A Sane Approach to Charlotte Mason Homeschooling

A Sane Approach to Charlotte Mason Homeschooling

I am not new to homeschooling. I’ve heard of Charlotte Mason (of course) and I’ve done some reading about her educational philosophy. I’ve thoroughly checked out the Ambleside website, dedicated to providing resources for Charlotte Mason homeschooling. But can I be real with you? I thought it seemed like too much for this homeschooling-in-less-time mama. I don’t have my kids read stacks of dusty, old books. I use traditional science curriculum. I’d like the kids to be outside more, but I’ve had a hard time spending even 15 minutes outside much of the time.

A Sane Approach to Charlotte Mason Homeschooling

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Now I’m going to be really, really honest. I didn’t know that much about Charlotte Mason homeschooling and how it parallels my own sane homeschooling approach until AFTER my interview with Cindy West of Our Journey Westward. Cindy told me about her book Charlotte Mason Homeschooling in 18 Easy Lessons during the interview and I was intrigued. I am game for just about anything in a series of easy lessons! Then I downloaded the book and, girlfriends, was I ever excited!

Why I’m a New Fan of Charlotte Mason Homeschooling

I love, love LOVE this book. I did not know how much Charlotte, Cindy, and I have in common. I actually HAVE been a Charlotte Mason homeschooler in so many respects. For example, I have introduced living literature into all subjects from the beginning. I am not a typical textbook fan, preferring history spines like Mystery of History and historical fiction and biographies instead. I believe in the power of story for teaching and created Grammar Galaxy language arts curriculum out of that philosophy.

I believe, like Charlotte and Cindy, in short lessons. Kids aren’t the only ones with short attention spans. Don’t worry, this won’t be a long article. 🙂 Short lessons are demonstrated to improve learning and they keep moms interested, too.

I also believe in the power of God’s Word for teaching children the faith. I love the curriculum I’ve used to teach my children during our Bible time, but until I read Cindy’s book (including Charlotte’s words), I had forgotten that I need to JUST READ SCRIPTURE to them. I’ll be doing the homework for that easy lesson.

Our Journey Westward

I’m a traditional science person. I have loved having my good friend manage my kids’ labs in our Apologia curriculum on our co-op day. I was thinking that there was no way that I can tromp through the woods every day with my kids drawing in journals (something they do NOT enjoy!). So I dismissed a Charlotte Mason approach to nature study. But Cindy changed my mind. I already have Fridays as a fun day in our homeschool. There is no reason we can’t do one of Cindy’s excellent Creative Nature Walks on Friday. I know my kids would LOVE it! It’s spring as I write and I have a serious case of spring fever. I can’t wait to get out of the house! I know my children feel the same way.

Cindy isn’t a Charlotte Mason purist. I reject legalism. It’s one of the reasons I’m a homeschooler. I want to find a way to incorporate others’ ideas in a way that works for my unique family. Cindy’s book on Charlotte Mason in 18 Easy Lessons helps me do that. She makes it clear that she isn’t studying Shakespeare every week. What a relief! That would be a no-go in my house. Everything that Cindy shares from Charlotte’s philosophy is made accessible for real moms like me. I’ve been homeschooling a long time, but I feel like I’m ready to start fresh! I’m going to do the homework for 18 weeks and I know my children will be cheering.

Giveaway, Goodies & More

Cindy has generously offered my readers a free download on doing nature study Charlotte Mason style. She has also included notebooking pages (on trees, seeds, Easter and more) for a total of 29 pages! That is HUGE! The book is brimming with resources for doing nature study in a practical and fun way. When you download, you’ll also receive updates from me and Cindy, including more ideas on incorporating the Charlotte Mason approach into your saner homeschooling. Click the button below to claim yours.

But that’s not all! Cindy has generously donated FIVE books as a giveaway. They include:

Charlotte Mason Homeschooling in 18 Easy Lessons
Loving Living Math
100+ Creative Nature Walks
Easter Nature Study Through the Holidays
NaturExplorers Incredible Creeks

I gave Facebook Live viewers an inside peek into three of Cindy’s books (CM in 18 Easy Lessons, Loving Living Math, and Creative Nature Walks) on the Psychowith6 Facebook page. Earn entries in the giveaway all week long by commenting on the video and sharing it. Click the page to enter.

