I don’t know why, but winter makes me testy. Maybe it’s the cloudy weather and the limited opportunities to go outdoors. Perhaps it’s the diligence that is required to be sure that assignments are completed that makes me less patient.
It is sometimes hard to see the gift the Lord has given us in our children. Yes, my children try my patience, but I have a lot of rough edges to work off! I am certain they can say that I test and try them too. I was reflecting today about one of the struggles I had with one of my sons several years ago. I hope that by sharing what occurred you can learn from one of my many mistakes.
Ian is a leader and likes to be the one who initiates ideas and plans. When he was in middle school and junior high it was difficult to have him complete school tasks that were assigned. He and I would have these “discussions” about why they had to be finished. Countless times the “discussions” would end with me getting him to do the work, but feeling like a heel for having to motivate him in ways that were less than desirable (taking away electronics, no extra activities, etc.). I just wanted him to have this intrinsic desire to work hard and perform with excellence.
I remember one winter morning Ian and I were at an impasse with him completing school work and dealing with a crummy attitude. I had pulled out all stops (calling the principal, taking away privileges) and nothing was working. ”Do you want to go to school? If you do, I am willing to talk to your dad about it!” I said angrily to him. That was the first time in the 8 years we had homeschooled that I had spoken those words. The room got extremely quiet as Ian stared at me. I think he couldn’t believe I had said that; I couldn’t believe it came out of my mouth either. It was a desperate moment and I was grasping for anything at that point.
“I want you to pray about whether to continue to homeschool and I will too.” I said in a calmer tone than I had a moment ago. “I mean it, really go and ask the Lord about what you should do and I’ll check back with you in 15 minutes.”
I set the timer so I had to time to cool off and pray. My thoughts were racing as I reflected about the words I had blurted out. Why did I threaten Ian with schooling outside our home? Was I willing to let Ian go if he said he was unhappy and wanted to go to a traditional school? The timer went off and I went to find Ian.
“Well, what do you want to do?” The moment of truth had arrived. Would he say that he was glad I had finally considered letting him go to a traditional school?
“I am going to stay home.” was his nonchalant response.
That day I realized there were many things that were driving me to be less than Christ-like in my interactions with him. Yes, I wanted him to do well and complete his work, but I had to examine bigger issues that were in my life. What was causing me to be so harsh?
I realized that it was my need to feel that I was a fantastic teacher and I was raising an excellent student. You see, the focus was on me and not my son. When I saw the ugly, raw truth it was sad and at the same time freeing. I was sad that I had treated my son in a manner that I would not treat a friend, but freeing that I could change and act differently toward him.
I decided to try a different strategy when it came to school and my attitude toward him. The “you-better-get-your-schoolwork-done- or else” approach was crushing the both of us. I was tired of butting heads and feeling bad about our school days. I was exhausted with being resentful when he didn’t want to do school and wasn’t enjoying being at home. If I were in his place, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it either!
My first step to stopping some of the conflict was to go and ask forgiveness. First, from the Lord for treating my son poorly, and then from Ian. It was humbling, but at the same time, great for my son to hear I truly loved and respected him as a young man.
The second thing I did was to ask him to pray with me and to come up with a different plan. I told him that I would try my utmost to have a better attitude if he would try too. I also realized I had to give up my idea of the perfect teacher, the perfect student, the perfect son. After all, who could ever live up to that? I asked Ian to give me some ideas about what he wanted to study and I incorporated as many of those ideas as I could. He knew his ideas were valid and he had more interest in school. That day was a turning point in our school and our relationship. We didn’t live happily ever after, but I stopped trying to make him into my idea of a super homeschool student and let him be the great young man God intended him to be.
The bottom line:
Pray before beginning your day.
Check your attitude and motives.
Discover your child’s strengths and interests. Incorporate them into your school as much as possible.
Be your child’s greatest cheerleader.
Partner with your student when assignments are hard or not enjoyable.