Homeschooling the….Challenging Child; Autonomy

Of my four kids, I have one that is rather…challenging.

She’s very bright, but she’s also opinionated. Sometimes that’s great, like when she’s with friends who may not be doing the right thing. Other times, it’s not so great, like when she disagrees with one of my parenting decisions.

She’s not the type to do anything the easy way. She’s not the type to mindlessly follow arbitrary rules. She’s strong, intelligent, and forthright.

Because of her bold personality, she is the most difficult child to parent that I have. she takes more parenting energy than my other three kids COMBINED!

I can’t wait to see what she does with her life, because it’s going to be amazing.

That is, if we don’t kill one another first.

You who have these bold, challenging kids know exactly what I mean.

I’ve read Dobson’s Strong-Willed Child three times.

The first two times, I cried.

I’d already tried everything in there and it just wasn’t working.

Many people tell me about their Challenging Children and I smile and tell them that I have been there.

One key to maintaining my sanity while homeschooling my oldest has been autonomy.

When parents wonder how they are ever going to homeschool this touchy, perfectionistic, bossy, intelligent child, I tell them that providing as much autonomy for their kids is key. Here are some tips about autonomy that may help you manage homeschooling these feisty kids.

  • Give your child as much autonomy as he can handle. My dd bristled at being told what to do, so I tried to help her be as autonomous as possible. I encouraged her to try to figure out things on her own. However, I still needed to grade papers and give feedback.
  • Assignment lists are good. She could tackle stuff in whatever order she wanted, she could school wherever she wanted, she could listen to music or whatever, as long as it was working.
  • I told her that she would only be granted as much autonomy as she could handle. So if working upstairs on the couch made her work so sloppy I couldn’t read it, then she’d be back at the table.
  • Make contracts in writing about neatness, timeliness, and corrections.
  • My strong personality kid would get frustrated if she wasn’t told ahead of time stuff like “If it’s not neat, you will redo it.” and it needed to be in writing so I’d have proof that it was told to her.
  • Use as much online/computer based stuff as you can. Using a virtual school has been a Godsend for our high school years. She also loved Teaching Textbooks for math before virtual school happened.

These kids are great kids. Sometimes that greatness does get lost under a facade of grumpiness, self-centeredness, and a seeming rebellious attitude, but eventually, most of them will come around.

If you are in the trenches with your challenging child, hang in there.

My challenging kid is 16 and I am just now beginning to see glimpses of what she is going to become.

It seems that more and more often I am seeing a lovely lady peeking out between the mouthy arguments and irritable nature.

Tiny glimpses of a real person are just beginning to unfold, like a tiny rosebud just opening up.

I can’t wait to see what the flower is going to look like.




2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Rebeca Jones
    Jul 23, 2014 @ 19:16:06

    This is excellent. Some of us have that need for autonomy hardwired into our nature. (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator has helped me understand this in myself.) It is a tricky business, trying to accommodate our children’s God-given natures while simultaneously holding them to His moral standard. Hard work, indeed!

    Observing your child’s unique bent and schooling according to her needs—I’d say she is one lucky young woman. Keep it up, mama. Sounds like you are a wise woman!


    • fairfarmhand79
      Jul 24, 2014 @ 18:48:29

      I plan on writing a blog post soon about all that I have learned from being my challenging child’s parent. I believe that God has used her to change me, humble me, and help me to grow in Him.


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