Most kids will try and get out of going to school at some point in their education. However, when their resistance becomes a daily struggle, you may be at a loss as to how to address the issue.
How do you deal with a child who doesn’t want to go to school?
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to encourage a child to return to school on a regular basis and address the problems that lie at the heart of their refusal.
1. Establish whether their behavior is normal
There is a difference between school refusal that occurs for a specific (often temporary) reason and chronic resistance. To determine whether a child has a long-term issue or is simply going through some short-lived troubles, consider whether there are any tests or important projects coming up. You could also look into whether there have been any issues with friendships that could be making them reluctant to go to school.
If you can’t seem to determine the cause of the refusal, you should also consider how strongly they resist going to school. For example, some children throw tantrums but end up going to school after some firm coaxing. Others, however, will physically fight those that try to send them through the school gates and may end up running away in the middle of the day. This is the sign that there is a serious issue.
2. Decide whether you need to take action
If you are able to find the root of the child’s avoidance issues, you have little reason to worry. Once their worries about tests or friendship tiffs have passed, they will soon return to school on a regular basis. With normal avoidance, their grades and attendance levels are unlikely to be hugely impacted.
Even if a child resists school on a daily basis, this could still be considered normal is they attend for the whole day and are regularly on time. If, however, they display signs of a more serious problem and are willing to lash out at adults that try to make them attend school, then you need to take further action. Chronic school refusal can have a detrimental impact on a child’s life, causing poor grades and behavioral problems.
3. Stay calm and positive
Once you have established that the child’s school refusal is problematic, it is important that you stay positive about the situation. While you may be tempted to yell at them, this will not have any positive effects and could end up worsening the issue. Remaining positive will help you to focus on getting the child to return to school.
4. Talk to them
Start by talking firmly and empathetically with the child about the importance of going to school. While you need to remind them that school is compulsory, you can also reassure them that you will do your best to make their experience as enjoyable as possible.
It is important that parents and teachers remain in close contact in cases of school refusal as they can work together to find solutions quickly. They can also keep each other informed as to the whereabouts of the child and ensure that they are not regularly truanting.
5. Remind children of the consequences of school refusal
There are a number of negative consequences that come with missing school such as falling grades, a poor attendance record, and missed opportunities to get involved with fun activities. As well as reminding them of these factors, you could even consider showing them this informative video.
6. Offer them incentives
Whilst it is important not to make a habit of treating children, offering them small rewards for attendance will help motivate them to go to school and boost their confidence levels. For more advice on motivating school-avoidant kids, this article may come in useful.
7. Remember to look out for underlying issues
There are a number of underlying issues that could be causing long-term school resistance issues. Bullying, for example, is sometimes a long-term problem that can knock a child’s confidence and affect their willingness to go to school. Separation anxiety is also a common cause in younger children.
In some cases, you may suspect neglect or abuse at home. If you have concerns about a child’s safety, remember to get in touch with the relevant authorities immediately.
Finally, mental health problems may be impacting a child’s attendance levels. If you suspect conditions such as depression, try sending them to the school counselor.