I’m still not done! Cindy has gone a little crazy and is offering you 20% everything in her shop with code SANITY until March 28th. You can pick up any of the books in the giveaway, her specific nature studies (like the book on clouds), or her seasonal studies. You’ll be ready to do nature study all year, even when you aren’t formally doing school.

Shop now

Are you ready to make Charlotte Mason homeschooling work for you?

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How to Find Peace in the Right Places

How to Find Peace in the Right Places

I have had times of profound peace in my life and this isn’t one of them! Because I know what it feels like to have no worry and no hurry, I am determined to find it again. If you want to be able to rest in the Lord, no matter what storms rage around you, I have help for you.

How to Intentionally Pursue Peace

First, I want to share a story with you. I was seriously ill. My chronic nasal allergies were the worst they had been. I had the most severe heartburn I had ever had and I wasn’t pregnant. I had other major GI problems, including trouble swallowing. I was losing hair. My right leg and the right side of my face were numb. One day when I was out running, I found myself going off the road and I couldn’t stop.

I was terrified that I had multiple sclerosis. I hoped that it was related to a food allergy, so I ate only the most obscure foods I had never had before. I lost tons of weight, but the symptoms remained. I took hundreds of dollars’ worth of supplements. I stayed up all hours of the night researching my condition.

I did not have peace.

After prayer and fasting, others’ prayers and fasting included, I knew what the problem was: I was afraid. I was afraid that I couldn’t trust God. I was afraid that I couldn’t trust my husband to stay with me if I did have MS. I was afraid I was going to die. I was honestly afraid of just about everything. I noticed for the first time that my gut was twisted in knots every time I was running late for something, every time someone seemed mad at me, every time I had messed something up.

But when I realized what the problem was, I prayed and repeated “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding” every time the fear came. Not only did all my physical symptoms disappear, but I had a profound sense of peace. I had a speaking engagement at the time and forgot my notes. Normally, my stress level would have been through the roof! But I felt completely and totally calm. I was able to have my son email me the notes and all was well.

In the years since then, I have lost that complete, blissful sense of peace I had. I want it back. I need to practice the principles I described in the article I wrote for Intentional in Life. I pray that you and I are both blessed by pursuing peace in the right places.

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How to Truth Journal and Change Your Life

How to Truth Journal and Change Your Life

I wish I had known about truth journaling when I was in graduate school, pursuing a degree in psychology. I was overweight, living in a disorganized mess, and in debt. I’ll stop there because the list would be very long otherwise. I tried many things to change my life at the time, like a new diet and New Age teaching. But nothing had the power that I needed to change my life.

Truth Journaling: The Power to Change Your Life

Want to listen to this article on a podcast? LISTEN HERE Or WATCH ON YOUTUBE

I had wandered away from God. But even once I’d made my way home and was established as a Christian psychologist, I still struggled. I felt helpless in my fear, anger, and sadness. When various things went wrong in my life, I would lie awake replaying words and events. Even a few years ago, I procrastinated projects like Grammar Galaxy because of multiple fears. I wasn’t making progress in changing bad habits.

When Things Started to Change

I met Barb Raveling through Christian blogging circles. She had written a book on Christian weight loss that I admired, but didn’t need myself. When she asked me to read her book The Renewing of the Mind Project, things changed. I learned about her concept of truth journaling.

[Read: How to Trust God with Weight Loss]

Truth journaling reminded me of the assignment I often gave to anxious clients (and used myself). I asked clients to record everything they were anxious about and to write next to it an action step they would take. That action step might be to pray or to take a small step to address the problem. This process is very helpful for people who ruminate about things. But truth journaling is different.

In truth journaling, we write down what we are thinking that is upsetting to us. For example, one I used early on with truth journaling is:

My friend hasn’t called me back, so she is mad at me.

Before I began truth journaling, I freaked out over thoughts like this. Sorry to destroy your illusions about psychologists! I would respond by imagining every terrible interaction I might have with my friend. I would have trouble sleeping. I wouldn’t be able to concentrate. But after truth journaling, I would talk back to this thought in writing.

