“I don’t want to go to school!”. Words that can make a parent’s stomach feel like a roaring fire and a cold wobbly jelly both at the same time. What can a parent do when a child doesn’t want to go to school? We know they have to go. Here’s help with 9 Pitfalls to Avoid When Your Child Doesn’t Want to Go To School
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When Your Child Doesn’t Want to Go to School
#1. Don’t ignore your child’s comment
If you don’t support him through this crisis in his life, how will he have any confidence that you will be there for him when he faces other challenges in his life?
#2. Don’t negate his experience
Sometimes a parent reacts with a comment like,
“But you love school.”
Imagine if you were having a tough time at work and when you tried to share the harrowing experience with your significant other, s/he commented, ”But you love your work.”
#3. Don’t trivialise his comment
You might be tempted to say something like,
“Going to school is no big deal.”
Your child won’t be able to process his experience if he doesn’t feel you understand his upset.
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#4. Don’t blow the issue out of proportion
“He’s unhappy at school. He’s going to fail. He’ll never cope at school and he’ll be a drop-out in society.”
We can easily let our thoughts run away with us and then we won’t be emotionally present to support him through this “I don’t want to go to school” phase. Avoid becoming over-anxious and imagining the worst-case scenario. Your child needs you to calmly respond, not to add to feelings of tension or anxiety.
My free “9 Steps to Stop The Yelling” poster can be a helpful tool to learn the art of staying calm when worrying thoughts threaten to overtake you.
#5. Don’t generalize
A comment like, “Everybody has to go to school,” isn’t helpful. That’s like your partner saying to you, “Everybody has to go to work.” It may be the case but generalisations that everyone else is okay doesn’t help when you’re unhappy.
#6. Don’t compare
Saying something like,
“Your little sister goes to school too. And, she isn’t complaining” can create tension between siblings, but it’s not going to help.
If it’s an issue for your child, then it’s an issue!
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#7. Don’t shame
“Look at you! Ten years old and whining like a baby.”
You might think that you need to get your child to “man up”. Firstly, he’s only a child. Secondly, neuroscience has discovered that when we are upset the ‘fight or fight’ part of the brain bounces into action and causes the “thinking brain” to temporarily go off-line. When we shame or belittle our children we are going to increase this stress reaction so they are even less likely to be able to think through the issue or to concentrate at school. This means that if you add to your child’s stress by shaming him, he’s even less likely to move to a happy and reasoning state of mind.
#8. Don’t bribe
It’s easy to try to ease the moment by offering some treat,
“Now go to school without any or fuss and then I’ll buy you …”
It seems a simple solution but we are training our children to ignore their own inner wisdom when we buy them off with cheap treats – or not-so-cheap treats! When we reward their complaining we’re also teaching them to continue this behaviour – why wouldn’t you complain if you get treats for complaining!
#9. Don’t give in
You might be tempted to avoid the upset by giving in to what your child wants – staying home! But the thing is we all have to face thing in life that we didn’t find easy. What matters is giving your child the support he needs to guide him through this uneasy period.
What Can You Do to Help?
Firstly, we need to develop the art of staying calm ourselves. The “strongest emotion wins” – so your calm needs to be greater than his upset, so that he’ll naturally be influenced to let go the strong emotion of his upset and then he’ll be able to start thinking clearly to process what he is experiencing.
And as parent you need the skills to be able to listen so that he will talk and tell you what’s going on for him. Maybe his upset is as simple as having “Monday morning blues” or a tiff with his friend, or maybe it’s more serious. Perhaps he’s lacking confidence to deal with the situation or perhaps there is something much more significant that needs addressing, like bullying. You need to know how to deeply listen to hear what’s going on for your child.
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