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  • Writer's pictureBen Baer

Help! My child refuses to go to school

When I try to get my child off to school in the morning I am the wicked witch of the East in cahoots with the teacher from hell. Sound familiar?

Is there any point in analyzing and strategizing? Any effective strategizing should consider all the elements - even the kid. Is this possible? At least we know how steep our uphill battle will be. However, and I don’t think it premature to suggest this, it will remain a battle unless we begin to understand - to study and examine the expectations, roles, fears, preferences, emotions, needs, habits, perceptions of “going to school”. The experience of going to school can travel between the emotional poles of heaven and hell with never a hint of predictability. Where then is our beginning point?

Let’s begin then with our experiences, our impressions, our opinions, our frustrations, our expectations and so forth. We are a mix of these elements and we all know that more can be added to this list. Let's start by asking, what do we want?


I want my kid to go happily to school, to come home happy after a wonderful day at school and not be able to wait until the next morning when s/he will be ready and impatiently awaiting me to get him or her out of the door with breakfast in the tummy, lunch in the bag and a beaming, singing “See ya later alligator.”

Don’t hold your breath waiting.

Short of using strategies that contravene Geneva Convention protocols, what can I do?

There are solutions, and these are solutions that can contribute to the increase of quality of life.

Firstly, let’s change this comment from “What can I do?” to “What me and my child will do.” There are solutions, and these are solutions that can contribute to the increase of quality of life even in the face of an experience that can too often challenge the Spanish Inquisition for tortuous.

What are we and schools expecting of our children?

Well, if I look back on my first school experiences, and I still retain some memories, I remember being shocked at the expectation to stop and go at the shrill sound of a whistle. Being expected to line up in order and silence, to sit silently until a stranger decided when I could speak. On my first day of school, during our first recess, I left, walked home and no one knew!!!

To my surprise, upon arriving home after having visited my favorite spots, a very anxious mother and 2 police officers greeted me. I am not sure if it is a projection on my part but I do recall an appreciative, albeit subdued, grin on the face of one of the officers. Such was my first day and first impression of school. To my very great disappointment, I was expected to return to school and follow the rules - absolutely - no questions asked and no independent decisions.

In spite of what some might consider an unnecessary and even troublesome question, what is our and our child’s understanding of expectations embedded within rules, tasks and roles - to begin with. For some, unless explicitly stated, expectations can remain vague and for some listeners even subject to personal interpretation.

I would propose then that we adults and parents, many of whom are still the child of a parent or parents, begin to analyze the expectations that saturate our daily lives. Such might be a very interesting beginning point toward a more enlightened understanding of what we expect of ourselves, as well as of our partners and, most certainly, of our children.

Lets ask ourselves, however valid my expectations may be, are they explicitly or indirectly communicated. Are our children understanding our expectations? And lastly, am I, the parent, looking at and understanding my own expectations of my children?

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