She is probably busy. If she is mad at you, it’s her responsibility to tell you. There have been other times she hasn’t called you back and she wasn’t mad. If she is mad at you, you’ll work it out. Even if she never spoke to you again, you’d be okay. God has gotten you through much worse.

After truth journaling, I feel immense relief. The process of getting thoughts on paper is so powerful. Thoughts sequestered in our heads can wreak havoc. Once on paper, these thoughts reveal themselves to be lies and distortions. A phone call not returned does not prove anything — not even death, which is another thing I’ve feared.

How Truth Journaling Changed My Habits

I recently wrote about time management lies homeschool moms believe. One of them is that we’ll have time to do this later. Now that I’ve been truth journaling, I can recognize lies without writing them down. When I tell myself that I’ll have time to hang my clothes up tomorrow, I know this is a lie. I won’t have more time or energy tomorrow. The truth is that habits are created by what we do every day — not what we do when we feel like we have loads of time and energy. So I hang my clothes up right away.

[Read: 6 Time Management Lies Homeschool Moms Believe]

When I worry at night, I truth journal in my mind. I identify the worry and tell it the truth, whether that’s logically or straight from God’s Word. The result is better sleep and a better next day.

How to Truth Journal Your Way to Life Change

If truth journaling sounds like what you need, listen to the podcast interview I did with Barb Raveling. Then download your free truth journaling directions for Psychowith6 subscribers by clicking the button below.

I would love to hear how truth journaling works for you on Facebook.

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Alternatives to Video Games

Alternatives to Video Games

If your child spends more time than you would like playing video games, you’re wise to search for alternatives that will captivate them. Even if you’re not worried about the amount of time spent playing, you do want your child to be exposed to a variety of activities.
Video Game Alternatives

Want to listen to this article on a podcast? LISTEN HERE Or WATCH ON YOUTUBE

When my oldest child was two, he loved playing games on the computer. I chose quality games for him to play and I didn’t have concerns about his screen time. That was a long time ago. Now I have a child with ADD who loses time playing and chooses games over most other activities. This is worrisome. I read about a young man who didn’t come out of his cabin on a cruise ship because he was playing games the whole time. I have read about college students who have failed and young men who have no interest in getting married because all of their time is spent on gaming. This isn’t typical, but even if my son has half of these problems, it’s a concern.

Video Game Addiction

Video game addiction isn’t yet considered a mental disorder, but the behavior patterns have been observed and studied to some extent. True gaming addiction, which is fairly rare at a rate of just 1%, isn’t outgrown. Boys are particularly at risk as are impulsive kids like those with ADHD. The most remarkable data that has come from research studies to date is that kids with poor social skills are most likely to have a gaming problem. Gaming provides an outlet when other social activities are uncomfortable. Sadly, lonely kids tend to game too much and time spent gaming increases the sense of loneliness. Gaming addiction, like other forms of addiction, is also typically a response to life stress or at least suggests poor coping skills.

Your child doesn’t have to be addicted to video games to suffer negative consequences. Interestingly enough, taking games away or enforcing time limits with older gaming addicts doesn’t seem to help.

Teach Your Child Social Skills

The first step in helping a child who games too much is to help him develop social skills. I found an amazing free resource called 101 Ways to Teach Children Social Skills.  It includes activities and printables that are appropriate for a wide age range. Some social skills are learned automatically; others aren’t. We have to be intentional about teaching these skills to our kids to fully equip them for life. Include one skill a day in your homeschool. That’s my plan. It’s crucial to understand your child’s personality as you teach. Introverted children aren’t abnormal. They just need time away from people to recharge. I recommend reading Personality Plus for Parents by Florence Littauer. Explain your child’s personality to him, especially if he’s an introvert. Many children mistakenly assume there is something wrong with them if they aren’t the extroverted American ideal.

After addressing social skills, what are some alternatives to video games?

Getting your child involved in sports is a great alternative. Social skills are enhanced and friendships are created. Sports also take up time in a healthy activity that cannot be spent on gaming. Sports can give your child the adrenaline charge he looks for from gaming — both from the activity and the competition. My son is already involved in a sport, but doesn’t spend much time doing it. If that’s your child, consider adding another practice, another team, or playing the sport as a family. The latter is my choice. We plan to spend more time playing tennis with my son now that it’s getting warmer outside.

