When her two children complained about going to school, The Case Against Homework author and activist went against tough-love, mainstream wisdom. Here’s what Bennett suggests as an alternative:

“Of course when your child says, ‘I don’t want to go to school,’ you have to figure out why. Is there something big going on that requires your intervention — bullying, for example? Or is it something simpler — perhaps just needing a break?

“If it’s something simple, I’m a big believer in the personal day — perhaps two or three a year. A lot of adults get a few; why not extend that same right to children? It gives children a little more control of their lives and teaches them how to make decisions. So if a child wakes up one morning and says, ‘I don’t want to go to school today,’ you might say (assuming you can make alternate arrangements for your child that day), ‘Do you want to use one of your personal days?’ Just having that choice might be enough for the child to decide to go to school after all. Or, s/he may decide to use it.

“A lot of parents let their kids stay home and then send in a note that the child was sick. The first time I let my third grader stay home and told the school secretary that she was taking a personal day, the secretary laughed, told me she appreciated my honesty, and thought it was a fabulous idea. I like it, too, because it was truthful, it gave my daughter some control, it allowed her a little time to regroup, and it served her well forever after. As she got older (high school, for example), and felt tired at 6:45 a.m., she’d muse aloud about what she’d miss if she stayed home. More often than not, she’d end up deciding to go to school, although not always! Now that she’s in college, she’s still making choices about whether to miss a class (seems like most professors these days have a set number of classes students may miss). And she’s a hard worker, self-motivated, and self-directed, too.”

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


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)

Jane Healy
If parents hear this repeatedly, the bestselling author of Your Child’s Growing Mind says they need to spring into action and do these two things. 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

Sh*tty Mom
Let’s face it, says Sh*tty Mom co-author Mary Ann Zoellner, school exists to get kids out of the house. Here’s her tough-love, no-truancy approach to make sure they go. Format: Video (0:46)

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