Why Ethan refused to go to school

Ethan on his way to school.

Yesterday, I received a call at 12.30pm while I was at work. It was Ethan’s daycare teacher calling to tell me that Ethan was crying non-stop and refused eat and shower. He refused to go to school and was crying uncontrollably. I tried talking to him over the phone but he was crying so much that he could not talk. All the teacher could tell me was that Ethan said he missed me and wanted me to be with him.

Worried that there was something wrong, I immediately left the office and rushed to the daycare. On the way, I tried to think what made him cry like that. He had never refused to go to school before. He was fine when I dropped him at the daycare in the morning. Could he have been hurt? Did something terrible happen that he could not tell me over the phone?

Or perhaps he just did not feel like going to school after spending two and a half weeks of holiday? But it’s not like him to do that. He had never said he doesn’t feel like going to school even after the long year-end school holidays. He knows he has to go to school whenever school is in session. But then again, even adults sometimes don’t feel like going to work and they give lots of fake excuses to their employers. So if adults can feel like they don’t want to go to work (especially after coming back from a holiday), then perhaps kids can feel like they don’t want to go to school sometimes?I thought this would most probably be the reason. That he had too much fun over the school holiday. I even thought of not bringing him for trips or sending him for special holiday programmes anymore in the future.

When I reached the daycare centre, Ethan has already stopped crying (most probably because he knew that I was on the way). I hugged him and gently asked him what was the matter. He mumbled something that I could hardly hear. When I finally heard what he said, I thought to myself, ” What? You made me come all the way just because you did not bring your homework?” But of course, I did not say that. Instead, I asked him which book was it because I remembered packing all the books for the day in his bag together with him. He said it was his Bahasa Malaysia activity book and he was afraid that his teacher will punish him for not passing up his homework.

Again, I thought to myself, what is the worst that could happen if you did not pass up your homework? Stand on the chair? Or stand outside the classroom? Isn’t that better than making me come all the way from work? It’s not as if my office is just next door to the daycare centre. But again, of course, I did not say that.

So we went through all his books and lo and behold, it was in his bag! Just as I knew it would be. Perhaps he did not see me put it in his bag. There were 3 pages of homework to be done and it was 10 minutes before school starts. I quickly got him to sit down and gave him all the answers. He wrote as quickly as he could and finished it in record time.

We were 15 minutes late by the time we reached the school and I had to walk him into his class and apologize to the teacher for being late. Then I had to rush all the way back to the office and continue with my work.

Anyway, what I really wanted to say is this: are all kids so afraid of being punished for not passing up their homework? Or is it just my son?

I mean, on one hand, I think it is good that Ethan fear being punished (or rather being embarrassed in front of his classmates) so much so that it forces him to remember to do his homework. On the other hand, I find it a bit ridiculous that kids are actually so afraid that they do not want to go to school.

So how do we instill a sense of responsibility in the young kids so that they know that it is their job to finish up their homework and pass it up on time without scaring them into submission? Is there another way to do things? Is punishing them (or rather, embarrassing them) really the only way? Or am I simply over-thinking this matter too much?


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