[Related: Tennis: A Great Homeschool Hobby]

Perhaps your child doesn’t care for or doesn’t have the skill he needs for traditional sports. There are so many options to consider: bowling, archery, fencing, and more. Contract with your child to keep trying different sports until something clicks.

A second alternative is to find a different group activity that is not sports-related. Preferably, there would be a competitive component to the activity and it would require time for your child to participate. A robotics team is a perfect option for kids who are engineering-minded. Competitive speech and debate are excellent for kids with strong verbal skills. Getting involved in theater productions is perfect for musical or artistic kids, even if they have no desire to act. All of these activities are excellent at helping children build relationships and they require a substantial time commitment. If your church has a good youth group, getting your child involved can make a difference. My kids have done volunteer work through their youth group and have developed leadership skills as well. Even when the group activities themselves are over, your child’s new friends may keep him busy with other social outings.

A third alternative is to enroll your child in outside classes that are not online. If your student is concerned about grades, any class will do as this will keep your child busy and learning social skills. A better situation, however, is for your student to take a class with peers. This arrangement allows for the possibility of making new friends. The very best situation is for the class to be an interesting one. You could enroll your child in classes through a local co-op. Some homeschooling parents choose to enroll their child in school part-time for this reason. Dual-enrollment classes are good for demanding a lot of your students’ time. But the sky is the limit when it comes to outside classes. They come in every variety. Should you force your child to take a class? I think it’s okay to require enrollment in some kind of class. Kids with anxiety issues will reject the idea, but avoiding social anxiety will not make it better.

[Related: Help for Anxious Homeschoolers]

A fourth alternative is to give your child a job or help him secure one. Money is a wonderful motivator and the social skills that can develop when working in a group are invaluable. There are so many options here. You can pay your child to work for you which will use up a lot of time he might otherwise devote to gaming. You could help your child find an internship in a field that interests him. You could help him find a volunteer position that makes him feel needed. The pull of gaming won’t be nearly as strong if he knows people are counting on him. If he’s old enough, you can teach him interview skills and help him find good employment options for a young person. One of my sons loves working so much that we had to insist that he cut back his hours!

A fifth alternative is to play games socially. We own so many games and don’t play them nearly enough. Have a family game night where you play the board and sports games you have. We have a ping pong table and love playing with family and friends. If you have video games that are participatory, you can play these too. I love Wii bowling and Wheel of Fortune. Create a competition for friends. More than once I have created an Olympics that involves darts, ping pong, a video racing game and more. Families compete against each other for gift cards and have a blast. Gaming becomes less of an issue if it’s done socially. You’re modeling for your child how to use games in a healthy way.

A sixth alternative is to choose educational video games and activities. I’m more interested in activities because most educational video games will be viewed as less exciting than a favorite video game. Beware of this before you pay for an expensive online curriculum. A gamer child may like the platform less than a non-gamer. I have a list of websites that include games that teach grammar, for example. One study suggests that the more competitive the game, the more likely kids are to master material. I really like engaging gamers with technical activities. This could be a course online that teaches robotics, coding, or videography. Again, the better option is to have the course be social. Have your child do the course with a sibling or friend. My gamer son prefers classes we do in our home-based co-op to courses he has to complete himself. Techie Homeschool Mom shares tech educational options and offers online unit studies that your gamers may enjoy.

Online Unit Studies

I’ve barely scratched the surface of video game alternatives. I did some research to create a list of 50 alternatives to video games. I can’t wait to go over the ideas with my son. When you subscribe to the Sanity Savers newsletter, you’ll receive this list.

If you want help finding the best video game alternatives for your child, talk to other homeschoolers. Ask people in your local co-op about sports, activities, and classes. Ask online homeschool groups like HomeschoolScopes.tv about their favorite board games and tech courses. I have a plan for how to address my son’s gaming using these alternatives and I’m hopeful. I hope you are, too.

Which alternatives will you choose for your child first? Let’s chat about it on Facebook.

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6 Time Management Lies Homeschool Moms Believe

6 Time Management Lies Homeschool Moms Believe

Any time we consistently struggle with changing something in our lives, there’s a good chance we are believing some lies about it. I know that’s been true for me with time management. I’ll share six lies we believe that keep us from using our time well.

