Working with your child as both a teacher and a parent can be challenging. Teachers go to years of school to learn how to reach and mold talented young minds. Mental health professionals have years of practice in trying to unpack the tangle of human motivation. You have a career and a life (and potentially other kids), and now you have to teach as well?! This was not in the parenting manuals! Thankfully, I am here to help.
As we have moved into this distance learning world, and we’ve all become homeschoolers, I get three questions most often from parents. Actually, I get many more, but these are the ones that are PG-rated.
- How do you manage behavior in a way that is both supportive and holds firm boundaries?
- How do you encourage learning without getting pulled into power struggles or inadvertently fostering underachievement?
- How do you keep yourself from having to fight with your kid ALL THE TIME?
I will answer these questions for you in the following ten strategies. I cannot promise that my advice will solve these problems for you, but I can promise that using them will help. These solutions are based on solid research and I can vouch for their efficacy as a psychologist with over a decade of experience in the mental health field. I want to set your expectations in a way that helps you read this article with an open mind and a set-up for success.
In psychology, we measure behaviors in three fields: frequency, intensity, and duration. Our goals of intervening on a behavior is to change in the amount of those fields in the direction that we want (downward in the case of negative behaviors, upward in the case of prosocial behaviors). We know that we may never get the behavior to 0% (or 100%, as the case may be), but we move in that direction as best we can. For example, if Suzy is having meltdowns over her writing homework, our goal is not to make the meltdowns never happen ever. That would be lovely! But it is wildly difficult and it will take a long time, if it is even possible at all. Instead, we work to reframe our thinking to “This can happen less often, less intensely, or shorter periods of time.” That’s a win! Think of how much more energy and time you’ll have with your kid(s) if you are dealing with problem behaviors less! Focus on the steps you are taking towards the goal rather than reaching the goal itself.
Ultimately, these interventions all come down to language and behavior. As people who care about kids, language is our biggest and best tool to effect positive change. We must strive to not only say the right things but to say them in the best way possible. When we communicate effectively, we promote creativity, develop resiliency, keep our students on task, and even model emotional regulation and self-control. We have to understand, however, that not all language is verbally communicated. Our kids can, will, and do communicate with their actions (and inactions), especially in the fights they pick, the struggles they show you, and in the activities that they flock to when eyes are turned away. When we step out of judging these behaviors, we move naturally into curiosity. And when we are curious, we understand ourselves and our kids better. From a curious stance, try using some (or all) of these techniques in your interactions with your kids. I think that you will be pleased with the results.
Whether you are new to homeschooling or a veteran, we can always tweak our language to encourage a more effective collaboration. With that in mind, here are ten language techniques to implement in your homeschooling that may improve your working relationship.