school refusal and simply does as he pleases(151 Posts)
Same old same old. For two years we had problems with school attendance, in the end we moved my 14 year old to a private college for his GCSE year. This was his request and decision to take the place. It has been a huge sacrifice for us, but we felt we had no option, it simply wasn't working out for him at his academy. Two weeks into term and all seemed well, we began to breathe again. Now it's week 4 and he's already missed three different days. For no reason - can't get up, can't be bothered, doesn't see the point. I've heard it all for the past two years. My fears are confirmed: not a problem with the school or the teachers or the work. It's just him. This is his pattern. If he doesn't feel like doing something, he simply doesn't do it. He looks for someone to blame all the time - in this case it's his parents for sending him to 'an inferior' school all those years ago (he was fine for years 7 - 8, and it's not a terrible school at all). He is simply playing us. It's difficult to confiscate stuff because he bought all his gadgets himself. He is bright and works hard when he wants to. He just doesn't want to very often. He is happy at this new place, and when he's in a good mood, gets up happily and goes off to school. I feel completely hurt and let down. Should I stand back and just let him blow this one chance he has now of turning his school life around? Not sure I can stop it anymore.
I am very sympathetic, DS goes thru phases.
But what does your DS do all day? How does he have money to go out or access to Wifi while at home?
loopy, I have lots of sympathy. My DS1 truanted too, and I also felt powerless to stop it.
I just want to give you some hope. It may be that your DS is going to make life very difficult for himself. Some kids seem to do this; quite a lot seem to spend a year or so being total arses. But don't panic. This isn't his 'only chance': he can get himself back on track in a year or two, or more. He may not follow the path you'd expected, and that's stressful and upsetting - but he can still achieve.
My DS spent a nightmare year only going into college about a day a week, and getting into various bits of trouble... But now he's back, doing well, and doing his UCAS application... He just seemed to need to realise how boring and empty his life would be if he didn't re-engage...
I love your advice flow it really does help me get through this
I think there are two separate issues here:
The first is the longterm worry about his future. And here you need to listen to flow: it doesn't have to be the end of everything. Many, many teens behave in totally inexplicable and irresponsible ways for a few years and then pull themselves together and do something worthwhile with their lives. Getting good GCSE's and going to a good sixth form college is doing things the easy way. But it's not the only way.
The second issue is the way in which his behaviour is likely to affect you now. And that is something you do have to deal with. Because of present legislation you are responsible for keeping him in education until he is 17. So to keep the whole family out of trouble you have to convince the relevant authorities that you are actually trying as hard as you can. SO keep talking to the school, make sure they know you are trying, ask for their help, let them know exactly what is going on. Don't try to be loyal or cover up for him: let them know exactly what is going on and they will hopefully be on your side.
Thank you both very much. It's comforting. Yesterday I spoke to the school and they were very supportive and I hope that when / if he gets in today someone will talk to him about it. But he's supposed to be on his way now and he's still in the bathroom, saying he will go when he is ready. I guess that will have to do for me? What brought this on again after two good weeks and cheerful attitude? There is wi fi at home, yes, I need it as I work from home. But if it means I have to go to an internet cafe then so be it, I will turn it off. But phones get 3G anyway. He bought his own laptop the other day but I guess I can take it away one day if this continues. I can stop his bank card. These are all things I was hoping not to have to resort to but perhaps there's no option now. I just can't understand what is going on in his head. And can't talk to him about it as it results in him losing it completely with me and that gets us nowhere. But I will take your advice and let the school know that once again today he is going to be late or may not come at all. But this is setting him back there - socially and also in terms of work. He will struggle to catch up the more he misses.
Yes, he will.
The trick is to realise that's his problem loopy, and not take it on as yours.
'Fixing' everything - as you do when they're little - can be a hard habit to break. But it's important, because these are the years in which he has to learn to take responsibility for his own actions, and his own mistakes. He needs as much practice as possible. The longer you go on trying to take responsibility and fix for everything for him, the less able he'll be to do it for himself, and that'll soon cause serious problems.
And when you start, it's quite liberating!
But what do I do then, flow? Do I just let him not go to school? We have made a huge sacrifice sending him to this expensive college, and what is the point of paying the rest of the fees for the year if he's not going to go? On the other hand, the only other alternative is a local even worse than the one he was at, where we were almost in court because of his attendance. The same would happen there so actually that isn't an option. So we pay, and he stays at home. I feel pathetic! But yes, I can't fix this anymore. He does know what will happen if he doesn't go. But he can't see further than his mood today. He can't rise above it. He now says he isn't ready because his hair isn't right, his skin is dry ... excuses I have heard so many times. He delays going until the day is almost over and there's no point. He refuses to discuss it. I can't believe it's just wilfulness, he must have some serious issues but he won't accept help to address them so what do we do?
