Negative School Attitude


When it comes to children’s personalities and behaviors, parents should take less blame when things go wrong with a child and claim less credit when they go well.

~ David C. Rowe

 There are two major things that business are complaining about, related to high school graduates, tardiness and attendance. They go together into attitude and relationship. Business executives say if a kid comes in here punctually and they have a pleasant attitude, we can train them. But I can’t train them if they’re not on time or they’re arguing with every supervisor and co-worker they come in contact with.

~ Willie Judd, retiring principal after a 32 year career with Milwaukee Public Schools, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, July 22, 2005

Having a positive temperament or personality is vital to one’s success. We’ve all seen it before. Children who head to school each day with excitement, optimism, and a “good” attitude usually succeed. Young people who have negative school attitudes face many hurdles.

What determines a child’s negativism? There are several possible causes. Some children are born with a more negative temperament than others. According to David C. Rowe’s quote above, parents shouldn’t take all the blame for their children’s negative attitude. Many children become negative because the adults in their lives role model negativity. Some teens become negative because of their peer group; they are hanging with other children who dislike school and don’t see it as being relevant. One other possibility for children having a negative school attitude is they may have learning or emotional problems that interfere with their ability to enjoy school.

Regardless of the causes, parents and teachers can make a difference. Attitude adjustments are possible!


  1. WHen they are venting, don’t give them any attention. If necessary, say, “Excuse me,” and walk away.
  2. With younger children, if you sense they are starting to complain or blame, say, “Tell me one good thing that happened today before you start fusing.”
  3. When something good happens, point it out to the child. For example, “Shawn, did you notice how polite that waitress was to you when you spilled your drink?”
  4. Even if they constantly complain about school, you must make sure they attend. Letting these kids avoid school can lead to future problems such as failing or dropping out.
  5. Praise them occasionally when they do things without complaining.
  6. Monitor their peer groups. A child’s temperament determines his or her peer group. Negative kids hang with other negative kids.
  7. Teachers should attempt to surround these kids with positive kids. In her book, The Nurture Assumption, Judith Harris writes, “Kids who hang around with the good students in the classroom tend to have good attitudes toward schoolwork; those who hang around with the not-so-good ones tend to have poorer attitudes.”
  8. Limit their times in passive activities such as watching television or listening to their favorite music. They need to be actively engaging others.
  9. Do not always focus on rewarding their grades, reward their efforts.
  10. Do your best to get these children involved in extra-curricular activities such as clubs, sports, chorus, and band. Some children “force” themselves to go to school each day, not for academics, but for the sports or clubs.
  11. Help these children recognize their special gifts and talents. Encourage and support them in pursuit of their strengths.
  12. Don’t buy their “sour grapes”. Negative children get upset and blame others when things don’t work out. For instance, when Heather doesn’t make the cheerleading squad, she may say, “Well, I didn’t really want to make the team anyway!”Don’t believe it!
  13. Show affection. Although they may not tell you, they still desire hugs and handshakes.
  14. Show interests in their interests. Ask Arturo, “How many points did Shaq score last night?”
  15. If you make a mistake, fail a test, get a speeding ticket, or forget something, don’t come up with excuses in front of children. Take responsibility for your actions.
  16. Come up with some clever ways of getting these children involved in activities in which they help others. Often their attitudes improve when they spend time helping the poor, needy, elderly, or the homeless. A fifth grade teacher may see some improvement in Kyree’s negativity if he spends time reading to kindergarteners
  17. .Be positive around these children. They need to see happy adults. How can we expect our children to have an optimistic outlook for the future if they hear us complaining all the time? Why would a child desire to be a teacher if he is surrounded by teachers who seem unhappy and don’t like their choice of careers?
  18. Remind middle school and high school students that research finds that “the number one reason people can’t find a job is that they can’t get along with others.” People with negative attitudes seldom get along with others. Refer to Willie Judd’s quote above

19. Encourages these children to take more responsibility for their attitude. Post these two quotes somewhere at home or in the classroom:

 a. Most folks are about as happy as they make their minds up to be

~Abraham Lincoln

b. It may not be your fault for being down, but it’s got to be your fault for not getting up

~Steve Davis

20. Don’t overreact to their negativism. Often they over exaggerate. When they start complaining and blame others, ask them to give specific examples. For instance, “Ben, you seem to accuse your teacher of being mean. Can you give me two or three examples of what you mean?”


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