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Alfie Kohn on "I don't want to go to school!"

The author of "The Schools Our Children Deserve" says that giving a pat response to make children feel better or force them to go isn't the answer. There's a much better way.

By Leslie Crawford

"It’s obviously different if the child has a transient concern, like, 'There’s a test today' or 'My stomach hurts,' as opposed to there being a pattern of concern about what school is like over time," says Alfie Kohn, author of The Schools Our Children Deserve. "That concern has to be taken seriously. The obvious response to the child here would be, 'How come, what’s going on?'

"It may be necessary, depending on the age of the child, to be a detective over time to try to arrive at a full answer, rather than to just depend on what your child tells you at that moment. But the question here is not just what the parent says to the child, but what the parent’s position is about whether the child’s concerns may be legitimate. So I wouldn’t want to just come out with some way to make the child feel less anxious at the moment or exert pressure to go. I would want to see if there really is a problem at the school in terms of how he or she is being treated by teachers or other children. Something that really needs to be addressed, and addressing it might require the parent to become a political activist, not merely an advocate for her own child."

There's more! Find out how these 4 experts suggest parents respond to this common refrain.

Shitty MomsSh*tty Moms:They have to go! School exists to get kids out of the house...

Deborah TillmanDeborah Tillman: Don't feed into that. Not going is not an option...

Sara BennettSara Bennett: I strongly believe in letting kids take a day off...

Jane HealyJane Healy: If this is frequent, you need to do these two things...

is a senior editor at GreatSchools.