Understanding Kids and Truancy – Part 1Dr. Rich Patterson

Truancy has been a problem for schools for as long as there have been schools in the United States.  Compulsory attendance, the lack of which equals truancy, can trace its beginnings to the enforcement of the compulsory attendance law in Massachusetts in 1642.  As you can see, for quite some time now, school officials have been working to understand kids’ behavior regarding truancy and yet it is still with us.

There is no magic formula that will get kids to go to school, particularly if they don’t see the value or application of it in their lives.  In a three-part article I have written on 12 Key understandings regarding kids and truancy.


  1. Learning problems in school that can be traced to early elementary years which compound over the years causing more and more frustration which eventually leads to the student lacking the skills in some classes to even make sense of it, thus they choose truancy.
  2. A lack of a stable family, whether it be within the control of the parents or something that is out of their control. Either way, no judgment here, just the fact that relationships are key for kids and if their relations with adults isn’t stable and dependable, they will substitute with what they can find, often making poor or uninformed choices leading to truancy and other bad habits.
  3. A lack of specific attainable goals for the child. Have you heard the saying that the best time to plant a tree was yesterday?  This is also true with goals, the best time to start them is when kids are very young and have parents sit down with them to visualize something short term that they can work at and attain victory.  Then doing it repeatedly, eventually adding some long-term goals.

I will continue this list in the next blog, so please join me in reading on, and be sure to leave me a comment on your thoughts and experience in working with kids and truancy.

Professor and students in lecture hall