How to Respond to a Child's Negativity

By Huntington Learning Center

How to Respond to a Child’s Negativity

School is the worst! I hate learning! I’m stupid! I hate homework!

If any of these outbursts sound familiar, it’s understandable that you might feel concern about what is causing your child such anger and frustration and what you can do to change it. Unfortunately, there may come a time in your child’s school life that he or she feels upset or negative about school. If you are struggling with how to respond—or you share your child’s frustration—here are a few considerations on what might actually be going on and tips on how best to handle the situation. 

Your child has never felt the pride that comes with achievement. Children who acquire negative attitudes about school might never have experienced true school success. Gaps in their skills have made it difficult to understand homework and solve problems independently, always leaving them feeling inadequate and behind. If this sounds like your child, a conversation with the teacher is definitely in order. There is likely a mismatch in the type of work that is expected of your child and his or her abilities. An individualized tutoring program with Huntington can help your child gain the abilities to complete work successfully, thereby boosting the self-esteem and confidence.

Pinpointing the problem is essential. If your child seems generally exasperated by school, it may be difficult to have productive conversations about what subjects are the most stressful—and frankly, your child may simply not be able to offer you the insight you need. So, rather than grill your child for details on what is most difficult, have your child evaluated so that you can gain specific information about his areas of deficiency, study skills and more. Huntington can perform a diagnostic evaluation of your child’s strengths and weaknesses as well as a plan of instruction to help your child. With more accurate information about the problems your child is facing, you can develop a plan together to help your child overcome them.

Your understanding goes a long way. While your desire to smother your child’s cynicism with unbridled optimism is understandable, doing so might exacerbate your child even more. Instead, talk openly about how your child is feeling and the fact that school problems are not insurmountable. Empathize with your child’s fear and anger. Explain that you are committed to helping your child not just earn better grades, but feel better about him or herself. Most of all, remember that your child’s problems, however big they seem, can be addressed.

Problem solving is a tool every child needs. For many children who struggle in school and don’t know what to do about it, acting out, giving up and being negative are resultant behaviors. Certainly, it is expected that a child experiencing repeated difficulties with math homework feels great frustration. However, the child who can move past that frustration, to identify specific problems and lay out a plan to address them will successfully avoid the “negative bottleneck” that prevents so many students from achieving their goals.

 While academic knowledge and good study habits are certainly essential for school success, so are traits such as resilience, perseverance in the face of difficulty and a good attitude. Help your child learn to understand that negativity only makes problems feel worse. Identifying issues and creating manageable steps to tackle each one is a far more constructive approach that will help your child feel less overwhelmed.

Of course, if school is the culprit of your child’s pessimistic attitude, don’t wait to investigate. Huntington can help you understand what is at the root of the problem and develop a plan to turn things around. Call us at 1-800-CAN LEARN to discuss how to give your child a whole new outlook on school and life.



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