15 answers

4 Year Old Refusing Preschool

My 4 year old is suddenly refusing to go to her preschool. My question is: should I make my daugther go? Background: this is her first time at preschool, because of her birthdate she will have to go to preschool again this fall instead of entering Kindergarten. I don't want to turn her off from school. I've tried encouraging her on many levels to get her excited about going. She is too smart to be persuaded, with witty come-back to refute my remarks. I've driven to the school and got her inside but she wouldn't go in the room and ran down the hall. Next day she just refused to get dressed, and pleaded with me to let her stay home. I've asked if something has happened and nothing has; I think she is just bored with it (she knows quite a bit for her age). I really think it's boredom because she also said that she wants to try a new school.

So, I tried using reward for going, but it didn't work, so now.... Should I use punishment as a means for her to go (i.e., go or your grounded) OR should I just let it go for this year and try again in the fall? I'm afraid that if I let this go, she'll think it's okay to quit and next year she'll try the same thing as soon as she feels a little bored with her teachers. What would you do?

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

I wanted to thank everyone for their responses to the post about my 4 yr old suddenly refusing preschool. I'm so happy I found this board because it helps so much to hear all points of view. You all had so many good points. So what happened? Well, she was on her 3rd day of missing when I posted -- and I'm happy to say that she is back, and fortuntately it was her own decision, but motivated by a little "peer pressure". She came in from playing outside with her friends (under her babysitter's supervision) to tell me that a boy was calling her a "quitter" and "school skipper". We discussed what the word "quitter" meant and she said "I don't want to be a quitter mom. Can I go back to school"? And so my problem was solved...she happily went back. However, what she didn't know was that I had finally reached the decision to let her stay home until next year (thank goodness I never shared this with her).

I had to ask myself why I was sending her there anyway; especially since she has another year to go yet before Kindergarten. My reason was "it was for her, not me" - - meaning I didn't have to send her for childcare or anything. I wanted her to go for the experience = for the structure, skills, socialization and independence. However, we already had this covered, as she tried to tell me in round about ways when I tried to convincing her to go to school. She never had separation anxiety and is very independent. Our days at home are very structured, we often do projects and little lessons to help her gain new skills, and she is in ballet and has many neighborhood friends whom she plays with daily, which covers the socialization. On the 3 days she stayed home, I made it clear that she wasn't able to play during her normal school hours (9-1 pm); she understood we still had to do school work. I had a babysitter over to watch my 2 yr old, while we worked. She did so well, and was so happy, cooperative and eager to learn...it just made me see that she wasn't being manipulative to get out of doing work, but she really felt like we could do better here at home. I don't think pre-school is necessary - but I will keep her going as long as she is getting something from it. The lesson for now is as simple as she put it "she is going back to do the right thing, because she doesn't want to be a quitter". Hopefully this will translate into ... when it becomes mandatory, she will fulfill her obiligation (or, at least there won't be any second guessing on my end about what to do about her feelings--- she will have to go then. For now I'm happy with her being a young 4 year old who will be home with us all summer...and we'll try preschool again in the fall (may try a new one just for something different). Thanks again!

More Answers

A) You are the parent- not her.
B) If she is so bored with pre-school, ask the schools to evaluate her learning level to come up with an acceptable compromise.
C) YOU are the parent... she has no right to dictate, make witty come-backs, or try to negotiate the issue.

(Sorry to sound cruel there, I have two girls that went through that phase, and I learned the longer you let them have the control, the harder it is to take it back later on. My son will be hitting that phase soon enough, and I have no plans to let him start trying to manipulate me from what I think is best. lol. Seriously, give in once and it's really hard to keep from giving in on other things that you need to put your foot down on.)


1 mom found this helpful

Allowing her to manipulate you to get out of going to school is definitely not a habit you want to create! Do you want your child to think that every time she is 'bored' with school that you're going to come to her rescue and not make her go? Do you want to teach her that when it comes to school if she throws a tantrum you're not going to make her go? I'm not sure if this is something you're willing to go through during elementary, middle, and high school years. Trust me, when she's in high school she will probably think every minute of school is boring (this coming from a high school teacher)!

To me, school is non-negotiable except in the case of illness or some other major problem (death in the family, being bullied at school, etc.). I know not everyone shares these values and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. However, if you, too believe that school is important and should be attended every day, boring or not, you'll put your foot down and get her butt there, regardless of how much she hates it!

