Tips for Helping Your Child Overcome Undesired Behaviors

Tips for Helping Your Child Overcome Undesired Behaviors

At ShillerLearning, I recently answered this parent question:

"My 12-year-old son used to be best friends with another boy in the neighborhood but now that's off and they a scream at each other all the time, what do I do? "

two kids playing in the park


What’s your goal?


Is it to keep them from screaming at each other? Or something else?


Whatever goal you have, ask yourself why you have that goal. When you answer that question, ask yourself why that’s the reason. Keep asking why until you have the real reason: The REAL uncomfortable truth you are dealing with.


For example (I’m brainstorming here, I don’t know your situation), maybe you feel responsible in some way and that if you had parented differently there would have been a better outcome.


Whatever you come up with, now fill in the blank in the following sentence: The right thing to do in this situation is _______.


For example, you can’t go back and re-parent but you can have a transparent and open-minded (non-judgmental) discussion with your son about why he’s engaging in this behavior and helping him to understand his goals and the best way to reach them, just like you did for yourself above.


Tips to make this process work:

1. Don’t jump to conclusions: take logical baby steps and don’t assume ANYTHING

2. Don’t judge: deal with facts only

3. When you have a negative emotion, realize you have it but don’t show it: make your behavior support your goal, not your ego


What situation have you been in like this? What did you do?


Let's help each other: Tell us your story so we can share it anonymously with our readers. You may email or comment below.

Larry Shiller

Larry Shiller is President of ShillerLearning, whose mission is to help kids learn and fulfill their potential. Shiller has degrees from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Harvard Business School and is the author of Software Excellence (Prentice-Hall).

A father of three, Shiller is active in non-profits and his hobbies include working with local startups, music (Shiller is an accomplished violinist who - when not helping children learn math and language arts - performs in the NYC tri-state area), tennis (Shiller's team made it to the USTA national finals in his skill bracket), Quoridor (Shiller is a former USA Champion), backgammon (Shiller is the Voice of Backgammon, doing commentary on backgammon tournaments worldwide), table tennis, and flying (Shiller holds a private pilot's license).

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Comments (1):

Susan Lantz on

There might be something else going on. I would have a sit down with my son and try to find out if there is some hurt feelings, or something else going on. Maybe the other boy has a new friend and doesn’t want to include your son. There could also be a misunderstanding between the boys that needs to be worked out.

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Homeschooling the Child You Have: 3 Pitfalls You Must Avoid to Have a Healthy and Happy Homeschool

As a new parent holding my tiny, perfect, newborn baby I had visions of who this little person would one day be. With parenting aspirations to rival the rich and famous, I imagined this little person growing into greatness.

I think most parents have hopes and dreams for each of their children. We imagine them succeeding. We hope to see them sailing through life with less difficulty than we may have experienced and whether we mean to or not we envision what raising these little people should look like, often picturing tiny versions of ourselves gracing their presence into our families.

Whether you always planned to homeschool or it is something new for your family, there are certain expectations that most parents have about homeschooling. Most of us envision happy mornings, and maybe afternoons as well, gathered around the table reading or playing games together. We imagine children happily carting their books or “school work” to their neat little desks and humming quietly while they complete the day’s tasks. Maybe we picture little junior reciting Shakespeare while creating a watercolor masterpiece to rival Monet. Or if math is our thing, we may hope to see little miss diligently writing code and creating her own video games.

While these visions all have the possibility of reality some of the time, homeschooling is millions of moments which make up the total collection of each child’s education. There will be days you feel like quitting and days that you just know you are the best homeschool parent ever!

3 Pitfalls You Must Avoid to Have a Healthy and Happy Homeschool

Avoid these 3 traps that will destroy the joy of homeschooling:



The pitfalls of comparison have never been as dangerous as they are in this digital age. Everyone knows that social media posts reflect at best the good moments in one's life and at worst completely faked or staged experiences. When we spend time coveting the stories we see reflected on someone else’s Facebook or even those accomplishments our friends brag about in an effort to help themselves feel better about their own homeschooling experience, we begin to feel dissatisfied with ourselves and the children we have been blessed with.

Comparison makes us look at our kids as less than, and to fall into the trap of trying to shape our child into something they are not and were never meant to be. When we try to squish our child into the mold of another family’s perceived experiences we are no better than the schools that expect every 6-year-old to perform at the same level as their peers. It is imperative that parents remember why they decided to choose home education and resist the monster of comparison that will suck all the joy from an otherwise beautiful homeschool.

Your little one is an individual. Not all 6-year-olds wear size 6 clothing, and not all kids will learn the same things at the same pace or even in the same order. Trusting the innate curiosity of a child to guide their education and forgetting about your friend’s kid who (supposedly) plays Chopin and performs calculus in his head despite being only 8-years-old, is one of the most important pieces of homeschooling advice I can offer to you!



