School refusal is on the rise. It is across all socio-economic spheres. Rich or poor, educated parents or uneducated parents, it plays no favouritism. It can be frustrating and at times devastating for parents to deal with. It also causes schools great frustration. But, it is ultimately the child who is most disadvantaged, as they have missed gaining the foundations of life. Without school they have missed important physical skills (writing, reading, and math), they have also missed important social skills that would help navigate them through life.
Getting back to getting your child to school. I often get asked what to do when this “the Battle” is happening. Here are some simple tips you can use:
I hear parents tell me all the time they feel powerless and have tried everything. But I can guarantee that with predictable (persistent and consistent), boundaries and consequences, you will gain great results. Often for parents the difficulty comes in being persistent. I will be honest, as a parent it is painful and it feels like your child has way more energy and persistence then you do. But you can do this, you have faced harder challenges in life, for the short term pain you will have long term gain.
Sometimes it is easier to just give in then have “the” battle on your hands. You know “the” battle, the one where the kids screams at a pitch that could deafen the neighbours, or throws stuff around, yells obscenities at you, calls you every name under the sun except by your name. Your not alone, every parent has witnessed their precious child do this. If any parent denies it, they are lying. It is perfectly normal for kids to respond in this manner. Their brains don’t develop the ability to forward think, plan or reason until somewhere between the ages of 25 – 30 years. Yep, you got a long way to go. But as parents it is our job to help them develop the neural pathways that will gain them those skills.
- Remove all fun if your child stays home from school. No games, social media, electronics, TV. Nothing fun. Between the hours of 9am – 3.30pm they can do chores, read, do homework, or be bored.
- They can have breaks just like they would at school (no more, no less), they can even eat their lunch from their lunch box.
- Realise you have bargaining tools. You only HAVE to provide your child with food, water, shelter and clothes. Toys, electronics, outings, sports etc, are extras. These ‘extra” things are your leverage. Your children need to earn these “extra” things by speaking respectfully to you, and following the rules you have in your home. Which should include going to school.
- If your child refuses to get dressed in the morning before school, let them go in their PJ’s. I can assure you they will only do it once. Pack their clothes for if they change their mind. I would suggest giving your child the choice, tell them “you can choose to get dressed and go to school or your can choose to go to school in your PJ’s”. You could enhance this further and explain the consequences of wearing PJ’s to school are, friends may laugh at you, you may feel uncomfortable, you might not be allowed to play sport. Then ask again which choice they would like to make. All actions have consequences, good and bad. This is an important life skill they are about to learn.
- If your a 2 parent household make sure you and your partner are on the same page. You are a team, never be divided. A house divide will fall. If you agree as parents on a consequence to a behaviour you BOTH MUST adhere to the rule.
- Let your child know that there are consequences to their choice to not attend school. By not going to school THEY have chosen the alternative consequence which is a boring day at home. If they misbehave during the day they will not gain their privileges (TV, electronics, etc) back after 3.30pm.
- Have morning and evening routines. By sticking to a predictable routine this will help your child get a good sleep and help prepare them for their day. Having a predictable day reduces anxiety and behavioural issues in children and young adults.
- Early to bed. As a general rule children need 12hrs sleep a night. This means and ideal bed time is 7.30 – 8.30pm. While they sleep their brains process what was learnt the day before, they rest their tired bodies and they physically grow (which is also an exhausting process). More sleep equals smarter, happier and healthier children. Plus, you gain some much needed quiet time before bed.
- Meet with the school welfare coordinator, or classroom teacher. Together come up with a plan and get on the same page. Your child will try and play everyone against each other. If you are all on the same page your child will hear the same consistent message. This will make your job much easier.
- Your school may be able to refer you to further support services that can be tailored to suit you and your families individual needs.
As with all situations families and children can vary. You may need the help and support of a professional service to tailor a support to your needs. Obviously there will be times you child is genuinely sick. Please keep them home and take them to their GP where their needs can be met. Lots of love, nature and rest is the only recipe for genuine illness.