“I Don’t Want To” vs “I Don’t Get It”: How to Identify a Child Struggling with School Work

Most parents will experience push-back from their child about homework at some point. For some children however, arguments, avoidance, and aggression around homework time can be a sign they are struggling to keep up. Struggling to learn or adopt new concepts at school may contribute to poor self-esteem in the short term and affect your child’s mental health in the long term.  You can help your child with early intervention by actively observing these key signs:

1. Inability to Discuss School

If your child is showing signs of discomfort, for example fidgeting, becoming angry, or changing the subject when asked “how are you going with schoolwork”, this should be cause for concern. Children find it uncomfortable talking about why they struggle at school and will avoid it at any cost. Instead of creating a communication block by asking this question, try to encourage open dialogue by using softer questions about their day. By actively listening you will gain a lot more knowledge about your child by making them feel comfortable.

2. Unexplained Change in Behaviour or Mood

While your child is still learning how to manage emotions and develop self-control, it is important to keep an eye on when emotional or behavioural flare ups occur. Regular, inexplicable changes in mood around school related activities are a red flag. For example, your child may have been an independent learner then suddenly becomes increasingly needy about homework, or perhaps your child has always been accepting of homework then becomes increasingly angry at homework time. These are signs he or she could be overwhelmed.

The advice from Learning Potential, a Government backed information portal about schooling, suggests parents should look at the behaviour as not simply those of a ‘normal teen’ but rather dig deeper and ask why the child feels the way they do about schoolwork. If your child expresses concern, or your intuition tells your there is more going on, speak to the class teacher, or seek a formal evaluation from your nearest Kip McGrath Education Centre.

3. Taking Excessive Amounts of Time to Complete Homework

If your child has been prescribed 15 minutes of homework each night by his or her teacher, but your child is taking 60 minutes to complete the tasks, this could be an indication your child is struggling with the work (assuming you have cleared your child’s environment from any distraction). Speak to your teacher to confirm your instincts that something may be amiss, or contact us for a free assessment to help get your child catch up and keep up in class.

4. Misbehaving at School

The same way gifted children can begin to misbehave in class in response to an under-stimulating curriculum, other children may have the same response to being overwhelmed by the curriculum. Children and teens often find it difficult to admit they are uncomfortable with the workload in front of them especially when they see their classmates coping, and are likely to react with frustration, anger, or emotional outbursts. If your child is usually well-behaved and has been recently acting out in class, it is important to discuss their behaviour with the teacher rather than ignore that it is happening.

5. Low Grades or Teacher Concern

While it may seem obvious, some parents avoid confirming the evidence provided to them that their child is struggling in class. Unfortunately, falling behind in class has a compounding effect; the longer it takes for a parent to take action, the harder it becomes for the child to catch up with his or her peers. Instead, parents are encouraged to seek advice from their teacher at the first signs of a learning struggle.

If your child is presenting with frustration at homework time, changes in behaviour, avoidance about schoolwork, or even admits they simply “don’t get it”, take action by reaching out for a free assessment and a snapshot of your child’s progress in class.


Published in Homework