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Eight-Year-Old Hates School

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: My eight-year-old son "hates" school. He seems to lack any enthusiasm for school. He is unorganized and doesn't take responsibility for completing work, bringing assignments home, etc., unless I constantly remind him.

I have had to levy consequences in order to get him get him to take responsibility for these things.

Is this normal behavior at his age and if not HELP!

A: "Hating" school is normal behavior at any age, for any number of understandable reasons. I would ask you first to assess whether this lack of enthusiasm and responsibility for school is a new attitude and set of behaviors or a more dramatic portrayal of something that's already been present for a while. Could there be something(s) going on in or out of school that could be causing these feelings and behaviors? His relationship with his teacher(s), problems socially, major disappointments or family problems that might be causing him unconsciously to get you to pay more attention to him (even though it's "negative attention"), feeling inadequate in school (he's having a tough time learning things) or in other arenas of his life(sports)? These are the types of questions I would begin asking yourself and finding the time to ask him, in the most supportive, empathetic, non-judgmental way possible.

My guess is that your present consequences are really punishments. The natural and logical consequences of not attending to your schoolwork are things like not learning the material, getting behind in your work, poor grades, being held back in your grade. There's always a fine line between helping your child become more responsible in life for problems he should "own" and rescuing him from those responsibilities because he and you know that you can't stand to see the outcome of his irresponsibility. You have to decide how to navigate that delicate balance and how to teach him the important life lessons inherent in situations such as this. Good luck.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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