When we first decide to homeschool our children, most of us are excited about the prospect. Yes, there is also some fear that comes with the decision, but mainly we are thrilled that we will be able to teach our children using specific learning methods which will be the most beneficial for them.
Somewhere along the way, however, the thrill of allowing our children to be themselves somehow turns into frustration. We forget that we initially wanted to provide a customized education for our child and instead we put expectations on our children that don’t fit them in any way. We begin to be more concerned with how our children make us look than what’s going on in their heart.
Carol Barnier, author of several wonderful books such as How to Get Your Child Off of the Refrigerator and On to Learning and The Big What Now Book of Learning Styles has some amazing advice in this area. I had the privilege of hearing her speech called “Don’t Miss the Gift in this Child.” The following are insights Carol gave on how we go wrong and how to start seeing the gift in our own children.
Where Did We Go Wrong?
Sometimes the problem is that we have the wrong set of expectations for our children.
We want them to look and walk and talk like everyone else and when that doesn’t happen we become frustrated with them. Think of David in the Bible. When David was preparing to meet Goliath in the battlefield, King Saul attempted to put his own armor on David. The armor was too big for David and he couldn’t even walk with it on.
David was wise enough to remove Saul’s armor so that he could then do the task that God had set before him. If we try to load our children down with our expectations for them, will they be mature enough to recognize that the armor is merely too big and heavy? Or will they think that they don’t measure up? We can cripple our children with discouragement when we expect the wrong things from them.
Sometimes the problem is that we are with our children 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
When we are together this much, it’s easy to start focusing on the annoying aspects of each other’s behavior as opposed to appreciating the good in our children. It’s easy to lose God’s vision for them when we are focused on the bad.
What This Can Do To Our Children
When we fall into this trap, we can cause our children to think poorly of themselves. They can come to think that all they are good for is to frustrate us! Children have a tendency to take responsibility for everything that is going wrong in a home. They will take ownership of any misery that you or your family is going through. If this sounds too familiar, it is not too late to turn things around.
Here are 3 quick tips for helping our kids realize how important they are to us:
1 – Give good apologies, not sermons.
We need to get into the habit of telling our kids we’re sorry for our behavior without going on to explain it away by blaming them for our reaction.
2 – Ask for forgiveness.
Children are eager to forgive us. They love us and want to have a close relationship with us.
3 – Change our future behavior.
Ask our children if we have hurt them in any way that they could tell us. Apologize and then resolve to treat them differently in the future. Each child is different and what is fine with one child may be very hurtful to another.
Seeing the Gift in our Children
So, how do we turn the frustration we’re feeling around and begin to see the gift in our children? Here are 8 concrete ways!
1 – Pitch Ozzie and Harriet
We’ve already talked about having unrealistic expectations for our children. Don’t do it. All children are different and we need to appreciate them for who they are.
2 – Pitch Wonder Woman
Homeschooling is a full-time job. We can not expect to homeschool our children and not give up a few other activities that other moms may be able to perform.
3 – Don’t expect our homes to be neat and orderly at all times.
4 – Don’t think that we will be able to juggle as many church responsibilities as we did in the past.
We have to learn how to say “no.”
5 – Reading for pleasure will be something that we do in short spurts.
It is important to take some time for ourselves throughout the day, but putting our feet up and reading for 4 hours is probably not going to fit into this season of our lives very often.
6 – Keep our “To Do” lists short.
This is important so that we don’t get discouraged. Be realistic about what you can fit into our days.
7 – Pitch Dick and Jane
Don’t expect each of our children to be visual learners. Traditional teaching methods expect all children to catch on to one way of teaching and that won’t necessarily be the case for each child. One kid may learn better while moving, with hands-on activities while the other does well listening to their lessons on tape. We need to be willing to pitch the curriculum that worked for their older siblings and buy something totally different if necessary. Egads!
8 – See our child the way God sees him
God doesn’t only see our children as they are now, but also as the man or woman that they will become. We also need to try to look beyond today with our kids. Just because they struggle with impulse control today doesn’t mean that they will struggle with that in a few years. God has a specific plan for each of our kids and it is wonderful!
3 Concrete Ways to See our Children’s Gifts:
When our kids are frustrating us, it can be difficult for us to identify their strengths. When we find ourselves in this situation, here are some concrete steps for seeing our children’s gifts.
1 – Be sure to have a consistent quiet time with God
This can be a tough one with our busy schedules, but it is definitely worth it. None of us have the strength to do this momentous task of raising and discipling our children without God’s help. Carol Barnier says that she doesn’t start brewing her coffee until after her Bible is open and she’s ready to go. We may have to get up a few minutes earlier in the morning to fit this into our day.
2 – Write down all of our child’s qualities
Be sure to write down the good and the bad. You and your husband should ponder these qualities and try to discern what God might want your child to become someday. This will help you as you are trying to make decisions that affect your child’s education.
3 – Try to focus on the positive
All children have strengths and weaknesses, just as we do. Try to think of those traits that we have previously viewed as negative in a more positive light. For instance, a shy child could also be seen as being tenderhearted or empathetic.
Are we frustrating our children? We need to remember that these children are gifts from God and that they are only being lent to us for a season. See the gift in our children we will recapture the joy that we initially felt when we started our homeschooling journeys.
Question: Are you frustrating your children? Have you learned any lessons along the way which could help others to stop frustrating their children? Please leave a comment below.