When Your Child Misses the Bus on Purpose

Don't let your child miss the school bus every day on purpose.

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Kids are pretty good at avoiding things they don't want to do. If your child doesn't like school or he hates riding the bus, missing the bus on purpose can be a good ploy.

Unfortunately, many parents are quick to drive their kids to school after they've missed the bus. But, giving him a free ride will only teach your child that missing the bus is a good idea.

Whether he wants to arrive at school late, or he doesn't want to get ready on time, becoming his chauffeur rewards him for missing the bus. It's important to give him consequences that will motivate him to get on the bus next time.

Problem-Solve the Issue

Before you hand out consequences, find out why your child is avoiding the school bus. Say something like, "I wonder if there's something about the bus that makes you not want to ride it."

Make sure she's not being bullied on the bus or getting picked on when she arrives at school. If she's scared of the other kids or she's become a target, work with the school on resolving the issue. 

If she simply doesn't want to get ready in the morning, problem-solve how you might help her get ready faster. If she struggles to wake up in the morning, establish an earlier bedtime.

If she dawdles, a simple timer may motivate her to get dressed or eat breakfast on time. Set the timer for 10 minutes and tell her to "beat the timer." 

Discuss strategies that can help ensure she is ready on time, such as packing his backpack and having his clothes ready the night before. Listen to your child's ideas about what he thinks would help him get up and out the door on time in the mornings. 

Establish Negative Consequences

Your child should also receive a negative consequence for missing the bus. Remove a privilege, such as all electronics (TV, video games, computer, etc.) on the days he misses the bus.

If you end up driving him to school, make him pay your time and gas money (similar to the price he might pay if he called a cab).

If he doesn't have any money, you can still have him pay you for the gas money. Set up chores for him to complete to pay off his debt. Don't allow him to play video games or do fun activities until the chores are complete and his debt is paid off.

Make Him Walk

There may also be an opportunity to allow for some natural consequences. Depending on how far the school is from your home, safety issues, and your child's age, you may want to make him walk to school.

If your child is too young to walk by himself, follow him in your car. Walking to school may be the best way to motivate him to get on the bus tomorrow.

Reward Him for Being Responsible

You can also reward your child for making it to the bus on time. A simple reward system may motivate him to try and get ready faster in the morning.

Or, you might create a token economy system where he earns tokens for getting ready by a certain time and for getting on the bus. Then, the tokens can be exchanged for privileges, like time using his electronics. Each successful morning he has may motivate him to keep up the good work. 

Consider Letting Him Be Late

If your child dislikes school, arriving late will be a reward rather than a consequence. But, if your child would be disturbed by being late, you might consider letting him arrive after the bell rings. 

Whether you drive him or you make him walk, let him face the natural consequences at school. Be honest with the school and let them know that he's late because he missed the bus. The school may instill consequences, such as making him stay after school. 

Knowing that he'll have to stay late may motivate him to get up and out the door a little faster if his motivation in missing the bus was to get out of school. 

By Amy Morin, LCSW
Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a psychotherapist, an international bestselling author of books on mental strength and host of The Verywell Mind Podcast. She delivered one of the most popular TEDx talks of all time.