We’ve all been there. That moment when we’re ready to throw in the towel with homeschooling because fighting to get through the homeschool day, may just push you over the edge. Homeschooling the intense child is always challenging. There are days when a side eye, a mention of putting on socks, or any hint of completing homeschool work, can turn a homeschool day upside down. So what is a parent to do when intense kids demand all of your time and energy?
Can Homeschooling the intense child even be done?
Let’s face it, some kids are just harder to parent than others. No matter what we do, parenting is hard. I always tell my clients that homeschooling is 99% parenting, 1% everything else.
Sometimes a change in environment help the intense child, and sometimes it doesn’t. Every family is different. The struggles with intense children may not be solved by placing them in another educational venue, it sometimes just defers the problems until they get home again. When our family started to homeschool, like most, I think I had a romantic idea of what that would look like. I’d have free time for lesson planning, all of my lessons would be engaging, and the children would love them, and complete them with diligence and a glad heart.
Insert raucous laughter.
Seriously, three kids with three different personalities, needs and comfort zones. And parents are supposed to get it exactly right, each time, with each child. Uh-huh.
What characteristics might be found in an intense child?
Does your child experience any of the following?
- Frequent outbursts, or defiance?
- Difficulty controlling their emotions?
- Buckled knees, falling to the floor, screaming, outright drama?
- Do they have trouble expressing what is bothering them?
- Appear lazy, selfish, prideful or rebellious?
- Hard time changing from one activity to another?
- Is there resistance with time limits, completing tasks, or struggle with waiting for events to occur?
These kids have been labeled “difficult” in the past. Difficult assumes a negative outcome even before the kid is out of the gate, and assumes their entire journey will be “difficult”. Difficult kids are assumed to lack empathy and remorse, which just isn’t true. The labels get us everytime.
The Benefits of Being Intense
Intense kids not only react to all of life with deep robust; they tackle it head on with fortitude, perseverance and insight. These are the kids who will build a lego castle for hours, and may stay stuck on space study for weeks, because it interests them so much. These are the kids that notice everything in their world, are natural leaders, and yet may have difficulty completing tasks because of information overload or how that information is processed.
Intense kids have intense moments. We all do really, and yet we expect our kids who are learning this process to be fully in control of their emotions and to be able to express what is wrong. For many kids, maturity in handling emotions, and day to day life skills, comes later. One child may be in control at age 6, and another not until the teenage years. Changing your own perspective on how you see your child, may be half the battle.
But what do you do when you as a parent, are struggling to get through the homeschool day with an Intense child?
1| Give Choices Whenever Possible (with limitations).
- “We have math and spelling to do today. Which would you like to do first?”
- “Do you want to do your piano lesson before or after lunch?”
2| Set the Daily Time Line.
- Some kids do well with a daily timeline written out, others do not. Using a dry erase board with the daily schedule to help kids who need help with time management skills.
- Older kids, list 2-3 daily activities at a time. Sometimes listing a full day’s worth of activities can be overwhelming.
- Little kids, use chunks of time. “First we are going to read a story, then have a snack and then go to the playground.”
3| Let Them Know What Comes Next.
- “We have to leave for the Dr.’s office by 10am, please begin your lego cleanup.”
- A simple check off list helps your child stay organized and to know what comes next. Let them choose how things are completed.
4| Find Out How They Learn.
- Are they struggling because the curriculum is not a match, or because they need more help in understanding the assignment?
- Is there missing steps? Fill in the gaps that your intense homeschooler might be missing.
- Would they rather work more independently and just have you check in on them?
- Do they learn better with audio books rather than text books.
- Look closely at your method and delivery to see if that is adding to the struggles.
5| Is All Well With The Trinity of Childhood?
The Trinity you ask? Nutrition, rest, and personal dynamic.
Is their diet filled with sugar, artificial ingredients, unhealthy snacks? Your child’s diet impacts their behavior. Pay attention to behavior and drill down to find foods that interact with your child’s ability to cope. We cannot give my youngest ANY processed cereals. He turns into a nasty, hyper child whom I’d rather not engage with. Take notice of blood sugar levels in kids. Do they crash and burn mid afternoon? Try a snack and a bit of rest. Don’t let your kids get to the point of being HANGRY (hungry and angry).
Sleep is such an individualized need. Some kids thrive on just a few hours, others need much more, plus frequent rest times during the day. Honor your kids need for rest (and yours too!).
Match your homeschooling delivery to their personality as best you can. Do they love structure and organization or are they more free spirited? Does any request to do science send them over the edge? Give them your full attention when homeschool time rolls around. Encourage them to get to the root of the issue in their struggles.
6| Focus on Good Deeds.
Ahhh, too often with intense kids, we focus on all they can’t do, or we walk on eggshells waiting for the next big explosion. Zone in on the small and big accomplishments throughout the day. No one likes it when we are constantly reminded of our faults. Intense kids can recognize when you are expecting them to fail. How many of us have prefaced an outing with, “Just get your shoes on, I don’t want another episode like yesterday.” Yep, me too.
7| Work on Character Traits, Not Accomplishments.
Kids don’t care what timeline you are on. Nevermind the completion of the work, but the diligence in getting there. Does it really matter if they finished the assignment, or is it more important that they gave it their all?
- Were they helpful to a sibling during school time?
- Did they handle a difficult situation with maturity and contentment?
- Did they show self-control when a situation didn’t go as planned?
Recognizing and praising a child’s character traits, removes the focus on always having to get good grades, or for them to perform as expected. Character traits are a process that are learned and developed over a lifetime, not just during a few short years of childhood.
8| Choose Your Battles.
I should list this as #1. Seriously folks. I don’t care if they wear mismatched socks, or want to use the striped notebook for notes, rather than the notebook labeled science. It doesn’t matter if my kids want to wear a winter scarf in the middle of summer. And if they want to eat leftover meatloaf for breakfast, it’s all good. I’m not concerned that they didn’t do the math problem exactly as it was taught in the book, but rather that they have understanding. Choose your battles. Let the rest go.
9| Seek Professional Help.
Yep. Sometimes you need to call on a professional for your intense child. It may be someone to help with your child’s behavior, a family therapist, a support group or even parenting group. You may even need other specialists to help with diagnosis, or to find support or special education services. Even a homeschool coach will help you tweak your struggles, and to laser in on the joys. Parenting is hard and doesn’t come with an instruction manual.
Think of it this way. I have a leaky faucet. I know how to fix it. But then my garbage disposal breaks, water backs up and ruins the ceramic tile in my kitchen, and I have no running water. What then? I call a professional because it’s outside of what I know I can do. Call on professionals for your homeschool needs or parenting needs when you have to. Seeking help is always a good place to start.