1 mom found this helpful

My Son has done similar things, he says school is boring and doesn’t want to go. He is also in 4 year old preschool. I usually try to point out that his friends will miss seeing him; he is particularly fond of a little girl who I always tell him will be sad if he is not there today. I bring up things they did in the past I know he particularly liked or enjoyed so he remembers what fun he has had in the past there. I have also made sure he understands WHY I want him to go to pre-school. So he can learn how to play with other kids more, learn fun songs and do cool crafts. If I try the “so you learn things” approach he is always pointing out how boring it is and how he already can read, but they don’t even read at school. So I make him focus on the social aspects of school. As far as making her go or not, that is ultimately your decision, but if I was in your shoes I would make her go. The year is almost over, it is not like her issues are from fear or that she is not ready, it is because she is trying to make her own decisions. And it is never too early to teach them that you have to go to school and latter to work, weather you want to or not, it is not something you get a choice in. Good luck.

I am a preschool teacher of four-year-olds and my advice is to get with the teacher and explain what is going on. It may be that she will have to pry your daughter out of your arms screaming and kicking while you make a run for it. You will feel horrible and like the worst mom in the world, but I guarantee you that once she settles down and realizes she is staying she will have fun. I see that ALL the time. The teacher should be able to find challenges to keep your daughter connected.

I do encourage you to make sure you don't let her manipulate you. School will not be an option when she goes to "big school" so now is the best time to work on it, since it is most likely a part-time, short day situation.

She only has a few weeks left and then summer..unless its an all yr school. But I would look into a different pre-school. If she is willing to go somewhere else I would take her somewhere else next yr. For this yr I might try talking to her about her friends in the class and how she is not going to be able to see them again if she doesn't go to school there. If that doesn't work I wouldn't push it. Either she had a fall out with one of the students or she had an uncomfortable moment of some sort with her teacher. Also the pre-school might be able to work with you these next few weeks. I know it is a lot but what if the next couple of days she has class you sit in on the class with her. Help her ease back in and get her grasp on it again and then ease out. I know my girls go to a two yr school and it has amazed me how much peer pressure they even feel at these ages. My oldest had times last yr when she didn't want to go but we eventually got past it. I was also amazed at how much questioning and creativity it took in that time to get her to finally tell me what it was that was bothering her. It was a combination of one mean little boy and the fact that she just missed mommy and her siblings. But she did get over it and now its torture telling her that she can't go on the rare occasion that she is sick or its an teacher conference day or holiday breaks. Its such a tough age for them. Good luck.

How long has she been in preschool? Is this a recent development? My son had issues with preschools and after investigating on my own and listening to him, we switched schools several times and I, too, felt he has the rest of his life to go to school I wasn't going to force him into something he dreaded. So, we tried part-time, thinking the days were too long. Finally we found the right school for him and he LOVED it, he is six now and still talks about the school, his friends and teachers, he will be going there for the summer and can't wait! I think sometimes it's just finding the right school. But you don't want to send the message that if she complains she can just "skip" school. I switched schools three times, the first (Little Red School House) when he was one because his dad yanked him out because he got bit (I didn't neccessarily agree with this reason, but already had my own doubts, the second, Basic Trust (supposed to be the best in the area) because the teachers were ignorant and the kids were obnoxious and he was regressing socially, the third because the school didn't understand that they basically worked for me and if I asked for something, like to know what he did all day, they should comply and because they weren't changing his diaper regularly and then finally came upon NKU's daycare, actually we had been on the waiting list for a year. And even though the days were long and he hated me leaving, he loved the kids and the teachers. I personally think it had to do with the fact that the teachers were all well-educated and truly loved their job and kids and third because the parents were well-educated, the kids were better behaved, more compassionate and ALL got along and weren't cliquey. So maybe you should look into another school.

Have you talked to her teacher? It may be a socialization thing.

Definitely encourage her to still go but let her teacher know of all that is going wrong. They can help especially at a young age. Maybe she needs to be challenged more that the teacher realizes.

I would wait until the fall. In the meantime, since you said she is bored, try to either have her tested, or get her into something more advanced for the summer. I really don't think punishing her and forcing her to go is the answer. All that will do is make her hurt, anger, and resentful. She sounds like quite a smart, funny, child, so work with that. Heck, I'd probably be bored too if I was more advanced lol. I don't see it as quiting, rather, find something more advanced for her. my sister had the same issue with my neice when she was in the second grade because she was 'gifted.' They actually moved her up a grade and she is doing great, plus they got her into other activities to keep her active (she plays an insturment, takes karate, an dance). If you just let her do nothing, that is one thing, but try looking into other schools, as she suggested lol. Kids are sometimes smarter than we are! lol


This sounds just like I what I went through! My sitauation was that I quit my day job to stay at home with my now almost 1 year old and other kids at the home daycare I started. Megan (also 4) was only going 2 days a week, and also was bored because she was on the higher scale of intelligence than the other kids. Megan also will not be starting kindergarten until fall of 2008.
My advice is to first talk with one of her lead teachers to see how she is during the day. Do the other kids pick on her? Does she socialize well with several of the kids and not just one? Did anything happen in school about the time you started to have a problem (even a small thing)? If the teachers don't have anything to tell you, use your best judgement about pulling her out. Also being in the Early Childhood Education field, I am against punishment, but I'm not the type to tell people what to do or not to do with their kids. I believe that pulling her out of preschool this year will not teach her that quitting is ok. By the time fall comes around, she's going to have grown mentally, emotionally and physically. It will be with at least some different kids and possibly different teachers. If it were me, with the information given, I'd pull her out. Hope this helps.


