Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Oppositional Defiant Disorder and ADHD

Search This Site

My son refuses to go to school...

Hi Mark,

Thanks for your good advise. It’s really helping. We have hit a stumbling block as my son refuses to go to school and this keeps happening. We have taken away all privileges (phone computer TV, etc) He then went and punched his younger brother and hurt him for no reason whilst he was sitting peacefully to bait a reaction from me. When I asked why his answer was that he just did. I then extended the discipline saying that it would start again tomorrow. Today again he refused to go to school. However the issue that worries me at the moment is that I see that he has been taking some sleeping pills as he says that he can’t sleep at night. I am really worried and do not Know what to do. He is very angry at us and explosive all the time. The first two weeks have been going really well and then It started all other again.

Please help,



Emotional distress about attending school may include anxiety, temper tantrums, depression, or somatic symptoms. Parents are aware of absence, but the child often tries to persuade parents to allow him or her to stay home.

During school hours, the child usually stays home because it is considered a safe and secure environment. The child is unreasonably scared of going to school, might pretend to be sick or say he or she doesn't want to go to school, and usually wants to stay home because he or she feels safe there.

Children with school refusal are scared to go to school. They may be so scared that they won't leave the house. School refusal is most common in 5- and 6-year-olds and in 10- and 11-year-olds, but it can start at any age.

The problem might start after a child has been home for awhile, such as after a holiday, summer vacation, or brief illness. It also might happen after a stressful event, such as moving to a new house or the death of a pet or relative.

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Children who won't go to school often say they feel sick. They might wake up and say they have a headache, stomachache, or sore throat. If they stay home from school, the "illness" might go away, but it comes back the next morning before school.

Children who refuse to go to school may worry about the safety of their parents or themselves. They may not want to be in a room by themselves, and they may be scared of the dark. They also may have trouble falling asleep by themselves and might have nightmares.

Parents can do several things to control school refusal before it becomes a routine, troublesome behavior.

Firmly getting the child to school regularly and on time will help. Not prolonging the goodbyes can help as well. Sometimes it works best if someone else can take the child to school after the parent or caregiver says goodbye at home.

It truly helps to believe that the child will get over this problem; discuss this with the child (the parent or caregiver needs to convince himself or herself of this before trying to convince the child).

Listening to the child's actual concerns and fears of going to school is important. Some of the reasons for refusing to attend school may include another child at school who is a bully, problems on the bus or carpool ride to school, or fears of inability to keep up with the other students in the classroom; these issues can be addressed if they are known. On the other hand, making too big a deal of school refusal may promote the child's behavior to continue.

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Supportive counseling is often made available at school in these circumstances so as to minimize reinforcement of school avoidant behaviors and to prevent secondary gain from school refusal and should be encouraged for any student who wishes to have it. If the child simply refuses to go to school, some parents have found that decreasing the reward for staying home helps, for example, do not allow video games or television, or find out what work is being done in the school and provide similar education at home, when possible. This is especially if the "illness" seems to disappear once the child is allowed to stay at home.

The parent or caregiver should reassure the child that he or she will be there upon the child's return from school; this should be repeated over and over, if necessary. Let the child know that the parent or caregiver will be doing "boring stuff" at home during the school day. Always be on time to pick the child up from school if you provide transportation rather than a school bus.

Mark Hutten, M.A.


==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents


Anonymous said...

Ok. That all sounds like it makes sense. Now what? I have a 17 year old who I've just unhooked every video gaming device. He is in bed because he won't go to school. He happens to be off for the rest of the week. Will he go on Monday? and what if he doesn't? I have been having him see a psychologist which is costing a fortune and he still doesn't go to school. He's an honor student currently being accepted to great colleges and being offered money to boot! I realize maybe he doesn't want to go away to college, which we have assured him he doesn't have to. I am sick over all this. We are going on 3 weeks of this. Going in late, coming home early or just not going! Help

Anonymous said...

Re: Now What?

Your issue seems to revolve around "school refusal" rather than blatant "truancy" - which is covered in the "My Out-of-Control Teen eBook".

Anonymous said...

Hi, my daughter is 7 years old and all of a sudden, this year, she refuses to go to school. I was very surprised by this and thought it would pass in a couple of days. Well it's been 2 months and although I feel for my daughter, I've had enough! I'm exhausted! I've tried everything and nothing seems to work. The issue seems to be fear or worry about death. The Terry Fox Run at school started it all. The Fire Drills and the Intruder Alert Drills. I've explained that these are necessary and that she is safe. Now she won't leave my side. She thinks she's going to die. How do I help my daughter? I try to not make it an issue but it is, it has really impacted our family. I love her so much and I want to ease her pain, tell me how please!
Loving Mom

Anonymous said...

I feel for you. I have an eight year old boy who is refusing to go to school. He attends a waldorf school and this is his 5th year.

The first week of school was ok. The next couple weeks-- he was doing things to get sent home. Drop off was horrible.

Then we had two weeks that were a bit better-- but it included me staying for morning lesson or coming early to sit outside the class room.

Then the last two weeks-- the worst ever. He will not say goodbye. He has only gone to school 1-2 days a week.

Some days I end up driving him back to drop off mid-day.

The school is trying to help, but his refusal to say good bye including get rough with his dad (hitting, scratching), cat and mouse chase games have become a disruption to the school and his class.

I was wondering if your daughter is doing any better and if you had any words of wisdom.


