There are myriad reasons parents choose to homeschool their children: parental control over the pace and approach to subjects; more flexible schedules and routines; more opportunities for children to develop discipline; faster progress with one-on-one learning; customized approach for a student with special needs—the list of reasons goes on and on. Parents have been choosing homeschooling over public education for as long as public education has existed. However, many parents in the last year did not choose to have their children learn from home. That decision was made for them.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced public school systems—and many other schools—to move their classes onto online learning platforms to safeguard the health of students, teachers, school faculty, and their families. For many parents of these children, this was uncharted territory—they were not used to having their children at home 24/7. This new situation came with many new challenges. No longer were public school teachers responsible for dealing with their children’s misbehavior throughout the day; it was now the responsibility of the parent.
Many parents are still struggling with this aspect of schooling children at home and may not know what to do or where to start. If you’re in this group and still experience some frustration with having your child at home 24/7, here are three of the best ways to prevent misbehavior and have an easier homeschooling experience.
#1: Give Your Child Choices
When it’s time for your child to do chores, eat a meal, or participate in other activities, giving them options to choose from is an excellent way to build trust and respect. The ability to make their own decisions gives children agency, something that they are always striving to develop as they grow. Remember: a growing sense of autonomy is natural, appropriate, and healthy as children mature.
Here are two key guidelines parents ought to remember when giving choices to their kids:
- Try not to overwhelm your child with too many choices. Instead, give them just two options: “Would you like to wash the dishes or wipe down the countertops?” Children are more likely to accept a chore when they are able to choose the task themselves rather than have it imposed upon them by an authority figure. The same is true for meals and even recreational activities—as long as you’re consistent and provide choices to your child regularly, they will not push back against you as much as they would if you imposed your decisions upon them.
- When children question your decisions, refuse to comply, or exhibit misbehavior, it is usually an effort to test boundaries. If you give them choices one day but none the next, it can be confusing for the child and lead them to test just how much power they have in their lives. Be sure to maintain consistency in order to avoid this confusion and prevent frustration in both you and your child.
#2: Set Boundaries with Your Child
As stated before, children are constantly testing limits and boundaries. This may sound like a bad thing, but it’s a natural and important part of the growing up process that helps them to become more independent.
Setting limits won’t completely remove misbehavior like arguments or backtalk, but it can significantly reduce such behavior. Clear boundaries can keep your child from testing them as much (though they will always be testing them). Providing consequences will reinforce those boundaries and expectations.
So, how can you establish boundaries with your child?
- Teach them how to express themselves in a kind and respectful manner.
- Don’t negotiate with your child or allow long discussions on why something must be done. Instead, outline consequences that they will be better able to understand.
- Be consistent with boundary-setting.
- Be clear about what is non-negotiable: rules that must be followed, such as safety rules.
- Follow through on the consequences.
#3 Create Morning and Evening Routines
The life of a child is one of constant change; it’s confusing, unpredictable, and even scary. This uncertainty often leads to misbehavior as the child fights to feel some sense of control amid this uncertainty. By establishing habits and routines, you can clarify your child’s roles and responsibilities at key times of the day.
Providing your child with a sense of certainty about how parts of their day will go can help them feel safe and secure and may even allow them to thrive. Routines are an excellent way to develop that sense of security and diminish control-seeking misbehavior. Establish these habits slowly by focusing on just one part of the day.
Using visual reminders such as checklists can help foster a sense of discipline in your child and lead them to finish their tasks without requiring any prompting from you. In addition to creating routines, you should use boundaries and consequences to reinforce those routines (“If you don’t complete the checklist, you don’t get your allowance this week.”)
Note that, while routines are important and effective, it’s okay for parents to deviate from time to time in order to demonstrate flexibility.
The great thing about these methods is that they are interdependent and form a coherent, effective system for reducing misbehavior, creating healthy habits and routines, and developing discipline in children while they are at home. It won’t be easy, but over time you will have a much-improved homeschooling experience!
Struggling with pandemic-era parenting demands? You’re not the only one. To find a therapist who can help you navigate these concerns, search for a therapist in your area and filter your results by Common Specialties > All other issues > Parenting.
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