Mum shares her battle trying to get her teenager to attend school every day.

Oh boy, I know this feeling!

The concerned mum shared, “My teenager is not getting up in the mornings to go to school. He has his alarm set, we wake him up and his friend comes over to pick him up.

“But so far this year he has had more days off than what he has been to school.

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“He is a good kid and is at the top of all his classes but he just doesn’t see the relevance in going to school because he isn’t learning anything. Any ideas on how to get him motivated?”

Mums advice

My first question is always, do they play computer games? Are they getting enough sleep?

Lots of mums have also suggested maybe something is going on at school? Is the child being bullied? Maybe you need to look at extension classes if the child is bored? Others suggested a trip to the doctor wouldn’t hurt to check iron levels and maybe Vitamin D.

There is always so much to consider when a child refuses to attend school. My 10 year old has had quite a few “my tummy is sore” days this term and I know he is having some issues at school so I try to limit giving in to his anxiety and explain to him why he might be feeling “unwell” and that yes it is a real feeling, but sometimes going to school is the best thing you can do.

What the experts say

Marjory Phillips, a clinical psychologist at the Child Development Institute in Toronto told Today parents, “Don’t say, ‘Here we go, I’m going to be late for work again,’” because that just locks you into a power struggle with your kid. “Instead, say, ‘It looks like you’re having a hard time this morning. Are you worried about something at school?’”

“It could be that academic expectations are hard. Or your kid might be having difficulty with a friend or is feeling bullied,” says Phillips.

Social worker, James Lehman, says it’s important to correctly identify the problem.

Problem-solving skills require problem-identifying skills.

Parents who are not equipped to do this should seek cognitive-behavioral oriented help.

Secondly, parents need to decide what motivational tools they can use to reward kids who get out of bed on time consistently, which to me says that they solved the problem of getting out of bed successfully.

And third, don’t be afraid to use and enforce consequences and limits.

There are consequences to not meeting responsibilities in the world, and that should start when you’re a child.

Don’t make it fun for them to stay home. Limit what they can do and restrict screen time and outdoor play etc.

Join our Facebook discussion below:

  • I came across this post and felt the need to add a comment as I am going through this now. Our daughter started with avoiding school through sore tummy days in primary school which we soon discovered was anxiety. I took a holistic approach in healing the gut and considering food and environment. She then started high school and we hoped a new environment and new experiences might inspire her and she would grow out of it. We knew year 7 would be tough as we had been through it with our son. It is for them all but especially girls – they can be so cruel! Then add social media to the mix. School became a big problem so we moved her. We have been seeing psychologists and psychiatrists. We are term two into year 8 and she has hardly been to school all year. We have been through hospital visits due to depression and she is now on medication. We are having so many issues and it’s so hard to know where it stems from. We have investigated bullying and are now considering different ways to school her. We have a loving family environment and we are putting all our efforts into helping her be happier and enjoy school but we are at an all-time low as nothing seems to be working. We can hardly drag her out of bed and we don’t want to battle anymore. If anyone is reading this who has primary school age kids, all I would say is get help as early as possible from psychologist/counselor and get to the root of the problem before it gets more complex. Maybe we should have seen a psychologist in primary school. Also consider whole health (food/supplements/environment). Be patient and calm (not easy!) and give mental health days but also stick to routines and encourage activities. We can’t look back and wish we had done things differently now as we need to stay focussed and work through each day but just know it can get worse and lot more unmanageable the older kids get. To the mum who wrote this I hear your frustration and I feel your pain. I thank everyone for their input in the comments as knowing others are experiencing the same and being able to hear other points of view and ideas is always useful.


  • This was me. As a teenager. Then I became a parent and all I could thing was “oh no, what will I do if they’re like me as a teenager.” Luckily they weren’t like me


  • As kids get older you can’t force them into it like when they are smaller.


  • maybe ask why they don’t want to go and support them through it..


  • Maybe look at a school which runs on the job programs as well as the academics.


  • I’d be talking to my child first and then the school. Something else may be going on. Depending on this child’s age, there is a legal requirement to be at school, so there aren’t any other options yet. And teenagers need to learn about rules and the discipline of routines for work – you can’t just decide not to go to work when you feel like it!


  • There are some good long term solutions here however, when the child or teenager is refusing to go to school and mum and dad need to go to work, that’s abit tricky.


  • One of my granddaughters was brilliant at academics and sports. All of a sudden this changed and her attitude was she didn’t need to go to school. She would hide letters from the teacher and the principal. It turned out she was being bullied. She had offered to help one of her classmates with their maths and a few of them decided she thought she was better than them. She has since changed classes and is now happy at school. Bullying has a lot to answer for.


  • Gosh this is really tough


  • One of my daughter seems to get a sore tummy on the way to school. It is usually anxiety related. We’re getting lots of external help and hoping it will make a difference.


  • I always made home through the school hours the most boring place. No TV, no gadgets, can’t play because you are too sick to go to school, so better stay in bed and revise your maths/English/whatever homework, and no friends over this week cause you can’t pass on your illness to others. It was amazing how quickly they wanted to go back to school.


  • Sounds to me like the teenager is smart and is just plain bored, try seeking out another school, talking to the teachers/principal and seeing if they can get more stimulating things to learn, maybe talk and discuss more about options to keep stimulated. Schools are geared up for the “average” kid and this is where education is lacking, some kids can’t keep up and fall behind while others get bored.


  • thank you for all the tips and hints to help with teenagers and school!


  • I’d be asking some more questions and trying to have more conversations about why they don’t want to go to school.


  • Not much you can do. I was the same, I just didn’t want to go. My parents tried a police escort, the welfare officer escort too….I wouldn’t go. Mum would drive, I walked in the front door and out the back door straight home again. I did finish high school though via correspondence. I just didn’t do as well as if I had stayed at normal school

    • If you wanted to and felt able to share, may I ask was it because you didn’t see the point of school? Or something else?


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