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“That Kid Is Hopeless”

I remember walking into a school not long ago and hearing a heated argument that was taking place between a student and his teacher. The student was being told to remove an article of clothing that wasn’t allowed. Even when being threatened with discipline, including a suspension for not complying with the rules, the student simply yelled back “Do whatever you want, I couldn’t care less.”

Boy, I admit that it took many years of being a parent to let that one roll off my shoulders. I remember thinking, “I’ll give her something to care about.”

In schools however, we don’t always know the back story. These types of responses from kids are puzzling to many of us because we can’t understand why he’s being so defiant or how she could care so little. With such children, we might hear a comment like “that kid is hopeless” and “he just doesn’t care.” But you know, that comment about the kid being hopeless is sometimes very accurate.

What? Some of our kids are hopeless? Yes, some are — but not in the way you might think. Some kids feel hopeless themselves, in the sense of feeling they’re without hope. There could be many reasons for this: an unrecognized learning disability; a sense of being a failure because they need extra help or individualized attention; a feeling of being trapped with no way out of their circumstances in life (generational poverty, living with violence); and a host of others.

So it’s not hard to understand why a student with this sense of hopelessness might not care about getting into trouble at school. These aren’t necessarily “bad kids”; they’re kids that need to be understood, helped and given hope.

You may be able to bring a ray of hope into the life of a student who just doesn’t seem to care. Try:

  • looking beyond the behavior or the attitude. Most all behavior has a function; that is, a reason it’s occurring. Try to find out what’s behind it.
  • spending less time trying to think of and enforce a consequence for the behavior, and more time getting to know the student’s circumstances.
  • making an effort to recognize the student’s strengths — then support and reinforce them.
  • being that “go-to” person for the student — the important and trusted adult in their lives that he or she can confide in.

Most importantly, try to give them hope. There is help for almost every circumstance, challenge or adversity that our children face. We just need to look deeper to get the message they’re sending us through their actions.

No child is “hopeless” — they just need help.