Can we just be honest here and admit that children don’t always make the best choices when it comes to their behavior?

Perhaps you have met some children that are perfectly amiable as long as everything is going their way, but at the mention of “school,” the whining, arguing, and complaining begins.

They drag their feet getting started with assignments and are easily distracted. They are impatient and unkind toward their siblings—sometimes unwilling to even share the same air!

Homeschooling under those conditions (especially if your house is small) is tough!

Well, if you can relate to any or all of these scenarios, you’re not alone. We’ve all been there. The good news is that you’ve got tools as the parent-teacher that help make it easier for your kids to make better decisions.

5 Tips for nurturing better behavior

So, let’s talk about things you can do to nurture better behavior in your kids.

1. Use routines and schedules

To help your day go more smoothly, consider setting up routines, schedules, and (in Tip 2 below) systems early on in your school year so that everyone knows the expectations for the day. Homeschooling avails itself to a wonderful amount of flexibility and spontaneity, but most kids display better behavior when they are given some boundaries.

One way to create routines (tasks done in a certain order on a routine basis) by following a set schedule (tasks assigned to specific times) for the school day and displaying it prominently in your school area.

A popular choice is a wall-mounted pocket chart with clear plastic windows that allows you to slot in visual times, can use color coding or pictures, and makes it easy for young kids to follow the order of your routine. Another option is to simply write your schedule on a white board.

These types of visual schedules are particularly helpful if you have a student who has difficulty transitioning from one activity to another. Your child can easily see what’s coming next, and they can physically move the schedule (changing slots in the pocket chart or erasing and rewriting on the white board) around if a change is necessary. (Schedules can still be flexible!)

Another simple tip to ease transitions is to verbally update your child on what is about to happen next. For example, you might say, “In five minutes we’re going to get ready for science.” This one simple step has prevented many a meltdown!

2. Set up some simple systems

What does it mean to set up systems? It sounds complicated, but it really isn’t.

  • Setting up systems means, you have a specific place for pencils, for textbooks, for turning in work, etc.
  • It means, your children know where to write down their assignments and understand where graded papers go when they receive them.
  • They know where to do their work and where not to, and so on!

You may have to spend some time teaching and practicing these systems, but it will be time well spent. When everyone understands what’s going to happen next, where school materials are, what they are responsible for at a given time, there will be less confusion, less bickering, and more peaceful behavior. Whew!

3. Leverage movement

Some negative behaviors are just due pent up energy, so remember to set aside time for your child to go outside and play! Once inside again, consider these movement options:

  • Allow your student to sit on an exercise ball instead of a chair so they can move and work at the same time.
  • To help kids who are having trouble with focus and alertness, have them jump on a mini trampoline for a few minutes. For other focus-boosting and circulation-stimulating activities, check out Heather Haupt’s book, The Ultimate Guide to Brain Breaks.
  • Add manipulatives (counting blocks, unifix cubes, etc.) to your lesson to allow movement on a smaller scale.

    PRO TIP: allow 1-2 minutes of free play with the manipulatives before starting your lesson.

4. Try some music

Consider playing calming music in the background of your home to create a peaceful atmosphere, and see how each of your kids responds. While background music can be a distraction to some students, it actually helps others concentrate! Some older students insist on listening to music in order to work effectively.

You can use music as an attention getter, too.

For example, if you’re teaching a co-op class or other group of kids and you make an announcement like, “It’s time to clean up and return to your seat” and only three students followed this direction, you can make the same announcement again using a singing voice. You don’t even have to take the time to rhyme. And guess what? Often, you’ll instantly have everyone’s attention!

So, if none of your tribe seems to be listening to you, try adding music to your school day.

5. Encourage flexible thinking

In his book, Respectful Kids, Dr. Todd Cartmel describes the idea of training children to have flexible thinking. In other words, to get in the habit of thinking that there is more than one way to look at a situation.

For children younger than age 8, he suggests handing the child a rubber band and having them stretch and move it about. The rubber band provides a visual and hand-on example of what “flexible” means.

Next, Dr. Cartmel says to hand your child a dry wooden stick and have them try the same movements as with the rubber band. The result should be a broken stick.

Explain to your child that he can choose to be flexible like a rubber band or get mad and break like an old stick. It all depends on whether he uses flexible thoughts or mad thoughts.

Point out, says Dr. Cartmel, that flexible thoughts will help your child stay calm and respectful and lead to a lot more fun. Mad thoughts lead to angry feelings and disrespectful actions that will get your child in trouble.

To really help your child grasp the idea of flexible thinking, you will need to model it in front of them, and help your child think of other ways to look at situations that are making them angry and upset.

Wrapping It Up

Just as homeschooling won’t necessarily solve all of your kid’s academic problems, it won’t eliminate sibling rivalry or individual behavior problems either. Be prepared by trying some of these tips, and by enrolling in a great parenting class!