Living with Children: Homeschool discipline problems


QUESTION: Ever since toddlerhood, we have had significant behavior problems with our 6-year-old son — defiance and general disrespect, mostly. We have tried various disciplinary approaches with little to no positive results. The latest problem involves the fact that I homeschool him.

Although he was not a problem in private school kindergarten last year — obedient, responsible, achieving — he is not the least bit motivated to work under my direction. The curriculum is on his level and the materials come highly recommended by other homeschooling moms. Nonetheless, he seems uninterested and complains constantly that the work is too hard, which it definitely isn’t.

Today, for example, because of complaining, purposefully not following directions, and generally goofing off, he ended up in his room by 10 a.m. for the remainder of the day with no screen time for the rest of the week. As I write this, he’s in his room screaming that I’m unfair. I have completely run out of ideas. Help!

ANSWER: First, if your little rebel was not a problem in kindergarten last school year, then I recommend that you put him back in “regular” school. Mind you, I applaud your attempt at homeschooling. I am an advocate, generally speaking, but I recommend against homeschooling when the teaching parent is experiencing significant discipline problems with the child in question.

One can only homeschool effectively if major discipline problems have been resolved. Your authority as your son’s teacher depends on his acceptance of your authority as his parent, which is obviously not the case. Another way of saying the same thing: Discipline problems at home are going to carry over into homeschool. That’s an example of what I call “parenting physics.”

Under the circumstances, and especially given that your son had no problems in kindergarten (which means he recognizes and accepts the authority of other adults), I have to believe that a standard group setting is the best match for him. Let’s face it, homeschooling is not “one size fits all.” Nor is any other educational option, for that matter.

If you decide that you’re going to push ahead with homeschooling, I make two suggestions: first, to get control of the discipline problems at home, read my bestselling book “The Well-Behaved Child”; second, that you find and join a local homeschool cooperative.

The likelihood is — and his experience in kindergarten bolsters my view — your son is going to be far more cooperative with other mothers than he is with you.

[Family psychologist John Rosemond:, Copyright 2022, John K. Rosemond]