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5 Good Responses When Your Kid Doesn’t Want to Go to School

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Every day, are the first seven words out of your child’s mouth, “I don’t want to go to school”? It’s frustrating to have the same conversation every morning. You’ve made it clear that he has to go, or that it’s her job, and that you know he or she will be fine—you’ve tried using all the lines and failed. This kid doesn’t want to go to school.

So maybe you’re using the wrong lines. There could be a response that will get him lacing up his shoes or her grabbing her lunch faster than you can say, “Your Poptart is ready!” OK, that might be wishful thinking. But there are responses that can lead to a more productive morning and conversation. Here are 5 to try out.

“I see that you’re having a hard time.”

When your kid doesn’t want to go to school, sometimes he or she just wants to be seen and heard. Saying, “I can tell you’re tired” or “I get it” is much more productive than, “You don’t have a choice. Get out of bed.” As an adult, when someone hears and acknowledges me, sometimes that’s all I need to muster the strength to take the next step. It’s the same for our children.

“What’s the plan?”

If your child has listed the reasons he or she doesn’t want to go to school and you can’t promise the issues won’t arise (What if my teacher turns into a zombie?), then give your kid control by making a plan. Maybe he or she’s afraid there will be a pop quiz. Then the plan is to take a deep breath and read the questions slowly. If your kid doesn’t want to go to school because of mean girls on the playground, think of a specific child she can ask to play with. This will put the power back in her hands.

“What’s your favorite part of the day?”

Sometimes their little brains just start to spiral into negativity. Shifting the focus to something good, even if it’s lunch will start to add some lightness to the conversation. Then, whatever they say is their favorite part, brighten it up even more if you can. Offer to add a special treat to his or her lunchbox. Ask your child to update you on the chapter book the teacher is reading aloud. Remind your son of how much he has improved his swing in baseball thanks to P.E.

“Ok, I’ll give you five minutes.”

I do not like waking up. The person you encounter in the first 15 minutes after my eyes open is not the person you get for the rest of the day. Maybe your kid doesn’t want to go to school and so loses his or her mind as soon as the alarm goes off. Instead of yelling and yanking him or her out of bed, try to offer some grace. Give the kid five minutes to sit up and stretch. This will prevent the day from starting with drama and tension. And if something really is bothering your child, he or she will have time to process before you try to talk it through.

“I love you.”

It’s frustrating to start the day with conflict, so instead of engaging, try to “kill ‘em with kindness.” A fight will make children (and you) grumpier, while an “I love you” will disarm them. Sure, you might get a little attitude and an “If you loved me, you’d let me stay home,” but stick to your guns. Our children need to know we love them, even when they’re being pains in the neck.

What works when your kid doesn’t want to go to school?


“What’s your favorite part of school? What’s your least favorite part?”

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