Getting the kids off to school can be a chore and an aggravation if they resist with frequent reasons for not going. Some students will snatch at any excuse: “It’s too cold…it’s too hot…it’s too boring or too much work, and of course the ever popular “Mom, I don’t feel good.” Keep up on the details of your child’s school situation with good listening skills; even your child may not know why he or she doesn’t want to go.
Alanna: “Man, is that school boring!”
Mom:”It’s really getting you down.” (Mom just uses different words for “boring”; this is reflective and better than, “You shouldn’t be bored!”)
Alanna: “You bet.”
Mom:”What’s the worst part?” (Here’s a good “it” question. It starts with “what,” instead of “Why are YOU so bored?”
Alanna: “I don’t know. I guess it’s the whole thing.”
Mom:”What’s the best part?” (Good question that may help Mom help her daughter. Better than: “There must be something wrong [with you]!” That would be threatening.)
Alanna: “I like seeing everybody, but my new math is so hard.”
Mom:(With a tip on the focus of the problem) “Let’s look at the math.”
A complaint about boredom such as this is familiar to most parents. Mom put the “quick-fix” suggestion on hold and waited for her daughter to bring up the reasons. Because Mom allowed her daughter to direct the topic by asking questions and responding reflectively, information flowed to Mom instead of from her as advice.
When the conversation is about school, listen for clues to problems. School counselors say there are six common reasons for truancy:
- To avoid scary situations: bus, school room, tests or teacher.
- To avoid uncomfortable social situations: bullys, teasers, perceived hostile teacher.
- To get attention at home: Mom (or Dad) provide more personal attention at home.
- To stay home for entertainment (TV, computer games, play).
- To avoid possible embarrassment from going back after previous absences.
- To avoid the inconvenience and effort of getting up to go, having clothes ready to wear, keeping materials ready for school, or keeping up on homework.
How can a parent help with these problems??
1.Keep listening so you are up to date on school activities and problems.
2.Watch those late-nights. Often a child demanding to stay up is the same one demanding to miss school the next day. A child short on rest is more easily aggravated by a test, a teacher’s correction, or a teasing student. It’s the same problem a tired adult might have. Allowing late-nights may mean a whole day of trouble, an absence, or at least a big argument in the morning.
3.Keep an eye on the morning drill for getting to school. School buses usually won’t wait and it’s easy to make trouble for yourself by procrastinating too long in the morning.
4.Build support for school and school activities. Praise learning, respect it, make it useful to your child, now. Let him or her: balance the checkbook, do some cooking, figure out your next trip on the map, explain TV news about science, art, or government.
5.Volunteer. Volunteer in order to get a first hand look at the activities and atmosphere in school. Volunteer to help make the school more attractive for your child.
When an absence is unavoidable, try these suggestions to keep it from becoming a habit:
1.Limit entertainment for just staying home (TV, computer games, etc.).
2.Check all excuses with a call to the school (“The buses aren’t running today.” “We’re supposed to get out early anyway.”) Your child may not have the right information. Even the favorite, “I’m sick,” may be suspicious if it always seems to come up on school mornings, complaints are vague, and improvement is miraculous! Also, if your child is old enough to be left alone, be suspicious if he seems anxious to get you out to work: “I’ll be alright – just go!”
3.Don’t allow other activities to take priority over school: “I need to stay home to get ready for the soccer trip, practice my school play lines, catch up on old school work.”
4.If you are suspicious but must leave your teen by him or herself, come home at irregular times now and then.
Send your questions or comments to Dr. McIntire e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Parentsuccess.com on the net. He is the author of Raising Good Kids in Tough Times, and Teenagers and Parents.