We’ve all seen it. The droopy eyes. The down-turned mouth. The slouching posture.

The “I don’t think I can go to school today” pout.

You prompt your child to get ready for school and then see how they feel. They pick at their cereal and insist they’re dying. You wonder how many sick days you have left so they can stay home with you, once again. You aren’t certain they’re telling the truth, but you also don’t want to be that parent who sends their ailing kid to school.

Finally, you give in. And then, an hour into their sick day, they seem fresh as a daisy and happy to have a day off from school.

You, my friend, have been bamboozled.

ferrisBut you’re not alone. Kids have been lip-syncing the “I’m sick” song since way before “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” So how do you tell when they’re faking it, or when your child is actually 100% too sick to go to school?

First, there are the obvious ways. Check their temperature and feel if their skin is clammy. Look to see if their skin looks paler than normal. Gauge their appetite and how they react to a meal put in front of them. Pay attention to their behavior and take note of any differences. Usually if your kid is truly sick, the signs are hard to miss.

However, sometimes the signs really aren’t that obvious, and the line between faking it and being sick is blurry. This is when you need to see if there are ulterior motives to why they might want to stay home, even if they’re healthy. Does your child have a test that day? Did they finish all of their homework? Are they having trouble in class? Is someone being mean to them at school? First, think back to anything your child might have previously said that hints toward a problem at school. Then, ask questions on these topics to see if there’s a deeper problem that needs to be addressed.

If nothing seems to be wrong at school, and your seemingly healthy child still insists they’re too sick to stay home, it’s time to play hardball. Let them know that if they stay home, all electronics are off limits – TV, smartphone, video games, computer… Ban them from outdoors and any playdates in the near future. Make sure that anything fun that might be enticing them to stay home is well out of their reach during school hours. Limit their activities to sleeping, reading or catching up on school work. After all, they’re “sick,” and they need to catch up on their rest. Right?

Should this last tactic not work, you, my friend, may have a truly ill child. Or not. There’s a chance your child is just overwhelmed and needs a day to recoup from the busy-ness of being a kid. If you suspect your child isn’t really that sick, you have two choices to make – you can force them to go to school and stick it out, or you can let them stay home. If your child makes a habit of trying to stay home, choose the first option. You aren’t a bad parent if they end up being sick and they need to come home in the middle of the day. You are just being a smart parent who knows your kid tries to pull one over on you every now and then. However, if your child doesn’t stay home sick very often and insists they can’t go to school, allow them this one day of being “sick.” After all, we all need a day off now and then so we can be our best the very next day.

Does your kid try to fake being sick to try and stay home? Do you ever cave? Let us know in the comments.