What To Do When Kids Don't Like Their Teachers

04/19/2012 07:27pm ET

Dear Susan,

My daughter complains that her teacher hates her and that she is always getting angry and yelling, but my neighbor's daughter has the same teacher and has no problems. I think the teacher's personality is more serious and down to business, and my daughter is used to teachers who were more fun and easygoing. How can I help her get along better?

Classroom Mediator

Dear Classroom Mediator,

The key to a healthy student-teacher relationship is a child's sense that he or she is liked. When there's a mismatch of personalities -- or the teacher has a hard time connecting with your youngster -- it can make the whole school experience difficult. Here's my advice:

Play matchmaker
Meet with the teacher and tell her the things your daughter has told you she does like about her. "Toni loves the way you tell stories after lunch, Ms. Baker.” Then do the same thing with your daughter: “I met with Ms. Baker and she said you always know just what to do when the hamster won't eat..." Your goal is to help both your daughter and her teacher start to see each other in a more favorable light.

Help your daughter identify what she doesn't like about her teacher
By focusing on specifics rather than generalities, you can help her come up with some ideas for making things better. If she says, "My teacher hates me. She never calls on me," ask if she wants your advice. If she agrees, you can offer something like, "Maybe you could leave a little note on her desk telling her how much you like to be called on, and how special it makes you feel..."

Allow your child to talk openly about the situation, without rushing to offer advice
Some personalities simply aren't a good match; this probably won't be the last time your daughter has a teacher who just isn't a great fit for her. Help your daughter feel her sadness and, in a sense, mourn the loss of those teachers from her past whom she misses, if all other efforts to forge a friendly bond with this teacher don't work.

When our children spend six or seven hours a day with someone, we want them to enjoy being with that person. It would be nice if we could guarantee that our kids always had teachers who were a great match, but we can't always make that happen. Try these ideas, and if your daughter continues to be miserable, schedule a meeting with the teacher and principal to see if they can offer suggestions for improving the situation.

Yours in parenting support,

Parent Coach, Susan Stiffelman, is a licensed marriage and family therapist and credentialed teacher. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in developmental psychology and a Master of Arts in clinical psychology. Her book, Parenting Without Power Struggles, is available on Amazon. Sign up to get Susan's free parenting newsletter or find her on Facebook.