School blues? Try these seven OTC hacks (read: rules) – depending on the age of the child, and the intensity of school hate!

“But I don’t want to go to school” – a dreaded, often chronic line that most parents wish they never heard or will never hear in the future. Unfortunately, most, if not all, parents do face this situation, repeatedly and in varied extremes. So how does one deal with a child, of any age, not wanting to go to school or having school stress?

School is non-negotiable, other things are

Cardinal rule number one – school is simply non-negotiable unless there is illness, risk or injury involved. There are no special days when school can be missed – unless the child is sick, hurt or lagging too much in sleep to wake up. Enforce this rule from day one with firmness. Going to school is not a punishment; it is just part of daily life as is breathing and eating. On a really listless day, there could be an extra candy or that movie or even a sleepover in exchange for the child going to school, but this has to be a rare occasion, not an everyday face off. Simply stated, school is on, so the school has to be attended without exception, save for a rare occasion.

The more school attended, the more the rewards

Want that new X-box game? Get in three months of regular, no-complaining school days. Those rad heels? Four months of every day school (short of a sick day)… You get the picture. The idea is to reward, not bribe. The way kids can earn money for chores done -- similarly, they can win or earn rewards by having regular attendance at school. This is much different from a bribe which is offered in a bid to get something done immediately and is given before the task or chore – bribes are a kind of negative reinforcement. They tell the child that bad behavior or being truant is acceptable since they can wrangle out what they want from the parent beforehand. A reward is positive reinforcement – after s/he’s been good.

A schedule to get enough shut eye and rest

Is your child over-tired? Make sure sleep features strongly in his eat-study-play schedule, too. Too little sleep makes anyone cranky, and kids are no exception. Drowsy children may also be not attentive in class and get singled out even further, thus entering a vicious cycle of hating school. Most human adults need about 8 hours of undisturbed sleep each night in order to function best during the day – kids need more than that. Figure in about 9-10 hours of daily sleep in your child’s timetable and ensure that they begin winding down at least 30 minutes prior to bedtime. Remember that too much stress in a child’s life will affect his sleep, thus bringing about more stress. Bedtime baths and stories are the best way to wind down younger ones.

Mirror anxiety – pimples, clothes, and more…

Is your child getting singled out because of how he looks or dresses? Regular and loving talks about body acceptance are the only thing that would work here – with interspersed mentions of celebrities who look like them. It’s easy to say to the child to simply accept who s/he is, but as parents you need to listen to the child’s issues and perhaps read in between the lines too. Most of a child’s self-esteem issues crop up from the way they look – try making some positive changes. A wardrobe change, healthy dietary and exercise plans to lose weight, a visit to the dermatologist to cure pimply skin – all of these are healthy changes and tell the child that you are empathetic to his problems and are there for him or her .

Super cool stationary & gear

Think of this as a bribe to tackle those back-to-school blues after the holidays – and mostly this will work with children of a certain age group. Older kids are likely to thumb their noses at a juvenile offer like this… You may think of this as a bribe, but it is not – it is a promised reward that the kids get once they make a goal of being regular at school. In case they play truant, the reward can and should be taken back. For older children, it can be that much awaited cell phone or a wardrobe makeover or even that new piece of tech they have been wanting for a while. Make it clear that if school is not regular, the reward will be taken back and have to be earned all over again.

Set an example – with regularity & discipline

If you as a parent are a slacker – be it for work, gym or even just cleaning up your home – your child is likely to pick up this from you. Instead of preaching, try and set an example by being regular and disciplined yourself, but without bragging about it. This is a double-edged sword – if are a disciplined sort, but love to talk about it – your child is simply going to think that you love to brag and is unlikely to learn anything from it. The best way is to practice, without preaching – make sure you are a regular office goer or a home chore doer – this way you lead by example and are likely to inculcate the same good and disciplined qualities in your child, too.

Nurture any secret talent in your child

Not all kids are academically inclined. Promise your child to get him those classes or tutoring s/he’s been yearning for – music, dance or sports– as long as s/he makes passing grades and goes regularly to school. We live in a world of many, many different careers and vocations. We as a society need every kind of professional; your child may not be the next Einstein, but why would you want him or her to be? As parents, we should want what’s best for our child and hope that he could become the best that he is. An academically average child may amaze you with parallel talents. As parents you have to keep an open mind and an open heart – let your child excel in what he’s good at…

These are the more generic things to be done when faced with a recalcitrant kid, refusing to go to school. For more serious, but underlying issues, read part two of this article – coming up tomorrow! Do share your thoughts with us in the comments section below. 

Articles published by are no substitute for medical advice. Please consult your health care provider before beginning any new regimen. For more information, please visit our disclaimer page here.

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