Avoiding these six parenting traps can help you have a more successful homeschool year. Scroll down to determine if you’ve fallen victim to any of these parenting faux pas.
Parenting Trap #1: No discipline plan
The first one is the most important. If you don’t have a discipline plan for your homeschool, you will struggle. Having disobedient, unresponsive kids is the number one complaint I hear from homeschooling parents. Nothing has the capacity to waylay your homeschool plans like not having a plan for discipline.
Without a discipline plan, disrespect and disregard for parents’ authority are explained away as a result of a child’s immaturity, a stage, or a diagnosis like Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Failure to respond to kids’ tests of your authority, for whatever reason, is a recipe for disaster. A child who isn’t disciplined feels unloved. I have had kids tell me this word for word. A child who isn’t disciplined will struggle in school, career, and relationships. Their risk of imprisonment is high, and their life expectancy is low. God commands us to discipline children for a good reason.
Choosing the wrong discipline plan is ineffective too. There are parents who have no discipline plan because they don’t understand the importance of discipline. However, there are parents who do understand the need to discipline. They adopt a plan they read in a book or hear about from someone else. But it doesn’t work. So they typically flail around trying to find a plan that will work.
I was firmly in this second camp. I did discipline my kids, but I was constantly trying plans that weren’t a good fit for me and my family. I would create a chart of consequences that I really didn’t agree with and truth be told, knew I wouldn’t implement. So I felt like a failure and my kids knew they could get away with misbehavior, as long as it wasn’t disrespect.
My discipline plan now is to tell my child that I will get back to them with the consequence. At times, I know what I want to do. I will fine them, take away a privilege, or make them work for me to pay me back for the time they’ve cost me. But when I don’t know, I no longer have the anxiety of wondering what the right consequence is. I can calm down, pray about it, discuss it with my husband, and give the consequence. I have older children and infractions aren’t commonplace.
If you have young children, decide how you’re going to discipline the common issues now. Come to agreement with your spouse. One strategy I commonly recommend is from Dr. Kevin Lehman’s Have a New Kid by Friday. If your child misbehaves, the next time he or she wants something, the answer is no. It works.
Develop a discipline plan or you risk losing your temper. If you struggle with anger in your parenting, listen to the podcasts I did on this topic.
Parenting Trap #2: Excusing a child from discipline for special circumstances
The second trap is related to the first. It’s deciding to give a child a pass on discipline because of special circumstances. Perhaps your child has special needs, has had an illness, or has had parents divorce. The effect of having no discipline is much more of a handicap than any physical, emotional, or social struggle your child may have. The story of Helen Keller is an excellent example.
I feel sorrier for children who aren’t disciplined than those who have some type of disability. If you have more than one child and you aren’t sure if you are neglecting discipline with one of them, ask your other children. They’re likely to tell you that you aren’t correcting misbehavior when you should be. Discipline does not mean being angry, harsh, or unkind. It means correcting and training in appropriate behavior. Even children with developmental disabilities can be trained to respect others and the rules you have in your family.
Parenting Trap #3: Not requiring chores
The third parenting trap that will limit your homeschool success is not requiring your kids to do chores. I have had parents be amazed by my kids’ chore chart or ask me how to make kids do chores.
Chores give kids self-esteem, important life skills, and teach discipline. If you don’t expect your children to do age-appropriate chores, you are denying them an important learning opportunity.
I’m often asked how to get young children to pick up toys. First, give kids a warning of when you’ll clean up. Even better, make picking up a part of your routine. Routines get much less flack than unexpected clean-ups.You may want to use music to motivate. And most importantly, have a happy, energetic attitude about doing chores. I often used my hand to guide little ones in picking up until they got into the spirit.
With older kids, I have found that changing the way we do chores regularly keeps the kids motivated. Just about any approach can work for a while.
Parenting Trap #4: No screen-time limits
Parenting trap #4 that can interfere with homeschool success is not having limits on screen time. I am not going to prescribe what those boundaries are, but if you allow screen time when chores aren’t complete and school work isn’t done, you’re going to have problems. If screen time keeps your kids up late so they’re too tired to do anything else, you’re going to have a problem with that too.
Decide on a policy that works for your family. We have had a lot of policies over the years. We only allowed gaming on weekends. We only allowed gaming on special occasions. We have had time limits and schedules. The best policy for us has been no screen time until other responsibilities are complete. We have only instituted limits at night for our older teens when a problem occurs. If you are interested in alternatives to video games for your kids, listen to the podcast episode I did on that topic.
Parenting Trap #5: Not inspecting what you expect
The 5th parenting trap that can interfere with homeschooling success is not inspecting what you expect. If you decide to make screen time contingent on doing chores, you are avoiding three parenting traps I’ve discussed. Yay you! But if you don’t make sure the chores are actually done before you agree to screen time, you’re likely to be disappointed and even angry. The fact is, our nature is to see what we can get away with. Kids will always test boundaries. If they can get away with not cleaning the bathroom and watching TV, they’ll do it. So, it’s up to us to monitor and check that the work is done. If we do this consistently, we’ll have disciplined kids and we’ll be happy too. I shared in a blog post how I failed to check my kids’ math homework for too long. Let’s just say I wasn’t happy. To help ensure homeschool success, inspect what you expect.
Parenting Trap #6: Not making your marriage a priority
Finally, a parenting trap you may not expect is not making your marriage a priority. When we focus on the kids, their activities, and their lessons, and we have nothing left to give to our spouse, our homeschool is at risk. The #1 reason we will have our homeschool records drug into court is because our spouse is suing us in a divorce.
Giving to your spouse is important to keep him happy. We don’t want him longing for the pre-homeschooling days when he got more of our attention. At the same time, investing in the marriage makes us happy too. The more I withdraw and focus on parenting and homeschooling alone, the worse I feel. Even though my husband doesn’t do the teaching, I rely on him as a colleague in this homeschooling journey. I feel better when we’re close, when I share struggles I’m having with particular kids or classes, and when my husband encourages me.
I hear from many homeschoolers who boo and hiss when date nights are mentioned. The money and help required make them difficult. I understand that. I never saw my parents date when I was a child. Instead, our entire family would go to another’s house to spend time or vice versa. It’s not the alone time we desire, but it allows for adult time. Alone time can be achieved by scheduling it into your day – early, late, or on weekends during naps. Or use screen time to occupy the kids so you can be alone. Listen to the episode I did with my husband on a healthy homeschooling marriage.
If you avoid these six parenting trips of not having a discipline plan, not disciplining a child with special needs, not requiring chores, not setting limits on screen time, not inspecting what you expect, and not making your marriage a priority, you are much more likely to have a successful homeschool year.
Which of these parenting traps has been an issue in your homeschool? Let me know in the comments or on Facebook.