Oh loopy, it's so hard, isn't it? I have been there, and I couldn't solve it either, so I'm no 'expert' - I'm just offering you the benefit of my hindsight, for what it's worth.
The thing is, you're not 'letting' him stay at home, are you? Because as you have already discovered, you can't 'make' him go. It feels like 'letting' because you feel you should be able to make him; if you're anything like me, you'll be hugely frustrated, ill or almost-ill with stress, and feeling a total failure right now...
It really helps to realise that you can't 'make' him now; he has to learn to make himself...
I could give you a whole long explanation of what I think goes on inside their heads - I will later if you like... But since he's still at home this morning and it's still quite early, can I make a suggestion? Try this...
Go to him now and say "I've decided I'm not even going to try to make you go to school today. You're 14, not 4; you need to make yourself go. If you don't set off in 20 minutes, I'll phone them and tell them you are refusing to come in this morning, and you can deal with the consequences of that. You know all the arguments for why school is important, and I can't be bothered to go through them all again. What you may not know is that this school is costing me a fortune, and I don't want to waste my money: if you don't go, I will withdraw you, and send you whatever free school will have you. You seem to want to make your life harder for yourself, but I am not going to let you make it harder for me."
Wait 20 mins. Then if he doesn't go to school, phone them as promised, and go out. Don't speak to your DS again. Go to work (take your laptop and router to the library, since you're self-employed). Or if you can afford to take a day off, go swimming or do something pleasant and relaxing. Try not to go home til after he'd be back from school...
I'll come back later and see how today has gone...
Does he have a part time job? I only ask because of the things he can afford to buy. How is he at going to work, any issues there?
Well, he didn't go. His school sent some work for him to do and he's doing it now. I don't have a laptop! If he does this again tomorrow I will have to take his laptop away while he languishes in bed instead of getting up, and stop his bank card. I am so loathe to do this, it's just not me, and it's going to result in a huge explosion, I just know it, and certainly wont' get him to school either. I am torn between tough love and the need to help him somehow. I feel a bit sorry for him because he seems miserable, just can't seem to get himself together. But at the same time it's just such a slap in our faces. He's basically putting two fingers up to all our efforts to accommodate him and it's all a lie - there isn't a problem with anything except him. And all our efforts to help him have clearly had no effect so why do we keep on trying? He doesn't like going to school, that's it, and no matter how much I've told him this isn't my law, he has no choice in this matter ... he tries to live in denial. He's 15. He makes money by reviewing products that people send him, then he sells them. He is good at gaming and 'sells' points he has made on games to saddos that actually pay for them. He's very enterprising and entreprenerial but it's not his career! He can't understand that he's supposed to be at school and that kind of thing comes later. He's introverted and this is his way of connecting with the world out there. But if I close his bank account he can't make any more money. It's a pity because it gives him a buzz and he's good at it. Business is one of his good subjects. But I don't see why we should support his little venture while he is taking the mick out of us and the whole ed system.
But thanks for your sympathetic ear. I once posted something similar on mumsnet and had so many patronising responses, it really put me off. So many people say, oh just MAKE him go! But you know it's not as simple as that. He's 6 foot! And I am not going to resort to violence. But it's so hard standing by watching the train coming along and he's in the middle of the track just standing there, you know what I mean?
I think that you are being very sensible. His 'business' is ideal to have but only as a sideline at the moment. If you have facilitated this by helping sort the bank account, as it is clearly being done when he should be at school, you are right to stop it.
But you are right, you can't 'force' him any more - he is an individual and needs to make that decision himself. I would require a certain level of attendance or you'll withdraw him though - there is no point in spending £££ on a place if it is not used.
loopy, I don't have teens yet so hope this isn't wide of the mark, but how would it help you or him to shut down his business and his bank account?
this is a thing he is doing with success and some commitment; it sounds like he's good at it; there are very many entrepeneurs, especially digital, who started exactly this way.
you say "He's very enterprising and entreprenerial but it's not his career! He can't understand that he's supposed to be at school and that kind of thing comes later".
But it is evidently happening now, for him! and it just might be the start of a really successful future.
You are trying to find a 'lever' to get him to do what you want him to do and what the law requires - perfectly understandable. But removing this thing which is probably a big part of his self esteem and self worth, I wonder if it could just blow the whole situation apart, and make things even worse - by which I mean him attempting to leave home.
perhaps you could suggest that since he has all this money, he can start paying his way with living expenses. You aren't going to support him for ever and if he doesn't go to school, he won't be able to live once you throw him out at 18. (whether you will do that or not)
logic probably a waste of time but worth a go.
Message withdrawn at poster's request.
