Doc, helped me, my child doesn't want to go to school. I've heard it from other parents too. We want to talk more about principle than specific techniques. I believe if you have the right principles down, that's going to help you come up with the right application or the techniques to support those principles. So, principle number 1 is – diagnosis before treatment. Sounds like an appropriate thing for the doc to say, right? We have to appropriately diagnose what's going on before the treatment makes any sense. What if you were to go to the eye doctor and you said, “Doc, I can't see very well.” And he says, “Oh here, try these and he takes his own glasses off and hands them to you. No, that's not going to work because he needs to diagnose what's going on with your eyes and then treat appropriately to that diagnosis. So, there are a lot of reasons why children might not want to go to school. Let's see if we can drill down on the why because that will help us to determine what to do about it.
There are a few specific questions you can ask. Now, when I say diagnosis before treatment, I don't want you going out and diagnose your child. I'm hesitant to do that and I'm a licensed psychologist. What I want to diagnose is the problem so that we understand what we are dealing with. Here are three questions that you can use. Number one – is this new? If your child just barely started refusing to go to school, that's different from if it's something that you've been dealing with now for two years. Is it new? Question two – is it typical of my child or of children in general? I can't tell you how many parents have come into this office just all in knots about something that's actually pretty typical for most kids. Is it typical for my child and is it typical for children in general? What kid likes to go to school? Well, a few of them actually do. But that's a smaller percentage. A lot of times, it's pretty common for kids not to want to go to school and they get pretty creative about how they can avoid it. So that's why I want you to ask is it typical and then the third question is it isolated or more general for my child? In other words, is it only on Mondays or on A days or B days or under certain circumstances that my child is refusing or resisting to go to school? If that's the case then there may be a particular teacher or there may be a particular class or an experience that they're avoiding rather than school in general. You can see how asking these questions helps us to do a good diagnosis first before we just jump in with the treatment. Diagnosis before treatment. Got it?
Now, let's move to the second principle. For this one I'm going to say, “Communication before prescription.” It kind of follows along the same lines as diagnosis before treatment. In the communication before prescription principle, we want to talk to our child in a way that encourages open conversation and communication. They probably already have some ideas or some input about this if we can get them to open up and oftentimes, we can draw a solution from the child that keeps us from having to do anything at all because they're going to solve it. Staying calm is really important in this process. If you're all upset, it's going to be hard for your child to talk to you and to really open up. Make sure you keep a calm voice, calm face and calm body as you encourage them to open up with questions like, “Sweetie, tell me a little bit more about what's going on at school?” Try to stay away from the “yes or no”, the “closed-ended” questions like, “Is everything okay at school?” Now, if they can give you a yes or a no, they will do that and then they're done. We want them to open up and actually share more information. “Tell me more about” is a great phrase for you to use and you can fill in the end of that sentence with a lot of different things. “Tell me more about school, tell me more about your teacher, tell me more about recess.” As you start to pick up on what's going on then you can always go back to “Tell me more about that.” And your child will start to open up and will get more information so that we can do the right thing.
Another point while we're on communication before prescription, establish some good communication with your child's teacher. Your teacher has more access to your child than you do during the day and they probably already have some ideas about what's going on. Keep those lines of communication open. I have to say something here too because my wife Vicki, works for the school district. She was sharing with me a few days ago that sometimes parents are very adversarial toward the teachers. I know that sometimes there are things that you are concerned about that the teacher is doing. The last thing you want to do is alienate the person who has the most direct access to your child on a daily basis. Think of that teacher as being part of your team. Bring that teacher in in ways that show appreciation and acknowledgement and then use that teacher as one of your main resources for getting information and communication going about the problem that you're having with your child avoiding school. You'll probably learn a lot that way.
So we've covered already diagnosis before treatment, communication before prescription, the third principle that I would suggest to you here today is problem-solving before punishment. A lot of times we want to jump in and punish when really we just got a problem we need to work on together. I already mentioned that you can often draw solutions out of your child. Collaborate with your child. Team up with your child to take this on. Remember the problem is not your child, the problem is the school issue that we're having and we are going to team up against that problem. Align with your child, be on their team. Be their primary advocate and supporter with a firm resolve to take on the problem together. Rather than punishment, let's think about this as support and encouragement.
There's a lot that you can offer as a parent that doesn't put you in the middle of this thing and helps your child to take a higher level of responsibility. Encourage their proactive efforts to address this problem in a way that helps them to move forward. Compliment them for their efforts and for their courage. Be there as their primary cheerleader and then you are still the parent, which means sometimes you get to set limits that are not necessarily popular. That's okay. It's part of what it means to be a parent. Your job is to love them no matter what and even if.
Because you love them you want them to succeed. Because you want them to succeed, you understand that they are going to have to do some things that are hard in order to create an easier life. I believe that it's going to be hard-easy, we do the hard thing now and then get an easier life or you can take the easy-hard route. Which is where you do the easy thing now and you get a harder life. Sometimes, the challenges your kids are facing and going to school feel really hard for them. Would it be good for them to learn to handle those hard things now so they can create an easier life for themselves? You get this as a parent because you’ve got that kind of perspective. They don't yet. So sometimes as parents we have to set appropriate limits.
Do the diagnosis first. Make sure you've got the communication in place. And when you've got the right information, it's okay for you to set appropriate limits so that they learn they can do hard things. If you want more support with that, we've got a lot of videos in the positive parenting playlist at Live On Purpose TV on YouTube. Make sure you check that out and team up together with other parents as part of this community to share ideas. There are two specific things you can do to share ideas with each other. You can interact with other viewers in the comments section. Jump in, be part of that conversation. You might also choose to share the videos with other parents that are conscious and aware like you are.