“Every child has a bad day now and then,” says author Jane Healy, “but if your child says this repeatedly, please pay attention. Reluctance or outright refusal to go to school signals a problem — social, emotional, or academic — that needs to be dealt with sooner rather than later. Here are some steps to take: 1) Explain that school is the child’s job and attendance is non-negotiable, but that you want to understand and help. 2). Talk to your child about what is happening during the day: Are there bullies on the bus or in the lunchroom? Is he embarrassed about his handwriting or about reading out loud? ‘Hating’ school is often the first signal of an undiagnosed learning difficulty such as dyslexia. Listen carefully and sympathetically for hidden clues; children often blame themselves for a problem and may be afraid to tell their parents. 3.) Check with your pediatrician to rule out any physical problems. 4.) Make an appointment to talk with the teacher. Say, ‘We are concerned because Sarah is saying in the morning that she doesn’t want to go to school. Can you help us get to the bottom of this?’ Some schools allow parents to observe or volunteer in the classroom to get a feel for what is going on. 5) If you uncover a problem, try to get the school’s help in solving it. If you have any suspicion of a learning problem, insist on special testing and treatment, if necessary. Many intelligent children manage to cover up these difficulties until they become real disabilities. My book Different Learners: Identifying, Preventing, and Treating Your Child’s Learning Problems should help you know what to look for and how to proceed.

“Finally, reluctance to go to school can be a signal of trouble at home. Celia, a second-grader, was frightened by her parents’ frequent arguments and feared her mother might leave for good while Celia was at school. Like most childhood problems, school refusal is complex, but sympathetic, supportive, and persistent parents can help their child over the hump and on a positive course to success.”

Here’s how 4 other parenting experts say to respond…


YouTube video

Christine Carter
Raising Happiness author Christine Carter says the secret isn’t to elevate the drama. For better results, do this instead. Format: Video (1:18)

Deborah Tillman
The star of America’s Supernanny tells parents that unless it’s a special case, they need to use a tough-love approach when kids voice this complaint. Format: Article

Jane Bluestein
The author of The Win-Win Classroom says too many adults respond in the worst way possible. Here’s how to do better when your child comes to you with school refusal. Format: Article

Sara Bennett
The Case Against Homework author suggests doing something unconventional rather than giving the usual, “You have to go!” response when facing this parenting dilemma. Format: Article