Anonymous said...

I have a 13 year old son who refuses to go to school, he wants me to home tutor him but i am not in the position to do this, If i try make him go to school he will throw so many harsh words at me bringing me to tears, i tried to take his computer games away but he will trash the house and his temper becomes even worse, I have tried to contact the school and ask for advice but they dont seem to concerned. I am at my wits end now and just dont know what to do for the best.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mark

I thought you might like to know what I think of your program
I have posted the following on a local Raising children forum here in Australia

We took on a 13yr ols who "was a particular Problem to the Agency"as they put it. He is autistic and was constantly being suspended from school for fighting and bullying I copped many scratches and bruises whilst attempting to establish pecking order None of his agression was anger and we soon realised he had never been taught how to play and after reading your articles found he was really trying to establish contact with those around him He is now in a new school and his principal sent us an email at christmas saying our boy is one of the best students he has had . Your cool attitude policy has sure worked wonders at our house

Thank You

I read an article posted on this forum some time ago about how to control out of control teenagers . Our foster boy has never been "out of control" but the signs were there so I invested in the program called Surprisingly allot of what this guy said appeared to make sense for all kids both young and teens and is especially relevant to kids suffering trauma thru displacement from their bio families.

The followed actions have sure eased MY stress levels and saved allot of energy into the bargain.

We still have our moments but on the weekend after telling him to go to his room and cool off and then getting the defient "NO" all I had to do was say "well if ,when I come out next time and you haven't gone you will loose your computor for a day" There was a thud thud thud up the stairs and when I checked on him 10mins later There he was pretending to be asleep so I told him a list of things he had not done as requested and said I didn't want to talk to him until he had done these tasks

A half hour later he was down asking if I was OK and saying he had done all that was asked

The biggest reward came when I went to my office and here sitting on the desk was his precious computor Previously we probably have had further words over him surrendering his possessions

I definitely find discipline for only one day works far better than one week etc


Marnie said...

Good afternoon.

I am a single working mother. My son is 9 year old. He is in grade 4 now. He goes to school everyday but do nothing at school. He do not do homework. Not listening to his teachers. Not doing quizzes and not writing at all. But he actively participates during recitation. What can I do to encourage him to do better in school? Please help me. Thank you so much.

Anonymous said...

Hello, My daughter is 10 and right now, since March 14 I've been going through this. She hasn't been to class since March , no friend visits (at their homes without me), and refuses to leave my side. We've been to psychologists, psychiatrists, and even considered inpatient psychiatric care. She's on some medication but hasn't been for that long. She started her period a couple of days ago. She doesn't seemed bothered by it. The biggest fear for her is being away from me. I've taken privileges, made her attend partial days, etc. I've gone with her as well. She's never done this before! She's had every blood test known to humans and was even treated for PANDAS.

Anonymous said...

Hello, After reading your article I find myself saying this is fine for the younger children but what do you do for the teen that refuses to go? What do you do when all of a sudden out of the clear blue do you do with the teen that has taken upon his or herself to do what they want to do and stating that we(myself) can not tell her what to do. That she hates me. (where all of last year and even this past summer it was quite the opposite. What do you do for that? Or how about the teen that disappears in the middle of the night and can't be found? All privileges and electronics have been taken away.

Anonymous said...

I’m a single parent, but co-parenting with sons mom, and not able to drop him off on my two days a week. The Waldorf school is being very understanding, but we are reaching the limit of patience! I’ve tried lots of unpleasant tasks when he refuses, combined with extra schoolwork, but today I just couldn’t muster the energy to homeschool him. We are seeing a counselor, and see small steps of progress, but the school is pressuring due to their state limits. I’m very tired, and at a loss of how to help.

Unknown said...

I have a 16 year old who started school refusal in his 9th grade year. September would have been the start of his 12th grade year. He started therapy for anxiety/depression in 2015. Gifted and talented, I am now homeschooling him however he won't do the work. His last completed grade is 8th grade. He has had some medical issues as well which hurts the fact that he is also an athlete. Due to family stress (divorce) and abusive father/son relationship, his therapist is treating him as a trauma victim. I just took his PS controller away as we had agreed that if he doesn't do 2 hours of school work each day, he will lose his games. I think now he is being defiant but has been saying that he "can't" do his work. He is just stuck! He also doesn't want to go anywhere out of the house except to his therapist, whom he sees 2x per week. I don't know what else to do to help him. Please share anything that you think will help. We are in NJ.
Thank you.

Anonymous said...

My heart goes out to you because we are going thru some of the things you have listed with our 15 year old. We are beside ourselves. You are not alone!

Anonymous said...

My 14 year old has missed about 77 days of school this year, he only went a few days in December. He always has a headache or stomachache. This morning he forgot his phone, so he ran upstairs to get it, then text me and said I am dizzy and it's making me sick can I just stay home, when he already stayed home yesterday with a headache. I have been refusing to call for him and letting them be unexcused absences. He already had to do two days of community service for his attendance, but this had no effect on him at all. He had 4 F's but he has brought them all up he now has 2 C's and 2 D's. But now he thinks it is ok to miss since he brought his grades up. I have not taken anything away from him, because it will cause a long bad fight between us and nothing will improve.

Anonymous said...

You are not alone in your struggle. My 14 yr old son has missed a lot of school over the years.
Again today he's refused to go saying he's not ready yet?! Stressful stuff! I wish you well

Contact Form


Email *

Message *