Everyone knows that homeschoolers manage their children's behavior with patience, consistency and aplomb, always having the right response at the right time, and leading their children to higher standards of conduct with each and every interaction.
Now that we've dealt with what we are all sure happens in everyone else's home, let's get on with the reality of what really does happen in our own homes.
Truth? This whole business of training children to become responsible, mannerly individuals ain’t easy. Where is the instruction manual? Even if there were one, there would have to be an extra special section for "managing behavior and homeschooling at the same time". And I have a feeling that if parents had to read that section before their baby were born, they would just decide to send the little bugger back before they even got started.
Yes, even with the most compliant, easy-going children and relaxed, patient parents, discipline and training is a constant, um, challenge for the homeschool family. Family patterns get mixed up with interpersonal relational issues, and before you know it, it's easy for behavioral problems to run amok – disturbing not only your family life but your child's education as well. It's not uncommon, in the hectic nature of life, to suddenly realize, in a moment of frustration with our child's behavior, "We’ve really got to do something about this". And when that moment comes, you've got to make a plan.
The key is identifying the behavioral issue in question, figuring out its root cause, and then being consistent about addressing that root cause. And while there are as many ways to handle behavior as there are different personalities, one tool that can be very helpful (particularly with younger children) is the motivation system. Motivation systems work well for targeting specific behaviors or issues, for forcing parents to recognize the good, and for giving children immediate feedback in order to expedite learning. While motivation systems are not generally effective for helping children work through significant emotional issues or deep learning difficulties, they can provide excellent support for tackling simpler behavioral challenges.
Motivation systems serve to provide concrete reinforcement and consequences for children's behavior. To figure out whether a motivation system may help you with your child’s behavior, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is my child fully capable of demonstrating the behaviors I am wanting him to display?
- Are there specific behaviors that are problematic for my child (as opposed to overall behavior in multiple areas)?
- Does my child respond well to positive reinforcement or encouragement?
- Do I tend to address wrong behaviors more than right behaviors in my child?
- Do I find myself raising my voice or getting angry over the same things over and over again?
- Does my child need regular attention or guidance to keep his/her behavior under control?
- Are there specific things that motivate my child, or that he/she is willing to work for?
- Do I tend to run out of consequences for my child’s problematic behavior?
- Does my child need help in understanding cause and effect?
If the answer to most of these questions is "yes", then a motivation system may be just the thing for you! Motivation systems come in many forms, and can be as unique as your own individual family. Stay tuned for more information on the basics for successful motivation systems, as well as ideas for how to create your own!