Reply To: HS son still refusing school-when do I say enough is enough?

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Penny Williams

School refusal is super, SUPER tough. I know, my son has struggled with it for almost 6 years now.

Here’s what I’ve learned over that time:
1. No amount of punishment will change the refusal. Why? Because you’re not addressing the actual problem, the reason behind the refusal. For my son, there’s always a specific reason for each refusal. Granted, he can’t always pinpoint it and he’s not always willing to talk about it. However, whenever we discover the issue and address it for him (talking to teachers, etc…), then he can get back to school. Sometimes it’s as small an issue as the hallways being too crowded and loud. Other times it’s incessant bullying, not understanding the material in class, teachers telling him to “try harder,” feeling overwhelmed, feeling hopeless to do well so why bother, etc…. So, taking his screens didn’t help because it didn’t address what he’s struggling with. Ask a simple question: “How can we help you?”

2. The ADHD brain is motivated by interest and urgency, not importance. While taking screens may instill some urgency at first, it’s not sustainable. So that’s not a useful option for “motivating” a kid to do well in school.

Secrets of Your ADHD Brain

3. Our kids are struggle and suffering in school more than we can imagine. And, they are trying way harder than we realize. Some kids are just not good at school, even highly intelligent kids, and that’s ok. One’s high school grades aren’t the only factor that determine someone’s future level of success. Kids can only endure so much stress before they shut down.

Why School Stress Is Devastating for Our Children

That alternative school sounds awesome – wish we had something like that available. Of course, if he isn’t willing to give it a try, more than going through the motions, it’s not going to change anything.

ADDitude Community Moderator, Author & Trainer on Parenting ADHD, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism