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Ask the Experts

How Can I Get My Teen To Go to School?

By Joe Connolly, Consulting Educator

Question:

I am a single mother of two and my teenage son will not go to school! He is on truancy probation with the county, and he still won't go. I don't know what to do anymore and I don't want to lose my job or my son. I know the laws and if he does not attend school I will be the one who's punished for it and I just don't know what to do. He's very smart, respectful, helps around the house and has great grades and does the homework. Is there something he or I can do so he can drop out (not that I want that for my son) but I just don't know what else to do. He has a job and is on his school's football team but he just wants to get his driver's license and work. He doesn't want to go to school anymore.

Answer:

This type of situation can seem daunting. I can sense the frustration and even a little fear in your words. I don't blame you for being worried and nervous about your son's future. On the other hand, things might not be quite as bad as they appear.

Let's look at the positives first. You tell me your son is smart, respectful, a good helper around the house, gets good grades, does his homework and that he likes to work. Congratulations mom, sounds like you've done a great job. Many parents would love to see any of those traits in their teenage boys!

The problem is that he does not want to go to school. I don't mean to make light of your situation, but that is not unusual either. What is a bit unusual is that he is on truancy probation with the county. That tells me he has been skipping a lot of school.

I do have a few questions that could tell us more about what is going on and might also help you decide how to proceed. Do you know what he is doing when he skips school? Is he just hanging out with friends, perhaps engaged in drugs or alcohol or other destructive behavior? If so, then you have to address that situation with a professional.

If when he skips school he's just staying home and watching television or playing video games, then it's likely that school just does not keep him interested. On the other hand, if he's going to work instead of school, then that may tell us he has a desire to move on with his life well before the rest of his classmates.

Start by finding out what he is doing when he skips school. I would also find out what he has a passion for. Every young man has something they love to do. Find out what that is and make that the focus of your progress. Build towards that.

I would also suggest meeting with the school counselor as soon as possible. Your son's counselor should be meeting with him and probably knows a lot about his situation. If not, then make that happen right away. You have that right. The counselor should be able to provide you and him with suggestions on how to proceed with his life.

If he can find a reason to enjoy going to school then that is probably the best option for him. If not, then there are other alternatives. Some counties have affiliations with local junior colleges that allow high school students to finish their high school diploma while taking college classes. In California this is called Middle College. Other states also offer this type of program, which is a wonderful option for some students.

You could also consider helping your son to get his GED. I would make sure to seek the advice of the school counselor, the local district office and your county Department of Education before you decide on that solution.

If none of these suggestions work for you, then I would strongly recommend that you seek out a professional counselor. There are many wonderful licensed counselors who specialize in dealing with teenage boys.


Joe Connolly is the author and creator of 3 STEPS to parenting teens and the One Minute Rule. One of the founders of Good Parents, Inc., Joe is a sought after speaker of family topics and is widely known for his expertise and powerful speaking on parenting. Joe has been a featured speaker at Stanford University's "Stressed Out Students" conference, the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, California State Senator Jackie Speier"s "Girls Day" and at corporations including Cisco, Hewlett-Packard and Genentech. Joe is the dean of students (K-5) at the Harker School in San Jose, CA. You can learn more about Joe and the services he provides at joeconnolly.org. Joe can be reached at joe@joeconnolly.org.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

04/12/2012:
"I'm Indira and i'm 16 years old....I just don't like to go to school..My mum is worried about me. can someone please tell me what will make me to got o school....;( "
03/29/2012:
"What can I do if my out of control 16.years old son don't want to go to a helpful program? He has admitted he uses drugs he's mad all the time he curses at me all the time. "
10/6/2011:
"i have a question my daughter is 13 and in second year , i am having trouble with her wanting to go to school , she just doesnt want to go to school and i dont know why i ask her all the time but she doesnt have a good enough answer to satisfy the reason i need to no why and what can i do about it as she is a very bright intellegant girl and she is not using it to her best ability i really dnt no what to do . i dont want her to leave school because ss .he will become lost in her self . she is a child whom is well liked and very popular around her friends. i need some guidence for thi "
08/17/2010:
"first find out if bulling or child is hurt at school then no text no phone no psp no xbox you are the parent be mean it is your job"
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