survived kindergarten and worried hugely about first grade, but it's been great. Her teacher gets her this year, and this teacher's classroom structure is REALLY WORKING for our kid. She has more friends. Reading instruction really kicks into high gear, so she's been able to be with an advanced group of readers. Her teacher sends home loads of links to resources for extra math or reading. Our girl is even back in the aftercare program three days a week and doing fine there. (I wasn't ready for 5 days, just in case it went sour again, so a babysitter gets her the other two.) Sometimes you have years where it just doesn't click. My boss actually told me last year that his daughter had a similar K experience at a highly rated school, with a K teacher who had multiple teaching honors. This teacher did not work for his kid and she was miserable all year. My boss's daughter is a high schooler now, and he says they've never had another year with issues like that. We toured private schools, but I'm so glad we didn't pull the trigger. 

RE: 6 year old hates school ()

We had the same issue. Our six year old was highly gifted and referred to school as a "waste of time." This was after she had already been accelerated one grade in another state. When she tried out Quantum Camp's one day per week math/science program she LOVED it and said she was so envious of kids who went there. If we had stayed in the area, we likely would have homeschooled and used Quantum Camp (private school was also out of reach for us). We decided to move to an area that offered differentiation.