6 Time Management Lies Homeschool Moms Beleive

Want to listen to this article on a podcast? LISTEN HERE or SUBSCRIBE ON ITUNES or ON STITCHER

#1  I’ll remember that

When a class registration deadline comes across my email, my friend asks me to buy something for co-op, or my son tells me he needs deodorant, I cannot lie to myself and say that I’ll remember it. I have to write it down. Before I homeschooled six kids, I was able to remember quite a few things, but no more. I made a rule for myself that absolutely everything has to be written down right away with good reason. I was meeting with a friend when I got a call asking me to substitute teach a class at church. My first mistake was taking the call when I was with my friend. The second was telling myself that I would remember to put the date on the calendar after my friend left. You guessed it–I didn’t show up to teach the class. I let a lot of people down and ruined my reputation. She didn’t ask me to substitute again.

I have such a hard time remembering things that I can’t rely on a paper calendar. I use Google calendar and have it send me two alerts for appointments through my phone. Once I was substituting for someone for tennis and left my phone on my nightstand. I didn’t get the alert and missed tennis. I now have an Apple watch and have my phone with my at all times to prevent these embarrassing times of forgetting.

Maybe you aren’t as forgetful as I am, but it’s still important not to believe that you’ll remember without making a note, adding an event, or setting up a reminder for yourself right away. Make sure you are using a trustworthy system.

[Related Post: Balancing Marriage, Homeschooling & Business]

#2  I don’t have enough hours in the day

It really does feel like we don’t have enough time to do everything that is required of a homeschooling mom. If you work in addition to homeschooling, the pressure is even greater. However, the not-enough-time concept is a lie. We all have the same amount of time. We may have a different number of commitments, however.

The truth is that if we consistently feel overwhelmed, we are most likely taking on things that God hasn’t asked us to take on. We have the kids in too many classes or too many activities. We are spending too many hours a day on actual teaching. We are volunteering for too many things. We have high standards for things like cleaning or cooking that God hasn’t given to us.

I Love Lucy candy gif

I imagine that Martha, Jesus’ friend, would have complained about not enough hours in the day. Jesus said to her that she was worried about many things when only one was needed — what He wants us to do. God doesn’t send tasks our way on a fast conveyor belt. So if we are shoving candy in our mouths or pockets because it’s coming at us too fast like it was for Lucy, we need to step away and ask God what the one thing is He has for us to do now. Then we need to prayerfully consider and discuss our commitments with people we can trust. What can we let go of? Where can we cut corners so we feel content with the amount of time we have? I realize that when I feel a sense of not having enough time, it’s almost always an issue of discontentment.

[Related Post: Contentment 101: Time]

#3 I’ll get caught up later

The funny thing is we believe we have a shortage of time now, but somehow magically more time is going to appear in the future. We even do this with seasons of our lives. We watched a video at church years ago of a man who had a different excuse for not getting involved during each season of his life. Of course, he never did get involved.

The main reason we believe this lie is because we think we have to devote large chunks of time to activities. The man didn’t volunteer because he thought he would have to commit to twenty hours a week for life, when he could have done a three-hour shift when he was needed. Instead of seeing the compounding benefit of spending fifteen minutes a day organizing, we think we have to wait until summer vacation to get started. Meanwhile, like the man who never volunteered, organizing never happens.

We can conquer this lie by committing to a small, but regular amount of time to the things we know God wants us to do. Small, frequent investments of time or money pay off.

The Organized Homeschool Life

#4 I just need to find the right planner or application

I would love to have all the hours back that I’ve spent researching and setting up planners and time management apps, not to mention the money! I spent an entire summer setting up a digital record keeper that I didn’t use. The truth is we can accomplish great things by using a to-do list in a notebook or planner we already own. Usually, the simplest method is the most effective.The shiny new app or planner isn’t what gets the work done; we are. Most of the time our research or lust for something new is just a way of putting off work.

Defeat this lie but looking for the notebooks, planners, and apps you already own but aren’t using. Often discovering a beautiful planner you already own is motivating. If you still don’t feel like working, we need to talk about lie #5.