Okay, we all have expectations. I am not suggesting that you cannot have goals or ideas or standards, but making these the foundation of one's homeschool instead of just a useful tool is a recipe for disaster. In any relationship, when one person is too firmly attached to their own expectations of how things should be, the other person is likely to suffer. As a parent, when my intentions become of greater importance than the child themself, I have created an unreasonable environment which will set the child up to feel like a constant failure. When my standards are left unmet day after day, my child will grow up with the sense that they never measure up and are just not good enough.

Having a plan or a list of goals is worthwhile as long as it is held loosely. And when a parent sighs, and berates themself for not completing the todo list, AGAIN, the child hears this and internalizes the failure because they really want nothing more than to please their parent.

I find that a rotating list is very helpful in keeping my expectations in a healthy balance. By having a predictable order of subjects or tasks that we simply keep cycling through, each day feels like accomplishment and can be considered a success whether we completed 2 items or 7.

Here is a quick example of a rotating list:

  • Math
  • Music
  • Reading
  • Science experiment
  • Spelling
  • Language arts
  • Fun art project
  • History story


On Monday we might do math and music, then on Tuesday we simply pick up with reading, science, spelling and language arts. Wednesday the day begins with a fun art project followed by history and math. And so on. By having an open cycling list there is no expectation that the whole list be completed every day and everyone is much happier and feels good about the things completed that day.



This one is the most important. Every single day we need to remember to be thankful for the child we are blessed with NOT the child we imagined we might have. NOT the child we sometimes silently wish we had and NOT the child our friend has. The child we have is the one we need to love and teach each day. This is true for everyone, and is, I think, especially important for parents of kids with special needs. The quicker we accept and embrace the beauty of who our child is and release our disappointment in who they are not, the sooner they will be able to truly grow and thrive as exactly who they were meant to be. And amazingly, so will we.

Your child with his strong personality or his introverted shyness, or her dyslexia or need for her sandwiches to be cut a certain way are all examples of the things that make him or her uniquely themselves. The quirks, the struggles, the joys and all the intricacies are yours not to endure but to embrace and celebrate and love. Because if you can show your child that you love every part of them, they will grow up learning to love themselves and what better foundation can you provide for them to grow than this?

Here is a very personal account of coming to terms with disappointment : The Loss Of A Dream.

If you want to help your child grow into their best potential then you must STOP comparing them to anyone else, ADJUST your expectations to fit their abilities and RELEASE your disappointment that they are not what you expected. Only then will they have the chance to become their best self.

This is why you decided to homeschool in the first place. To help your unique child discover their individual strengths and flourish and grow in a safe environment rich in encouragement and full of the joy of discovery and learning. It is for this purpose that you are here with this exact child. Courage to you dear parent on the days you feel this and on the days you do not. Your role is the most important in the entire world to your sweet child.


For further encouragement on celebrating the child you are blessed with, read “How Much Control Do You Really Have Over How Your Child Turns Out?"

Catherine Donnelly

Catherine began her formal education journey in Montessori preschool. Following a short stint in regular school she was homeschooled from 5th grade on. After being her college's first homeschooled graduate, she and her husband decided upon home education for their five children. 27 years, and many adventures later, she is till homeschooling their youngest 3 children. The foundation of Maria Montessori's principles have been a consistent thread throughout their learning journey and Catherine was delighted to discover Shiller Learning and join forces with them in 2020. In her sparse free moments she can be found reading with her children (or hiding in a corner reading by herself); writing articles for her blog, books or various clients; playing with her children; or dressing up in various time period costumes and traveling to historical sites.

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Language Arts Kit A (PreK/K-G1)

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Homeschooling With Skeptical Family Members At Thanksgiving

How to Approach Homeschooling with Skeptical Family Members Around the Thanksgiving Table


Choosing at home education is not a decision taken lightly. We put in hours of research to find the best homeschool curriculum. Every day we give of our time to ensure our children are learning. It’s a journey of discovery, learning, and growth - for us and our children!

It is also a journey many outside the home education community do not understand. Some people may criticize or make false assumptions about our choice and what we actually do. For home educators, the holidays - especially Thanksgiving - can turn into an emotional day of inquisition from skeptical family members. We are here to provide you with a few tools today to help guide your conversations.

How to Approach Homeschooling with Skeptical Family Members Around the Thanksgiving Table


  • Common Scenario #1- Skeptical family member quizzes homeschool students on facts. A family member may make comments about what the student “should” know.


