When looking into school refusal there is a common piece of advice to ensure the home environment is boring.

I've found the claim in these places

The article school refusal when a child wont go to school authored by Julia Martin Burch Published on harvard health publishing

Make staying home boring. Is there anything about the out-of-school environment that makes it extra tempting to stay home? Make home as school-like as possible.

And this article school refusal: children and teenagers published on raisingchildren.net.au

Make your home ‘boring’ during school hours so that you don’t accidentally reward your child for not going to school. This means little or no TV or video games and so on. You could think about not letting your child use their phone during school hours.

Does making the home environment boring reduced school refusal, or is it a good idea that has not been confirmed

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    How times have changed. I had to look up what "school refusal" meant. In my school days, if anyone could convince their mother to let them stay home, they'd have to spend the day in bed since being sick is the only possible reason for not going to school. And there were no electronic devices available, so the alternative to going to school was sitting in bed reading a book. Commented Jun 7 at 23:13
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    "Boring" is very subjective - some kids would find a room full of books boring; others would happily spend the day there. And probably some feel the same about video games. A slightly more objective claim would be easier to analyse.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jun 10 at 13:15

1 Answer 1


Verdict: Unconfirmed.

In a thorough systematic review of interventions for school refusal by Maynard et al (2015) (also reported in Maynard et al, 2018), this strategy is indeed mentioned (pg 15):

... reducing the young person’s access to items and experiences at home which might otherwise positively reinforce the refusal to attend school ...

In general, school refusal is treated using standard psychological interventions such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), and possibly medication. Since CBT and the like are "package" therapies - that is, they are customized for each patient from a broad collection of available strategies - determining if the specific strategy in question contributes to treatment effect would require a component analysis. Given that school refusal is a very niche area with few studies (the above review found 8), it is unsurprising that no such analysis has yet been performed (Elliott & Place, 2019), let alone one testing the effect of this specific (infrequently used) strategy.

The review also quotes another author:

"... the search for a definitive behavioural technique or group of techniques to suit all cases is inappropriate. … every case is unique and will require slightly different emphases in treatment."

For example, if school refusal is primarily associated with anxiety, then a boring home environment will do little to address the underlying issue. Thus in any case, I would not apply this strategy universally.

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