All children struggle with behavior problems sometimes, and when they are homeschooled, you will notice right away. Unlike public school, where a parent has to wait to see how things are going based on progress reports and teacher conferences, you are there with your kids. While it’s never easy for parents of home learners to handle misbehavior, there are plenty of things you can do to help teach and learn better social skills and self-discipline. As an educator, I’ve dealt with a multitude of issues, from petulance and boredom to more serious acting out. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to handle outbursts, refusals, and other troubles that arise, but it takes time and patience. I’ll walk you through some coping strategies and explain how and why they work to correct difficult behavior.
How do you homeschool a child with behavior problems? You homeschool a child with behavior problems by consistently and clearly offering the same behavior modification strategies. When your child does well, they should get a reward, even when it’s simple praise or a literal pat on the back. Likewise, consequences should be immediate and related to the issue. For example, instead of raising your voice at a child who yelled something rude, have them write a letter of apology for the rudeness and interrupting. Alternatively, you can use the Montessori Positive Discipline method. I’ll explain how to use both methods.
Positive Reinforcement for Behavior Teaches Good Habits
Getting proactive about homeschool behavior can help you prevent bad behavior in the future. It’s vital to keep in mind that no technique will work overnight, but when you patiently and consistently respond to your home learner’s behavior, you will help them develop good behavior in the long term. Before we look at discipline, let’s take a look at improving the chances of positive actions.
As a parent, it can be frustrating when your kids seem to need your attention all the time. Whether they are young or high school-aged, it’s essential to listen and share what they’re enthusiastic about. Always acknowledge what your children say and do. Especially when they do well, you need to encourage them. By following positive behavior with a positive reaction, they get a reward for the actions and decisions that are correct.
Display examples of their best achievements somewhere special. This helps to give motivation, so your kids want to do better and earn that place. It also shows them that you are proud when they do well and offers a visual reminder of your positive response.
You don’t need to throw a party for every small thing your kids accomplish, but you do need to show them that you see what they have done. A high five, hug, or thumbs up is a positive acknowledgment. Tell them that you see how well they are doing. Express your appreciation when they do well more than you think you need to because this will give them the consistent reward they need to program their brains for success.
Positive body language, jokes, and rewards are all good ways to give a positive response without going overboard. Eventually, your home learners will congratulate themselves on a job well done, and it will become a rewarding feeling. However, they still need validation from you. Being a good role model is essential.
Focussed Learning Helps
Another way to deal with many of the bad behaviors in homeschool is to look at what your child is learning. Encourage them to focus their energy on topics that interest them. Spend more time working on the things they love and your child enjoys. Give them a positive learning environment where they like spending their time. You can even have your child help set up their workspace so they feel included and have pride in their work.
Have your home learners set goals, and work on timeframes for achieving them. Including them in the process, it becomes a self-perpetuating positive experience. Rather than having homeschool feel like something they have to do because they are assigned the work, you are giving them the ability to take possession of the process and do what they choose for themselves within reason.
By sticking to your schedule and reinforcing good behavior, while giving calm, relevant consequences, you teach home learners self-discipline. By laying the solid groundwork, they have a clear path to follow for success.
Stopping the Bad Behavior Calmly
There are many types of bad behavior you will need to deal with when you homeschool your children. One of the most common is resistance. When you have a stubborn child, then it’s essential to work around this resistance. First, set a schedule and stick to it.
You may also need to create a behavior management plan. Like a class schedule, these are the specific consequences for certain actions. Additionally, you need to stick to that response even when it frustrates you, or you become angry. Remember that this is normal. Homeschool parents often experience exhaustion and other negative side effects from working so hard to provide the love and nurturing their children deserve because raising healthy humans is tough work. Behavior correction will require adjustments on your part and theirs, but when you do the work, the learning will come from it, just like in school.
By letting your children know what you need to accomplish, they aren’t left in the dark. Still, they’ll refuse sometimes, and you need to acknowledge that behavior in a helpful manner. Tell them that you see they are frustrated, angry, or sad, and let them know you need to understand why to help them. Listen to what they have to say, and help them find a way to redirect.
Don’t let them get under your skin or give a rude, loud, or negative response. If the child is acting out to get what they want, remind them that you need them to finish their assignment and tell them when they’ll be able to do the activity they’d rather be participating in. Sometimes, acknowledgment and boundaries aren’t enough.
When your children still act out, then you need to respond consistently even when they do not. Over time, they will learn that resistance doesn’t yield positive results, but finishing the task you set means they can have that reward.
Relevant Consequences for Bad Behavior in Homeschool
One of the most important things you can do for bad behavior is to have consistent responses. When your kids do well, you always need to acknowledge it. Similarly, when they choose negative behavior, your response needs to have the same regularity.
Yelling, spanking, and other severe negative reactions teach your child that when they are unhappy with another person’s behavior, it is okay to yell, hit, or otherwise respond in an excessive and unkind manner. Often enough, that is exactly what a parent is trying to prevent. You cannot prevent bad behavior by modeling it.
The idea behind reasonable and relevant consequences is straightforward. You need to give an immediate and specific response that makes sense given the type of bad behavior. Writing apology letters is one example. However, there are many creative ways to implement this strategy.
A child who is making a mess needs to clean up the results. The important thing here is to cut off the behavior through acknowledgment, and once they are calm, immediately move into the consequence. Leaving these consequences for later doesn’t help, nor does allowing the behavior to continue.
Another example is fighting. You could have a child apologize, but when it’s not sincere, all you are teaching is that saying sorry means you got away with fighting. Instead, you could have them get an ice pack or bandaid for the person they hurt. Or you can have the child do anger management. For older children who fight, volunteer work with abused animals or younger children could also help them see the consequence of this unacceptable behavior. Remember to acknowledge their good work on fixing the problem, and tell your child they should be proud of themselves as well.
There are times when every child needs more help. Just as you would hire a tutor for a student who struggles with a class, you can hire a teacher for coping skills as well. While it’s not always practical to go out to a therapist given the current COVID situation, there is a great alternative you can use at home.
Online counseling is easily available to everyone. By seeking an outside professional, you can help your child learn how to manage their behavior with less stress for you. Training in behavior issues is something few home learning parents possess, but you can still give your child this advantage easily.
For teens, I recommend Better Help. This online site is geared toward adults and young adults, and their professional assistance is superb. Meanwhile, younger children with behavior issues would benefit from The Counseling Connection, which helps you to find the right match for younger people with behavior problems. Rooting out the issues and handling them in an appropriate and timely manner will prepare your child for a future of achievement and stability.
Building self-esteem and emotional awareness are just two of the benefits you and your child gain from working with a professional counselor or therapist online. A good teacher or counselor will show you things you didn’t see for yourself. By seeking a new perspective, you and your home learner will have more tools at your disposal to help handle the emotional outbursts and behavior so they can succeed.
It is difficult and frustrating at times, but teaching your homeschool kids how to cope with and redirect bad behavior is worth the effort. You cannot expect instant results. Every child learns at a different pace, and you have to allow them whatever time it takes for them to believe and repeat positive messages.
Lashing out, arguing, refusing things, getting loud and rude, and other negative behaviors are normal. Children are testing their limits and learning how to cope with the world. Remember that it is your job as a parent and teacher is to help them figure these things out, but it’s not to try and stop them from learning. Asking for outside help when you need it is simply another smart way of helping your homeschooler become their best self and achieve their dreams.
Understanding, acceptance, and patience are hard skills to learn at any age. It is okay if you make mistakes dealing with bad behavior as long as you correct yourself as well.