Advice: It may be a good idea to have a conversation with your children before your family gathering. Equip them with responses or prepare them that it may happen. Make sure they know they may share any information they like but are not obligated to do so. This will, of course, depend on the age of the student and how comfortable they feel talking with adults.


One option might be: “I’m not sure about the answer to that but let me tell you about…” They can then share something interesting they’ve been learning. Or they may politely respond with “After we enjoy our meal, I can show you some of what I’ve been working on.” It may also be a conversation a parent needs to intervene in. Respond with a spirit of love remembering home education is a foreign concept for a lot of people. Also, remember children in public schools are used to being quizzed.


Quick Exit: You might respond with, “We don’t typically quiz (name) as part of our schooling so they're a bit unfamiliar with how to respond. (Name) would you like to share something you’ve been learning?” or “Thank you for showing an interest in what we’re studying in school. We’ve recently been learning about… ”


Avoid it all together: Have your students prepare a brief presentation or bring materials or a completed project. Let relatives know ahead of time the students would like to share what they've been learning with interested family members. If you feel you need to, let them know your preference is for the children to not be “quizzed” about school. This way they can show curious relatives what homeschooling is like. It also gives students the chance to take pride in showing off their work. Grandparents especially love to see what kids have been working on.


  • Common Scenario #2: Relative says something like “I don’t know HOW you do it. I could never homeschool my children.

Advice: First of all, remember your children are listening to hear how you respond. Yes, there are days we consider dropping them off at the nearest public school. Yes, there are days we feel ill-equipped and are floundering. Yes, there are days we feel like we can’t do it after all. Our children are listening to how we respond. Respond with words of life, joy, truth, and love. Build up your kids and their hearts. And respond with words that build up the other parents to know they could do it and thrive too!


Quick Exit: “I felt that way too. It’s been a delight.”


Avoid it all together: Share a tidbit from a homeschool group or forum about how you’re comforted with the reminder most homeschool parents jump in without any teaching background. You could also share how much you’ve been learning too as a home educator.


  • Common Scenario #3: Relative asks if you’re afraid home education will destroy their love for learning.

Advice: This tends to be a big one for people. A lot of families choose to homeschool because they worry public school will destroy a love of learning. This is a subject that can lead to an argument about school structure. Tread lightly and share the joy your children find in learning. Describe how their eyes light up when they learn. Share how they work on school work during free time. Tell how much YOU’RE loving it compared to the educational experiences you’ve had before!


Quick Exit: “No.” Plain and simple :)


Avoid it all together: Share how glad you are about the decision to homeschool. Tell details about a moment of particular joy in learning. Share how your child starts school alone. Or how they get excited waiting for you to finish breakfast dishes.

  • Common Scenario #4: The dreaded “socialization” word comes up.

Advice: This is another topic that can turn into an argument. You know your audience best. One approach might be to share fun outings, coops, nature groups, etc you’re involved in. Another approach might be to say you don’t feel like children in school get much time to visit with friends in a relaxed setting. Or there’s always the snarky response of “We socialize dogs, we build children’s relationships.” Buuuuuut that one doesn’t go over in a lot of crowds. Or turn it around and ask “What does socialization mean to you?”

Quick Exit: ”That’s a common stereotype of home education and we’re not concerned about it.”

Avoid it all together: Share about your children’s friends and activities.


  • Common Scenario #5: Teacher becomes defensive that you’ve chosen to reject formal schooling.


Advice: Again, this is another tread lightly and you know your audience scenario. Teachers, and parents who adore their public school, often get defensive. To be honest, when I used to teach I did too. I thought homeschooling was irresponsible. 15 years ago I would have said there was no way I’d ever homeschool. Share your “whys” in a loving way. Give examples of experiences you’ve been able to have that school wouldn’t have allowed.

Quick Exit: If it’s something you truly feel, try a comment like: “You know, I’d be more inclined to send my children to school if more teachers were like you.”

If you think it will escalate into an argument, “I think this may be a topic that’s best we agree to disagree about and enjoy our meal.”

Avoid it all together: If the topic seems to be creeping that way, change the subject. Or comment on how nice it is to have another educator around and ask questions about the classroom, favorite subjects to teach, etc.


  • Common Scenario #6: Other children at the meal think homeschooled kids are “weird.”


Advice: Depending on the age and self-esteem of your children- this may be one to prepare them for. Not only on Thanksgiving but as a homeschooler. This seems to be a common misconception. Most likely, this would come up while you are out of earshot and shared to you by a tearful child later on. You could talk to your student about stereotypes and how they’re not true. And tell your child all the things you love about them. I think this stereotype may come because homeschoolers are viewed as not culturally aware. (I could write an entire blog about this!)

Quick Exit: If you overhear children calling names, intervene as necessary.