 #5 I’m a procrastinator

Labels are incredibly powerful. Most of us wouldn’t dream of labeling our children lazy. Children live up to their labels. But ‘procrastinator’ is the socially acceptable label we all love to laugh about. Yet, it really isn’t that funny. Procrastinating is costly financially, emotionally, and socially. Christians have the gift of self-control. We are capable of overcoming the procrastination habit, especially if we don’t wear the label with pride.

I don’t procrastinate frequently now, just as I don’t swear. It’s part of who I am as a Christian woman not to be fearful of a task or to put it off when the consequences are so negative.

To defeat this lie, stop believing that you’re a procrastinator. Begin practicing habits that will change your behavior. I did a year’s worth of weekly experiments to increase my productivity that may be of help.  But two of my favorite tips for beating procrastination are to break work into tiny tasks and to randomly work on tasks. You can take something you’re putting off and create many small steps out of it. But I prefer to count a task as done for the day if I do anything on it. For example, let’s say I need to grade papers, something I don’t like to do. I can be done with the task if I make copies of the grading sheet I use to evaluate them. If I want to do more, I can. Otherwise, I’m done for today.

The next trick for defeating procrastination is to make a list of everything you want to do, including things you’ve been putting off. Roll some dice or use a random number generator like random.org to choose the next task you’ll do. I love to combine these two methods. If I land on “grade papers,” I can make the photocopies, cross off the task, and roll again. It’s a good idea to add an uncompleted task like grade papers to the end of the list or to tomorrow’s list.

#6 If it is to be, it’s up to me

This was my life motto, unfortunately. I didn’t allow God or anyone else to help me. The weight of marriage, parenting, homeschooling, and even my own medical care was on me. I didn’t ask for help because I didn’t trust anyone else, including God. I have changed a lot and no longer believe this lie.

Many homeschool moms are tired and overwhelmed because they don’t ask for help. They don’t pray and ask for specific, practical help. I prayed about a week that was completely overbooked. I had no idea how I was going to get it all done. One by one, the commitments dropped off the schedule. Even though it was my fault I was so overloaded, God in His mercy came to my rescue.

We also fail to ask our spouses for help. As long as I can make my needs clear, my husband is happy to help. He wants me to be stress-free. The key is to be clear about our needs. Our children can also do so much to help. The key with them is not to be perfectionists. I asked my children to cut some things out that we needed for co-op. They looked like children had cut them, but who cares? It was a great opportunity for them to learn and serve and a great opportunity for me to focus on what only I can do.

We can also ask our friends for help. If we never ask for help, we are silently communicating that they shouldn’t either. Think about that for a minute. Do you want your friends to give up homeschooling or get sick because they’re stressed and don’t believe they can ask for help? That’s what happens when we aren’t honest about our needs. I love that I have a friend who will teach for me and will also allow me to teach for her.

You Can Overcome the Time Lies in Your Life

When we work to defeat these six lies, we will find that we remember important things, feel as though we have enough time, work on tasks regularly and frequently, use what we have to get things done, get to work now, and ask God and others for help.

Which of these lies steals the most of your time? Let’s chat about it on Facebook.

6 Time Management Lies Homeschool Moms Believe


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How to Help a Child with Low Frustration Tolerance

How to Help a Child with Low Frustration Tolerance

When I answered a parent’s question about low frustration tolerance, I realized I had a lot to say on the subject. First, I want to define the problem and then I want to share six tips for teaching your child.

How to Manage Low Frustration Tolerance

Want to listen to this article on a podcast? LISTEN HERE or SUBSCRIBE ON ITUNES or ON STITCHER

What is Low Frustration Tolerance?

When we are discussing low frustration tolerance, we aren’t talking about a child who easily gets quiet when challenged, are we? If a child withdraws to his room to read because he’s frustrated with the first few math problems he’s presented with, his mother is unlikely to complain. Low frustration tolerance means that a child gets frustrated easily. What most parents struggle with isn’t low tolerance, but poor frustration management. They generally aren’t concerned about when a child gets frustrated as much as they are with how they deal with it. I will be discussing how to help a child who yells, cries, or acts out when frustrated.

