“I don’t like my teacher. I wish I had Mrs. Palmer back,” my daughter complained after the first week of third grade. If my first child had said this, I would have gone into a worrying tailspin. But this is my fourth child, and I’d been around this block a few times. I was able to see her complaint for what it was: a normal response to transition.
Kids often complain as they transition to something new, but wise parents know how to see through the complaint to the real issue. With all the transitions that come with a new school year, you can expect a few complaints. If your child has one of these 7 common student complaints about school, here’s how to respond in a helpful way.
Kids often complain as they transition to something new, but wise parents know how to see through the complaint to the real issue.
1. “I don’t like the teacher.”
When your child says this, it can be very concerning. You know she will be in this class for the next 10 months. However, in most cases, she’s simply saying the new teacher is different from the teacher she’s used to.
So instead of calling the principal to get her moved, acknowledge the “loss” of the last teacher while looking for positives in the new one. “I bet you miss Mrs. so-and-so, huh? I get that. But I bet your new teacher will have some cool things about her, too. Is there anything that seems fun about her class?”
2. “I have no friends.”
Don’t always take this complaint literally. Unless you just started at a new school or your child had a friend who moved away, chances are he does have some friends—just maybe not a “bestie” in every class. The first few days of school are often socially awkward, even for the friendliest kids.
Encourage your child to give it a little time, and if it persists, set up some one-on-one time with a child in his class. Ask him who he’d like to invite to the movies or have over for dinner. Or introduce this one magic skill that can help kids make friends quickly.
3. “School is boring.”
This has to be one of the most common student complaints about school. I’ve heard this so many times, mainly because the whole classroom flow and expectations are being set up in the first couple of weeks. And as challenging as it is once the schoolwork starts being taught, listening to classroom rules and procedures can be boring.
Before you call the teacher and ask her to give your child more stimulating work, do nothing for a month. Chances are that some fun and interesting topics or projects have gotten underway by that time!
4. “I hate the bus.”
This one always worries me because I’ve heard so many horror stories about the bus. But stop and ask your child why. It could be a problem that’s easy to solve, such as boredom.
If the reason is a little more complicated, however, then it’s time to talk to the bus driver. Hang out at the bus stop the next day to have a quick, friendly word with the driver about what you’ve heard. Ask if your child’s seat can be moved. Most times, this is all it takes to solve the problem.
5. “I don’t feel good and can’t go to school.”
When this complaint comes up at our house, we often skip the bus that day and use the car ride for some one-on-one time. I try to keep it lighthearted as I dig deeper, like: “So what’s up at school?” or “What made you want to stay home today, bud?” Most times, a little validation and encouragement are enough to help them get through it.
Other times, I’ve noticed that my “stomachache kids” need an earlier bedtime. Even an hour of extra sleep can ward off sickness, anxiety, or waking up grumpy.
6. “Lunch is disgusting.”
I’ve heard this before and worried, not knowing it was an exaggeration. But remember, our pickier eaters have a hard time going from the free-range grazing of their favorite foods over the summer to the limited options a cafeteria offers. So first, encourage your child to get through one full cycle of the school menu.
Then ask him to circle the days when the menu seems edible. If he says nothing is edible, let him know it’s time for him to start packing his lunch.
7. “Someone is bullying me.”
This is one complaint that needs to be investigated. But before you panic, keep in mind that our kids are labeling a lot of things as “bullying” these days. It has become an overused and misunderstood word. So ask questions to figure it out.
If you discover that your child is being teased but isn’t in any real danger, here are several practical ways to help your child stand up for herself. But if you still suspect actual danger, whether physical or emotional, go straight to the teacher and calmly request a meeting.
What are some other common student complaints about school and how do you respond?
ASK YOUR CHILD…
What is your favorite thing about starting a new school year? What is your least favorite?