The battle with a 13-year-old: Please, please go to school!

Thirteen year olds make me sigh on a good day. Sometimes they make me scream, pull my hair out, curl up in a ball, and dare I say it sometimes my particular 13-year-old makes me swear.

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Dont get me wrong, he is an amazing kid with a good sense of right and wrong and he always remembers to say thank you after I have played chauffeur for him all day. I am lucky. Sometimes his true nature shines through past this early teen stage antics.

One of my most frustrating battles is getting my 13-year-old to school every day. When I heard a reader of this blog ask how she could get her child to school without hog tying him, I asked if I could guest blog because I have some experience here. I understand that it is impossible to physically drag a teenager out of bed and into the car. Mine just happens to be 5 feet 9 inches and 110 pounds. Not only is it wrong to physically force them (even if I want to and I may have dragged him out of bed once or twice) I simply don't have the strength. Now I am not sure what the specific issue is and an answer to this problem would depend on a few factors.

1. Is the child just refusing to wake up?

2. Is the child playing the sick card all the time?

3. Or is the teen just plain refusing to go to school?

4. Is the child avoiding a dangerous or uncomfortable situation at school?

While I can deal with the first two questions, the last two require some counseling and intervention. If the real reason your child is not going to school is because there is a dangerous or bullying situation, then you need to find out how to help that child, possibly with the aid of a counselor.

However, if you have a typical teenager, then it is time to take a stand. My son doesn't hate school; he just hates waking up. He would sleep till noon every day if he could. And the truth is, these growing kids are tired and they need more sleep than they think, which may just mean enforcing an earlier bed time during the week. We try to get our son to bed by 9:30, and if he doesn't wake up for school the next day, he has an even earlier bed time the next night.

I understand what it means to wake up a child four times. To return to their room over and over again as they turn off their alarm and moan and groan about how they didn't get any sleep or their throat hurts (Again? Didnt we do this last week?). I also understand that they deserve to exhibit their free will which at 13 often means giving into their momentary desires. You can't take away a teenagers free will but you can leverage their privileges or find a way to motivate them to.

Here is my advice for dealing with this maddening situation: a child that refuses to wake up, decides they are too sick to go to school or wakes up late and then makes you rush them to school where they roll in tardy to first period.

1. Remember that 13-14 year olds are really self-centered. Remember when you we're this age? Remembering this is a stage just gives you some perspective so you realize your child is not a bad seed, they are just 13. It does not mean you give in.

2. Figure out what is most important to your child. I can almost guarantee it is friends. Again, remember when you we're 13?

3. Once you have determined their favorite privilege, leverage it. For example, if it is friends:

If my son is tardy to school he does not get to hang out with friends that day.

If he doesn't get out of bed, he loses all hanging out privileges. Just this morning I told my son (he had to be to school in 15 minutes) that if he did not get out of bed by the time I counted to 10 he would lose friend privileges for the entire week. Lo and behold at count nine he rolled out of bed.

4. Do not make sick days fun days: If your child gets to watch TV and play video games all day when they are sick, It will be easy for them to conjure up more reasons to be sick. It is BORING at my house when my kids are sick. When my children say I can't wait to go back to school, because it is boring here in the day, I think mission accomplished.

5. Encourage them to participate in an extracurricular activity that is provided by the school. Make sure it is one they are truly passionate about. You will be amazed at what these teens can accomplish when they can get to do what they really want. My son recently started honors choir and all of a sudden he can wake up an hour early and make it on time to his pre-school activity. AMAZING! Its kind of a miracle.

6. Reward good behavior with time off. The best thing my mom ever did for me in high school was allow me to skip school once or twice a year. I got to do what I wanted on those days. If your child bucks up and makes it to school even when they are exhausted, a little sick or just plain worn out, let them have a ski day or a day off. As long as they are caught up on their work and their grades are good, a little well-earned time off can be a great motivator.

Good luck, all you moms fighting this battle. Following the above tactics has helped us get more on track. We still have mornings where I check to see if I have more gray hairs after I finally get all my kids off to school, but I do feel like I am in more control of the situation. Most days.

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Posted in Other Home Post Date 02/22/2017