Dear Linda:
Please consider allowing your little girl to stay home. Preschool is a modern idea that most children do not need. I am not bashing preschool, as some children (and parents) love it. But there is no real reason to push your little one to go. It has nothing to do with intelligence, but children need to grow and learn at their own pace. School days will start soon enough and then will continue for almost two decades! Also, many studies show that early learning does nothing to give an edge in the long run; also, children who start later usually catch up and then OVERTAKE their early-learning peers! This may not be the "politically correct" answer, but letting a child stay home and be a child--particularly when they want to do that--is perfectly good for them. If you still want preschool for your child, try again in the fall. Children grow and change quickly, and your little girl may just decide she's ready by then. I hope this helps. I wish you blessings!

Historical romance author
PS: Being sensitive to your child's needs in no way detracts from your authority as a parent. When it's time for her to really go to school, she will go. I have five wonderful children, all extremely bright, and only one of them went to preschool.


Absolutely do NOT punish her for how she feels regarding school. A love of learning needs to be nurtured, not forced. Enroll her in the Ohio Virtual Academy, a free public e-School, or purchase the K-12, Inc. curriculum independently. Do not force her to go now. You can explain to her that since she does not like it, she does not have to go now, but that education is a requirement of all individuals in our society.

Really, the whole "must be in school to be socialized" is overrated. Teachers constantly say, "Be quiet; you're not here to socialize!" in public classrooms, so the only interactions are with same-age peers during lunch (which in many schools is severely abbreviated) or outside of class.

Keep in mind that this Fall she will be several months older than she is now, and may have an entirely different opinion.

Let us know how this evolve.
Best wishes,

Have to talked to the teacher about this? Find out how she is doing at school once she is there. I would say she has to finish out the year. Maybe it is not challenging to her, but the teacher can help with that. Or maybe she is getting frusterated with things she does not know and she needs help in some areas while she excells at others. I see kids throwing fits all the time when I drop my son off. Normally the fit last a couple minutes. We are all in school and don't have it as an option. So It's more of a forced thing for our children. They normally stop crying after 2 minutes and go about their day. I'm not sure what to do if she knows the other option is to stay home.

Hi Linda,
It does sound like maybe she is bored. If she is willing to find a new school. Maybe the program that they have just is not a challange for her.
I had the same problem with my daughter. The only thing is she likes the school, it was the program she was in. She was about to turn 3 and was not fully potty trained. They wouldn't move her to preschool room till she was in big girl pants. My daughter was bored in the class, and cried and screamed every day I took her to school.
Three weeks later they mved her to preschool class and she is a totally diffrent child.
Just try to find a diffrent school or maybe the preschool cold look into putting her in the pre-K class instead.

Hi Linda,
While I agree that you are the parent (and if you read my other responses you'll see that I'm very supportive of discipline!), I also don't think that a 4 yo needs to go to preschool. Only you know if she's really just trying to manipulate you, but it just sounds to me like she's trying to tell you how she feels and she's not really being heard. (I don't mean that as a criticism, just saying that she is being strong with her feelings maybe not because she's manipulating). Kindergarten is not even mandatory in Ohio! So, preschool definitely is not necessary. I felt pressured to send my 4 yo, because "everyone else" was doing it. But I didn't, and I'm so glad I had this extra time with her. She will grow up and be gone soon enough!
Discipline is necessary, but understanding your child and having a relationship with her is even more important.
That being said, if you have no choice (doing work at home), then you have to do what's necessary and there's no option. I'd bet, though, that she is picking up on subtle clues that you are not really convinced that she "has" to go to school. It's amazing how they respond to our inner fears and hesitations that we may not even be aware of!
Please let us know what happened!

I completely 100% agree with Mi R. Children learn at a VERY young age how to manipulate their parents. If she has already learned how to manipulate you into NOT making her go to school even if it is Preschool then you are in for a world of trouble once she is older. You need to be the parent and make her go whether she is bored or not. Just because she is advanced does not mean she will not learn something from preschool. There is alot of things that us as parents cannot teach our children and they learn alot from other children in a play setting like preschool. My children did 2 years of preschool before entering Kindergarden and it was a wonderful experience for them.

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