How To Help Your Child Do What You Say

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How To Help Your Child Do What You Say • 3 principles for motivating obedience in the homeschool

Homeschooling, and parenting in general, would be so much easier without resistance, rebellion, and whining. Wouldn’t it be awesome if our children did what we told them to do?

While we can’t eliminate all of the struggles-of-the-will in our homeschool, we can make choices that help our children be more content, reasonable, and obedient. Here are three principles that can help your child do what you say.

1. Believe the Best About Your Child

In many ways, our children are trusting us to tell the story of their lives. When we believe the best about them, they believe us and are more apt to do the right thing. Conversely, when we assume the worst about them, they believe us, and it affects their behavior negatively.

It all comes down to our attitude as their mother. When we ask God for the ability to live according to “love always hopes,” we influence our children in radical ways.

To get your wheels spinning about how your hopeful attitude could transform your home, here are examples of ways that this plays out in my home on a daily basis:

  • When my two-year-old shows up with scissors in his hand, I say, “Thank you for finding them! I’ll put them up high so that no little children get hurt.” Nine times out of ten, he hands them over without a fuss. If I jump at him in anger or alarm, he runs off with the scissors.
  • When my seven-year-old is concerned that a younger sibling will ruin his LEGO creation, I say, “Of course she won’t ruin your creation. She loves and respects you. I know that she will take good care of your hard work.” That younger sibling hears my trusting response and usually tries extra hard to respect that LEGO scene.
  • When the breakfast dishes are cleaned up and we are ready to begin schoolwork, I simply say, “Okay, everyone! Let’s get started on schoolwork.” Then, I gather the little ones for our story time on the couch and don’t look back at the older children as if I’m doubting that they’ll begin work. My confidence that the older kids will do their work frees them to do it.
  • When a child is frustrated with schoolwork, I assume that he or she wants to understand the material. I try to come alongside and help solve the problem, identify obstacles, or direct them so that they can succeed.

2. Prepare Your Child for New Circumstances and Expectations

This is a tool that every parent can use from the early days of parenting through high school. When your child is about to enter new circumstances or when expectations have changed, prepare your child for the adjustment. Talk about things ahead of time or practice skills that your child may need to succeed. One of our most significant roles as parents is to prepare our children for life, including the things that happen on a daily basis.

Here are examples:

  • When we pull into the church parking lot, a friend’s house, or a new environment, we talk about what the children can expect from the situation. We aim to set them up for success, telling them who will be there, how they should behave, and how they can thrive.
  • In homeschooling, when we are starting a new book or activity, I explain the context and share my expectations. Sarita’s notes in the Instructor Guides provide context and expectations for many assignments.
  • Whenever I modify our schedule, I first talk about it for a couple of days and ask for feedback, then I print out the new schedule and attach it to the refrigerator. I often use breakfast to talk through the plans for the day. The kids can ask questions, propose changes, and express their concerns. It helps to address these things before they become opportunities for conflict and resistance.

3. Remember that Homeschooling is About Child Development and Discipleship

I regularly need to remind myself that homeschooling is not about checking boxes, completing textbooks, or impressing people. We homeschool so that we can disciple our children, guiding them step by step in God’s ways. By respecting the tendencies and trajectory of child development, we will treat frustration, resistance, and whininess as part of our call to nurture and disciple our children.

Although we aim to create peace, harmony, and faithfulness in our children, we also recognize that weaknesses will come up from time to time. God cares about the homeschooling mom who is raising a stubborn, resistant, or disobedient child. He will guide us each step of the way, even if the journey is long. We can pray continually for the atmosphere in our homes, asking the Holy Spirit to reverse the trend of darkness and to shine His life and light in us and our home.

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Most children thrive with a structured homeschool day. Try Sonlight to see how it can provide a framework for your daily routines and make it easier for your children to obey.

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