6 unexpected signs that kids are frustrated about school

By Kate Kelly

Getting frustrated is one of the firsts signs a child is struggling in school. Sometimes it’s clear that things aren’t going well — kids may lose their temper or walk away from a difficult task. But frustration over school can show up in ways that aren’t always obvious.

Here are six signs of frustration you might not expect. You may see kids:

  1. Just sit quietly in class, not engaged and not trying.
  2. Avoid taking risks or trying new things, thinking they’ll probably fail.
  3. Say they have no control over whether they succeed at something.
  4. Clown around to distract people from things they don’t do as well as other kids.
  5. Say it doesn’t matter how hard they work because they won’t do well.
  6. Put it on other people: “Nobody explained the directions.”

Ongoing frustration can make kids lose their motivation to keep trying. Spotting the signs is the first step to finding out what’s causing their struggles at school — and what might help.

Dive deeper

    Tell us what interests you


    About the author

    About the author

    Kate Kelly has been writing and editing for more than 20 years, with a focus on parenting.

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Molly Algermissen, PhD is an associate professor of medical psychology at Columbia University Medical Center and clinical director of PROMISE.