Mad Kids & Work

Louisa was good-and-mad at me (and probably at herself, too). So, I did the unnatural thing: I assigned dishwashing duty to her. At first the pots and pans were being banged around and she was sulky, upset, and sure she was mistreated. Surprisingly, 10 minutes later she was humming happily.

Once again, I had witnessed the magic of work. Kids are wiggly and full of muscles that want to move and work and play. Sitting on a time-out chair can help them get madder. Put those muscles to work, and you’ll be surprised at how the anger dissipates!

Work seems to be a magic balm that can change a mood and make kids happy. Don’t choke! It is astonishing, but it is true.

The next time your child misbehaves and needs a punishment, don’t choose the time-out chair. Skip the lecture and the scolding. Pass by the guilt. Instead, try good, old-fashioned work. The results can convince the most unbelieving parent that America’s fine citizenship has been built on farm chores.

May I recommend:

First, a Relationship

“First we have a relationship, then we have an educational method.” —Karen Andreola

And so it is. As homeschool moms, we sometimes get involved trying to figure out what philosophy to follow, what type of teaching we should do, or what curriculum we should select. We eagerly read books, buy curriculum, and “try on” educational methods as if we were shoe shopping. But no “shoe” fits until we have a relationship. No method can make up for a strained relationship with your child, your student. Until the relationship is working right, the educational approach doesn’t really matter very much at all.

So, instead of focusing on what educational philosophy or curriculum you are going to use in your homeschool, think instead of how you are going to build your relationship with your child. Brainstorm ways to reach each child’s heart. Co-operation and a desire to follow you will come naturally when the relationship is strong! As you bind your children’s heart to you in love, you will be creating the very best environment for learning, no matter what method you end up choosing.

Here’s some ideas for knitting your hearts together:

*Listen and give eye contact when your child talks to you.

*Take a walk and hold hands.

*Give a sincere compliment.


*Lay on her bed and talk while she is getting ready to go somewhere.

*Look at what he has put on his bedroom walls and comment positively.

*Say “yes” whenever you possibly can.

*Give her a shoulder rub when you are sitting together.

*Ask him to cook with you, and let him choose the meal.

*Sit on the floor next to your child while she is building with legos or playing dolls.

*Tell another how capable (or kind, or helpful, etc.) he is—loud enough so he can overhear you.

*Resist the urge to set something straight (his hair, his room, the way he set the table, etc.)

*Actively encourage your child in following his special interest by getting him the necessary supplies, mentor, books, and opportunities.
(This, more than anything else I have done, has spoken “love” to my eager, curious sons.)

*Read aloud together.

*Remember your child is young and trying to figure out life. Be forgiving.

*Go swimming together.
(Sometimes we moms are a bit reluctant to get our hair wet or to put on a swimsuit, but it really is a playful, bonding time.)

*Don’t criticize ever. If he needs instruction, do it privately and kindly, reassuring him of your love.

*Make something together—a candle, a skirt, a clay sculpture, a pizza . . .




Want Cooperation?

My sister came for a visit from out of state and, by her example, reminded me of a principle that I had sort of forgotten. And how powerful it is! It works with everyone, young and old, but it is especially effective for getting cooperation from children.

My sister asked my teenage son to tell her about his interest, which is botany. I heard them in the kitchen discussing all the things he planted this year in his garden, and which varieties were unusual and how Spanish peanuts have a bright orange-colored blossom, how his kohlrabi should be harvested when it is 3-4″ in diameter, and other details. He got out his seed packets and explained each one to her. I mentally worried that he was boring her.

Was she interested? In botany: no. In my son: yes. She listened, asked questions, gave full focused attention. It took a 1/2 hour of her time, but that investment always pays back a hundred-fold. She did it because she cares, but the result always amazes me. Even though she didn’t do it to get his cooperation, cooperation and devotion are always the fruit of sincere interest and listening to another person.

If you have a teenager that is dragging her feet, or a preschooler that doesn’t want to obey, the natural tendency is to strong-arm them a bit via lecture, threats, loss of privileges or other means: “if you don’t get your dishes done, then you won’t be going to the party!” That approach just increases negative feelings. The direct route to cooperation is building the relationship, giving your time and attention. It takes time, maybe time we feel we don’t have to spare. But in the long-run, it is so worth it. The pay-off is enormous!


Clones Clones Clones Clones Clones|


“Just like Mom”. My son Daniel says I’ve raised clones. Watching my little girls interact and express themselves, I would have to say that I agree. It sobers me. In spite of ourselves, we train our children to be like us. In many ways, my daughters are far better than me, thankfully. I see my aptitudes and talents inherited by my children. But, I do see my flaws in living color and I wince whenever I do!

You don’t train a child to be patient by making him wait for things. You train a child to be patient by watching you kindly wait for a slow talker to finish his sentence without your interruption. You teach patience by being content for nine months of pregnancy without wishing away each miserable day. You teach patience by standing in a grocery store line and smiling and being pleasant to others instead of pacing and checking your watch.

As far as patience goes, it has taken me 45 years of struggle to begin to make peace with life’s imperfections and slowness. My mind races and I think fast (which is my personal excuse for why I am impatient!), but people need kind and unhurried treatment. It takes time to listen to your spouse. It takes time for a child to print his name correctly. Accomplishing things in this imperfect world take a lot longer than we’d like often. Patience is one of those necessary virtues: the earlier learned, the better.

Children do not learn respect for authority in a Sunday School lesson or from a book. They learn how to respond to authority while driving on the freeway listening to their father talk about “cops”. They learn it whenever their parents discuss the mayor, the president or their church leader. They learn how to respect their own father by listening to their mother’s tone of voice when she talks to Daddy, especially when she disagrees.

The process of creating clones is perfectly sure. Whatever you do–whoever you are–day by day is the pattern and mold you create for your impressionable children to shape themselves by. Things that seem of very little consequence to a mother make a great difference, I suppose because those little acts are clues to your true values. I abhor the thought of dropping a wrapper or paper outdoors. To litter this beautiful world violates my values and touches upon my very beliefs; that God created this world and that we are the caretakers of it. Although leaving a gum wrapper in the park may not seem to be a grave matter, it silently teaches an attitude toward God, this world and our duty to nurture it, that words simply cannot.

What is our responsibility? It is for us personally to so live that our children will be led to act like Jesus when our training is done. Homeschooling only intensifies your influence as your spend more time with your children. This is such a big order for such inadequate human beings! But what an incredible opportunity to leave your legacy in the form of an excellent family of adults, well-raised!