Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Homeschooling and Children Who Misbehave

Homeschooling and Children who Misbehave

Parenting styles is often one of the biggest issues that comes up within a homeschool group.

Homeschooled children are often better behaved and are more attentive than their public schooled counterparts. A homeschooled child doesn't get to go off to school to do whatever they want to (as long as the teacher doesn't catch them) while their parents aren't watching.

All day long they are with their mom (usually) who is ever observant and intervening should their behavior be inappropriate in the situation (like too loud in a place requiring silence), or not following the golden rule during play.

When a homeschooled child starts to do something that is a potential harm to themselves, another person, or an object or building, there is often an immediate intervention. When this is done consistently and at an early enough age, manners and appropriate behavior becomes the norm and requires very little reinforcement as the child gets older. At least that has been my experience with my own child and my observation of numerous homeschoolers in various parts of the country.

I'm not condoning yelling, or using harsh or corporal punishment. I'm talking about watching your young child like a hawk when you are in a public place or they are playing with others. When they even begin to do something mean, dangerous, or potentially damaging you stop it immediately.

And then, down on your knees, eye to eye with them, you explain in a calm and loving voice why its not O.K. You explain why they could get hurt. Or, you say how would you feel if someone did that to you? And you do it again and again until the kid gets it. It usually doesn't take that long.  

There are exceptions however. Some children do whatever they want to without the parent intervening or correcting behavior. Sometimes the parent seems completely oblivious to their child's actions. Children from that type of environment sometimes:
  • bully other kids, 
  • steal or break toys and other objects, 
  • hit, push or shove others,
  • are disruptive,
  • don't listen,
  • don't follow directions or rules.
Being in a group with a child like that is hard on everyone. The other children are stressed because they don't feel safe. The parents are concerned for their own child's safety and when the child in question misbehaves, no-one really knows what to do.

You are responsible for your child's actions. 

The Unwritten Bad Behavior Rule

Its an unwritten homeschool rule that if a child is misbehaving, it's that child's parent that needs to correct it.

If you are leading a group activity, teaching a class, or someone else's child has been left in your care for a play date or some other reason, then you are the adult in charge and you are responsibility for the health, safety, and behavior of that child. 

If you are at an activity with other homeschool parents and someone else's  child misbehaves, the unwritten rule says you don't correct the child's behavior. You let the child's parent do it.

But what do you do when the child's parent does nothing?

I remember being a new homeschool mom and meeting up with several families for a fun day at the creek. When we got there, several of the boys were standing on a log that jutted out over the water. One of the boys was being exceedingly rough and was pushing, pulling, and prodding the other boys into the water.

Several of them ended up wet, bruised, bleeding, and in tears. Most of the other moms kept giving each other looks in total disbelief that the child's mother didn't stop his poor behavior. It was the first time most of us had ever met. I had only met the child's mother once or twice previously. No-one said anything to her.  

If it had been my kid behaving that way, he would have been hauled out of the water immediately and taken home. Hurting others is just not O.K. in my book. And today, having much more experience, I would have talked to the mom. 

A parent not taking corrective action when their child misbehaves can be the cause of great distress and disharmony within a group. I've seen it over and over again.

The best course of action is to have a conversation with the parent. It won't be comfortable and it probably won't be easy. But if you can speak honestly, without anger, judgment, or some other negative emotion, and just share the facts of the situation and the discomfort of yourself and your child, then it is often possible to come to some sort of agreement or game plan on what to do in the future.

Nutrition Can Be a Factor in Poor Behavior

I'm certainly not a trained nutritionist or dietician, but we've all read reports about how:
  • dramatically sugar, food allergies, and chemical additives can impact behavior,
  • damaging soft drinks, artificial sweeteners, and other "bad" foods can be.
  • important proper nutrition is to good health and emotional stability.
Before and during your homeschool outing with others, give your kids healthy snakes and fresh water.

Every Outing Puts Homeschooling on Display

Across the board and across the nation homeschooling is misunderstood.

People who have never encountered homeschoolers assume we are doing our children a huge injustice and not giving them a proper education. Or they assume we are religious zealots sheltering our children from "the real world" and brainwashing them with religious dogma. Typically, neither assumption is correct.   

Every homeschooler is a representative of homeschooling in the bigger community. When a group of homeschoolers goes for a hike, visits a museum, or takes some other type of field trip, the behavior of the children in the group dictates how those outside the homeschool community view homeschooling.

If kids leave trash or destroy the delicate ecosystems along a trail, run amuck and make lots of noise in places where that's not appropriate, don't listen or follow rules or directions when on a tour, it puts all of homeschooling in a bad light. At a tour location, it can mean that future homeschool groups will not be allowed to visit.

Teach your child manners, how to be respectful of others, how to behave as part of a group, at a museum, and out in the woods.

And then have fun exploring,


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Good article! Just wanted to let you know about a little typo in your article (I am a Biology teacher, so please don't get offended, but it stood out:

    "Before and during your homeschool outing with others, give your kids healthy snakes and fresh water."

    I think the whole sentence was funny to read, because I was like "well, they'll definitely get their protein eating snakes!"

    Again, great article, because my husband helps homeschooling two of our nephews, and we are always researching articles on behavior and homeschooling. Thank you again, and God bless!

    1. Hi Jackie:

      hahaha . . . how funny! Thanks for pointing it out. So funny to read. Glad you enjoyed the article. Because its so funny, I'm tempted to leave the typo in there.

      Have a fabulous day,