1. Don't panic!
Most children will go through a stage where they dislike one subject or sometimes the school. It could be that they don't have a strong connection with their teacher or that they're struggling with a certain concept and their confidence has taken a hit. Or, they genuinely don't like a particular lesson plan. Learning how to get kids to like school can be hard, but not impossible.
Regardless of their reasons, here's how to get your kid to like school and overcome anxieties about learning:
1. Don't panic!
If your child says they hate math, it can be easy to panic and picture a long road ahead of homework battles and failed algebra tests.
Try not to overreact. It may simply be that your child had a bad day in math class, or that they don't like the particular part of math they're studying at the moment.
The good news is that you can acknowledge their feelings without dwelling on them. Saying a phrase like, "Wow, it sounds like you really don't want to work on math today" invites them to share more if they'd like, without turning what may just be a passing feeling into a big issue.
If you jump in too quickly with comments like "math is wonderful!" your child might sense your discomfort with their feelings and become defensive, digging in their heels and insisting that they do indeed hate math. Try to stay calm and gauge your child's feelings toward math for a few weeks before becoming too concerned.
2. Play a game together
Rather than telling your child a subject can be fun, show them.
If it's math, playing a board game that includes numbers helps your child see that math can indeed be fun, and it also helps reinforce their skills.
There are so many fun games designed to help children practice their number skills, no matter what their level.
3. Invite them to do activities with you
If you like to cook, let your child choose a recipe and practice doubling the recipe to make extra. If your child is older, involve them in the weekly grocery budget, letting them practice their planning, time management and communication skills to plan the family's meals.
If you like to garden, invite your child to help you plan a garden plot, measuring the distance between each plant and determining how many of each type of plant to buy.
If your child likes to build, choose something like a wooden shelf or a backyard playhouse and design and build it together. Your child will practice a variety of skills in measuring and cutting the wood.
No matter what your child's interests are, show them how the subjects they are learning at school are used in real life.
4. Read books about different subjects
Reading books about numbers is another great way to make learning fun, particularly if your child loves to read, or be read to.
While this may not immediately shift their negative feelings about the subject they dislike, each positive experience your child has with math makes an impact.
5. Try peer mentoring
Children often learn best from other children. This is one of the main reasons Montessori classrooms include multiple ages and levels, to facilitate peer learning. But there are ways to take advantage of this even if your child is not in a Montessori school. If they have an older sibling, encourage your older child to help the younger with their homework. Your older child will get a confidence boost from being the teacher, and may be able to explain things in a relatable way to your child who is struggling.
You can also recruit one of your child's friends and host a homework date. Your child may feel differently about learning if they get to work on it with a buddy.
To take it a step further and talk to your child's teacher to find out who in your child's class might be a good peer mentor.
6. Use positive reinforcement
Positive reinforcement can be a tricky balance. You don't want to negate your child's feelings by telling them they don't hate a subject or that they're great at it, but you also don't want a hatred for that subject to become a lasting part of how they see themselves.
Help your child notice when they make progress with learning to give their confidence a boost. Encouraging your child to notice their own progress and hard work can help them develop a growth mindset, where they believe that they will improve with effort. Say something like, "You didn't know how to do that last month, you've really been practicing."
If your child says they hate a certain subject, there are two main obstacles to overcome. The first, and arguably most important, is to prevent their aversion from becoming part of their identity. The second is to help them develop their skills to gain confidence. Just remember—the more your child senses your calm confidence in their abilities, the more they will believe in themselves.