Tuesday, April 30, 2013

How to School Your Strong Willed Child


Valentine's Day ResourcesI have been homeschooling my kids, four of them now, for over 15 years.  That's a lot of school.  And I have learned a lot of valuable lessons during that time.  Too many to name.  But one of the things that sticks out the most is that every child learns differently.  What worked for my girls did not necessarily work for my boys.  What worked for my first born does not necessarily work for my last kiddo.  AT. ALL.

So how exactly do you school that strong willed child?

Hand's On- literally!  When we are sitting, whether at the computer or at a desk, I often keep my hands on CJ.  Sometimes just a hand on his back, sometimes we even hold hands.  At the very least I try to touch his arm every once in a while.  There is just something about that constant human contact that seems to ground him and help him focus.

Change locations frequently.  This is no standard school room.  Have space?  Use it.  If not, be creative.  Anytime we read we try to find a comfy couch or chair to snuggle in.  And shhh, don't tell...sometimes we do school in the floor.

Make a game out of everything you can! - This goes against every once of my being.  But it works.  Here we are doing our memory words using bingo cards!  Works like a champ and it is something he asks to do...even right before bed, hence the pajamas!  Kids learn best by playing, after all.

Be creative!  Learning Spanish?  Sing the songs!  Use puppets. Act out the story you are reading.  Use dinosaurs or army men to practice addition and subtraction.

Allow the child to be as active as possible.  Again, not MY preferred teaching style, but definitely his preferred way of learning.  Hence, the action shot!  This child does not like to stand still.  So we act out our action words, dance to our Spanish lessons and build things to learn math.

Give them choices.  I often say would you like to do math first or reading?  With the older kiddos we had a pretty strict schedule for subjects.  CJ, not so much.  If things get done, yay us!  I do not care what order we get things done in.

Here the choice was where should we do this worksheet.  In the living room, of course, while we play school.  Playing school?  Silly me thought we were DOING school!

Use the power of motivation.  Sometimes I use rewards...  "when we get done with this we will have a special treat."  Sometimes it is as simple as when we get done with this we can eat lunch.  Sometimes it is just carefully chosen words. Regardless of what it is, sometimes just the promise of the next step or the right choice of words is enough to get us in motion.

Take little breaks along the way.  Call them potty breaks, or stretch breaks or exercise breaks, whatever...but a quick break in the work gives the child a moment to let off steam without being disruptive in the middle of a lesson.  If they know it is coming, they can usually hold on.  I would recommend you keep it short however, or you may not be able to reign them back in for the next schedule event.

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image from office.com

Patience, patience, patience and love, love, love!  Strong willed children push limits, they break molds and they challenge our patience.  But they also have incredible potential.  They will be great leaders one day.  Our job as a parent is to harness that potential and help them be the superstars that God intended them to be.

Do you have a strong willed child?  How are you helping them learn to be successful in this world?


This post is part of a blog hop.  Click the banner below to read a few more How-to posts from some special friends of mine!


  1. Replies
    1. Oh my, do not be in awe...be in prayer! :) Good thing he is so cute...he can be exhausting some days. haha But he does bring lots of laughter into our home... I may have to start renting him out. heehee

  2. I love this post Michele! Great job! Your little guy is adorable and we do our reading snuggled in the rocking chair too. I would never get my son to read if he couldn't cuddle at the same time! Thank you for sharing for the cruise.

  3. Great ideas! Looks like you are having a lot of fun, too.

  4. This is great! Thank you for these ideas! My oldest is somewhat strong willed and we've really been struggling lately. I'm going to try out some of your ideas and see if we can't have some more relaxed days!

  5. Have you read The Strong Willed Child by Cynthia Tobias? It has helped me so much in learning how to relate to and teach my strong willed daughter. Thanks for your post!

  6. Michelle,

    My first child is a breeze compared to my youngest. The younger one is hands-on, a wiggler, and exasperating. My husband and I have always said she will go far in life because of her determination.

    We have implemented all of your great ideas. I am still working on the patience though. LOL


  7. This is really a good post for me to read. I have one of those strong-willed children & she is a tough one to teach. I really loved your list of ideas.

  8. I totally can agree that hand contact is highly needed for my strong willed child! Great post!

  9. I have one of those. She wants to learn to do things but she doesn't like to be given direction. lol It doesn't matter what type of lesson, game, craft, whatever. A piece of gum afterward works wonders for her.

  10. Great ideas- I am going to have to try these. My middle son is as strong willed as they come, I'll let you know how it goes!

  11. It's funny... my strong-willed child is my easiest to teach. School is something she loves to do. Everything else she bucks against but school is her element. :)

  12. Great thoughts. The floor is one of our favorite spots for school work.

  13. Maybe I can drop off my strong willed kids at your house. ;)

  14. Great tips! One thing we do is we have a sticker book, so each time we make it through a lesson they get to add stickers to their book. This keeps them on task because they want to make sure they earn their sticker!

  15. Emilee, I like the sticker idea! Do they add up to rewards, or do your kids just like the stickers?

  16. Rewards, motivation and choices are key things here along with variety for my extremely strong willed daughter!

  17. talk talk and more talk....that's what gets us through our days. Leader for sure!


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