#1 Observe the situations that lead to frustration

Be an investigator rather than a mommy. We tend to feel helpless when our child tantrums. Our helplessness can lead to our own poor frustration management. We’re anxious about our child’s behavior and our inability to manage it. This is a problem. Children who have poor self-control have to know that you aren’t freaked out by their behavior. If they don’t have control, they want to know that you do. If you have to fake a sense of control, do it. Your anxiety is fuel on the fire of your child’s fit. Stay calm and rather than fretting, take note of what is happening.

By take note, I’m less interested in you observing her screaming, kicking, or crying. I’m more interested in your observation of what led to this behavior. Observe:

Sleep: did your child get enough sleep? My 3-year-old had a tantrum when we were in Disney World. That was not his typical behavior and was directly related to his not getting a nap. Take note of how your child responds to sleep deprivation.

Nutrition: How long has it been since your child ate? Could this be low blood sugar? I often see my husband being irritable when he’s hungry. Conversely, has your child had a lot of sugar? You may want to take note of any unusual foods eaten as well.

Change of routine: Did you do anything out of the ordinary in your schedule? For example, did you say no to something your child typically gets to enjoy? Have you just returned from vacation?

Interruption of fun: Did you demand that your child stop a fun activity or leave somewhere without giving adequate warning?

Too much input: Was your child around too many people, too much noise, or too many options?

Did someone or something keep your child from getting what he wants? Perhaps a younger sibling destroyed a Lego creation. Does your child have a physical or learning disability that makes achieving difficult? Did other children keep your child from playing?

This kind of observation can’t be done in a day. Keep good notes and you’ll likely discover a pattern to your child’s frustration. This is valuable information.

#2 Use your observations to avoid provoking frustration

We all get frustrated at times. We can’t avoid it completely, but we can certainly avoid provoking it unnecessarily. Let’s talk about being proactive in each of these areas.

Sleep: If your child is reactive to sleep deprivation, make regular bed and naptimes a priority. The fun of staying out late one night probably isn’t worth a hysterical child in your co-op the next day.

Nutrition: If your child reacts to low blood sugar, carry snacks with you and make sure your child has eaten before high-stress situations. If your child can’t handle a certain food or drink, look for an alternative that your child will enjoy.

Change of routine: Allow plenty of ease-in time when you are coming off a break. Don’t return to a full schedule immediately when your child doesn’t manage it well. Avoid unnecessary changes in routine and talk to your child about the necessary ones. Explain the change and give your child some choice in the change if at all possible. For example, if your preschooler is used to watching educational TV at a certain time and you know you won’t be home, explain that you will record the show and that she will be able to watch when you get home or after dinner — her choice.

Interruption of fun: Give your child more than one warning before ending the fun. Saying that you’ll be leaving a friend’s in 30 minutes and then 10 will help your child adjust.

Too much input: Avoid these situations for now. If they’re unavoidable, try to minimize them. For example, if you’re at a fun center, suggest that you spend time with your child in one area. Definitely avoid these situations if your child is already at risk for frustration. You don’t want to take a sleep-deprived, low-blood sugar child to an arcade.

Not getting what he wants: Make sure you address any physical concerns with your pediatrician. Difficulty seeing or hearing is frustrating. If frustration seems limited to certain subjects or skills, consider testing for learning disabilities. Many older children are relieved to know why certain work is so hard for them. If another child is interfering with your child’s fun, ask the parent to intervene or nicely intervene if the parent isn’t available. It’s very frustrating for a child not to have an advocate. If a specific social circle isn’t friendly, find a new one or join in the play with the kids to help your child fit in. You can imagine that I’ve barely scratched the surface of the kinds of things that can keep your child from getting what she wants.

Finding Godly Contentment

#3 Prepare your child to encounter frustration

Once you’ve observed the situations that cause frustration and you’ve taken steps to avoid them, you’re ready to prepare a child to deal with the frustrations that are part of life. If you know your child is likely to be frustrated, tell him so. For example, “We are going to be playing at Joey’s house today and you know his little brother likes to play, too. One thing that might keep him from bothering you is to play with him first. He just wants to be included. After that, maybe you and Joey can play in Joey’s room and we’ll play with his brother. If he is bothering you, though, tell us right away, okay?”