I haven't heard of that but will look it up. He IS good at IT and business, yes, that's why I'm reluctant to shut it down but there are no other sanctions to impose on him. A friend said, well of course he's going to stay at home rather, it's nice for him! He can go on his laptop, his phone etc, watch PS in his room, and order pizza with his bank card! This is what he did yesterday and is doing today again. So totally taking the mick. And whereas he was sunny and loving until a few days ago, he is now rude and aggressive towards me as I come into his room bringing him the work his teachers are sending. And it's piling up ..... meaning he will be even more reluctant to go in if he hasn't done it. I appreciate his business acumen but he isn't allowed to NOT go to school. You certainly don't get anywhere these days without even any GCSEs never mind higher levels. There is a law here that we have no control of and we are sending him to the best place to do it. If we take him out of there, where will he go? We were already on the court warning from our council after his low attendance at his previous school. I've run out of options now. I've told him this and am met with sullen silence if not rudeness.
I sympathise totally OP. My DS missed almost all of year 10. He developed 'coach trip' syndrome and refused to go to school unless it was treated. It was a physical manifestation of anxiety and eventually hypnosis gave him the tools to conquer this sufficiently to go back to school. I don't know if hypnosis could be of any help in your DS's case.
The school were unhelpful and I kept them off my back my paying for a few hours of tutoring each week at home.
The results of all this are still effecting him. He was unable to do a postgrad law conversion course because he has no A levels. He walked out of the college he moved to at 16. He got into uni by doing OU quals at home. At the age of 26 he is now studying, as I type, GCSE Maths so he can apply for a PGCE, which he could be doing it now, if he had gone to school in Year 10.
Please tell your DS, that the results of his actions or inactions now, could come back to bite him way down the line.
You know what, loopy, your son actually seems rather impressive! Oh, I can see he's infuriating too - but none-the-less impressive. His business must take vision, innovation, commitment, application, organisational skills, and probably good communication too. There aren't many 15 year-olds like that.
I agree with ihdusty. I don't think you should shut him down. It won't make him go to school - you say so yourself - and it will make him furious with you - perhaps justifiably so.
I would be much more inclined to use it as a bargaining tool. He wants the money and independence his business gives him. Fine. You want him to broaden his horizons, gain more skills, and keep his options open. There must be some compromise, surely...?
Have you considered home education? The law doesn't say you have to send your child to school; it says you must provide him/her with a suitable education. Your DS's business could actually provide some of that, and private tutors would surely cost less than the private school fees you're already paying.
Or would the school consider part-time attendance? What about agreeing that your son can work mornings Could there be some
And what, actually, is school for?
Oh blooming phone! I'm only half way through that post! Bear with me...
I appreciate what you are saying. I can't home school him. I have work to do myself and I am in no position to teach GCSE subjects. Anyway he has seven subjects and a tutor for each of these for an hour a week would cost me more than the school does. He is in classes of 3 - 6 there, practically IS a private lesson. I had a maths tutor for him last year and he lasted two sessions before he was declared no good, by DS, and I had to cancel him so many times because DS simply refused to sit through the lesson. His 'business' is impressive yes, but a bit on the dodgy side. I've told you about some of the more conventional ways he's made some money (Bitcoin too) but there are some other schemes that I am not comfortable with. I just don't know enough about it all to be sure. But it's about finding loopholes in offers etc and exploiting them. Sure techy skills are very helpful, but unless he builds on them he's always going to be a man in underpants up in his room tapping on his laptop, hoping to hack into something. I'm being a bit cruel now but honest. I think the compromise you suggest is a good route to go down. There has to be some give and take here, he has all the power over us. What lessons does he learn from simply getting away with whatever he decides to do or not to do?
It's not 'work' that he's doing, flow. It's just making money through the internet, not always something I think I / even he would be proud to tell everyone about.
I can't see whether this has been mentioned yet, apols if it has. But if he is in a fee paying college that is concerned about its results then they won't keep him if he puts no effort in, they will kick him out for the sake of their results. Independent schools don't have to stick with kids that refuse to try, though the good ones will always engage with them and try to get them on side before they kick them out. It might not be your decision to make.
I know that. Which I why I need to make sure he continues to attend! If they kick him out, then what? Where do I send him?
Or would the school consider part-time attendance? Some schools will. What about agreeing that your son can work on his business in the afternoons if he goes to school in the mornings?
The trouble is, if you force the closure of his business, and he still doesn't go to school, then what? Things can get a lot worse than they currently are, if your son is disengaged, angry and bored...
And what, actually, is school for? Surely part of what it's for is to develop the skills your son is already developing, and prepare him for adult life, which his business is beginning to do... Obviously school has other functions, including exams and developing social skills, but maybe you could work out some other way for your son to gain these...?
I realise I'm suggesting something unusual. But your son is obviously an unusual boy. And nothing you've before has worked, so it makes sense to try seething new...
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