Everyone copes better with challenging situations when they know what to expect. Be honest about the difficulties; don’t say things like, “It will be fine.” Rather, specifically state the kinds of things that may lead to frustration. Then affirm your belief in your child’s ability to cope. That leads me to step #4.

#4 Teach your child the signs of frustration

We expect our children to just know some things when they must be specifically taught. Most children who struggle with frustration management didn’t see the signs before their behavior was already out of control. The best way to do this is to talk about the physical signs you experience. These are some of my signs that may or may not apply to you. My shoulders get tense. I may hold them up closer to my ears and they feel tight and even sore. I may be frowning so much that I have a headache. My stomach may feel tight, too. As I get more frustrated, I start handling things roughly. I may pound the mouse on my desk or press hard with my pen.

Talk about the thinking signs of frustration that you experience. See if your child has these. I may think, “I can’t do it!”; “It’s not working”; “This is taking forever!”; “They’re driving me crazy!”.

Talk about the verbal signs of frustration and see if your child relates. I might raise my voice. I might ask people to leave me alone. I might tell people to be quiet. I may say, “Never mind!” or “You don’t understand.”

It’s a good idea to write down the specific signs of frustration your child has.

#5 Teach your child how to manage frustration

The best time to teach your child these skills is when he is not frustrated. He should be well rested and ready to learn.

Have your child imagine that she is starting to get frustrated. Use one of the situations you know is a trigger. She should close her eyes and picture it. She should notice the physical signs of frustration she would be likely to feel. Then have your child take a deep breath and let it out slowly. Have your child raise her shoulders to her ears and make the muscles as tight as possible, holding them there for several seconds. Then have her quickly drop her shoulders and let her arms hang like noodles at her side. Take another slow, deep breath in. Do the same thing with her forehead muscles. Have her lift her eyebrows toward her scalp and hold them there, making the forehead muscles tight. Then quickly drop the eyebrows. Take another slow, deep breath in.

Then ask your child for smart ways to manage frustration. Ask what she thinks of the following ideas if she doesn’t suggest them: taking a break; asking for help; praying; going outside.

Suggest new ways of thinking about the frustrating situation: “I can get help”; “I can do it with practice”; “It will be easier to do if I take a break”; “I can calm down if I walk away.”

Suggest new ways of verbalizing the frustration: “I can’t get this to work”; “I’m feeling frustrated”; “Can you help me?”; “Will you pray for me?”; “I need to be by myself for a while”; “I need a break.”

It may be frustrating for you to know that this training is going to require a lot of time. That leads me to step #6.

#6 Continue coaching your child in frustration management

When you notice the signs of frustration in your child (and you should be getting better at noticing them), you can intervene by noting your observations. Consider creating a stoplight sign. You would just put red, yellow, and green paper circles on a black piece of construction paper. Explain what you’re seeing and that it looks like your child is at a yellow level of frustration. Ask what your child needs to do to return to the green level. If your child is struggling, make a suggestion. You could suggest taking a deep breath, for example.

Another way to help your child notice the signs is to say what you’re seeing. “It looks like you’re having trouble getting this toy to work.” This is more helpful than saying, “You’re getting frustrated.” If you want to help, always get permission. Your child may be frustrated specifically because he wants to do it himself. If you fix it for him without permission, you’re likely to provoke a tantrum. Instead, ask, “Do you want me to help by holding this piece for you?” If the answer is no, you can continue to suggest options. “Do you think taking a break and coming back to it might help?” Do not take something away from the child in this situation. That will provoke him for sure. Always give your child the choice, unless there is danger involved.

I had a mother ask if she should allow her child to do what she wants or to set limits even if she knows it will provoke a tantrum. First, I recommend you listen to the episode on the #1 question homeschoolers ask me. Then your choice to do something that you know will frustrate your child depends on you. I’m not suggesting that we avoid ever making our children unhappy. That would be very poor parenting. But if you are highly stressed, haven’t had enough sleep, etc. and pulling your child off her favorite game means she will pitch a fit, I am all for avoiding a confrontation. However, this choice of giving in to your child cannot become a pattern. Children have to learn to manage frustration in order to survive and thrive.

You can succeed in teaching your child to manage frustration. Start by observing what provokes frustration. What have you noticed? Let’s chat about it on Facebook.

Frustration Tolerance Solutions



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