Avoid it all together: Chat with other parents before the meal. Ask them to tell their children what homeschooling is. It could be helpful for you and the parents to find common interests between children for them to know about ahead of time. If they can bond over a shared interest, your homeschoolers is “relevant." Plus kids always get along better with a shared interest.


Common Scenario #7: Concern is raised that kids aren’t getting “enough” learning.

Advice: Students in public school are gone 7-9 hours per day. Teacher spend 25%-50% of their day doing behavior management, managing transitions, and other tasks that aren’t necessarily teaching. You could throw out stats or respond a bit about your educational philosophy.

Quick Exit: “We’re all happy with our schedule and the kids are thriving!”

Avoid it all together: Stay away from information about your daily schedule.


Common Scenario #8: Guests assume you have to follow traditional stereotypes such as you grow your own food, grind your own flower, raise chickens, have a big family, etc. to homeschool.

Advice: If I had a dollar for every confused person when they found out I homeschool an only child. The stereotypes about a homeschool family abound. Share how home education is growing across all family sizes, religions, lifestyles, cultures, etc. Keep it polite and thoughtful. Or turn to humor and make a joke. I also know many of us do fit some portions of the stereotype. If they ask about some way it applies to you, share it or make a joke depending on your personality. :)

Quick Exit: “You know? I have yet to meet a homeschool family who fits the traditional stereotype.”

Avoid it all together: Stereotypes stick and they stick strong. This is one people are likely to at least joke about. Remember it’s not a personal attack or insult. It’s the human mind and societies attempt to classify something they don’t understand. Only by open and honest truth can we break any stereotype.


  • Common Scenario #9: The age-old homeschool question of “How will they succeed in college if they’ve never been in a classroom?”

Advice: This is one every homeschool family has to tackle on their own at some point. If your children are still young, you can say it’s something you’ll consider more when they are older. Or share ways other homeschoolers have approached this such as- sending kids to high school for courses such as chemistry and AP courses, taking classes at the local community college, starting a small business as a teen that does not need a degree or jumping right into college. (Hint- on the last option, most students thrive because they’re used to self-study already!) This would also be a good one to turn back around and ask, “I’m curious what it is about home education that makes you think it would be hard for them.”

Quick Exit: “We’re not worried about it. (Name) has excellent learning skills!)

Avoid it all together: Give your older teen a chance to share how they’ve been preparing for college.


I hope these scenarios have been helpful for you. The Thanksgiving table can, unfortunately, become a place of stress and fights. Remember to keep things in a spirit of love. Also, remember you don’t have to defend yourself to anyone. The choice for home education is what you have decided is best. If the conversation gets heated or you feel uncomfortable, shut it down with that reminder. I hope you won't need any of this advice and you’ll have a fun Thanksgiving meal- but I’m glad to provide it in case you do!


Amanda Osenga

Amanda is a former Montessori teacher, now homeschooling her dear son - an only child. Her family resides in an Airstream parked in Washington State and loves Washington's outdoor opportunities. When not homeschooling, Amanda blogs, loves reading, and creates hand-lettering pieces.

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3 Things That Qualify You to Teach Your Child

You Are the Parent Your Child Needs

3 Things That Qualify You to Teach Your Child

Who am I to ever think I could educate my own child?” A question asked one way or another by most homeschooling parents at least on occasion, if not weekly (or daily.)


Yet similar to parenting as a whole, it is crucial to remember that YOU are the parent your child was given to. So, on a rough day, how does that knowledge help?


It affords us the reminder to take a deep breath and focus on these 3 truths.


1. No one on this planet loves your child more than you do. There is no well-trained teacher out there, no matter how skilled or dedicated, that cares as much as you about your child and what is best for her. No one will sacrifice like you for her greater good.

2. You know your child better than anyone else does. You have watched him learn to breathe and eat and walk and talk. You know what frustrates him and what causes him to light up. You know how to motivate him and your love and respect are the keys that build his confidence and give him the wings he will need to thrive.

3. You can’t do a perfect job of educating your child! And…. neither can anyone else. Whether your child goes to the best school in the nation or has the brightest and best tutor or enjoys your family’s homeschool, there will be gaps in the education they receive. There is no way to ensure a perfect education. So let go of the idea that you have to do this perfectly and begin to enjoy the journey. It is by introducing your child to the joy of learning that they will develop the foundation to succeed in whatever it is they want to do in life. And no one is better suited to take this journey with your child than you are.

As you teach your child, you will begin to discover his or her strengths and struggles. You will start to figure out what learning styles work best and you will celebrate the wins as they reach each new milestone. Just like watching your child take their first steps you will be there to cheer when they read their first words and figure out the mystery of multiplication. And nothing will motivate them more than your admiration and confidence in their achievements.


No child is born knowing how to walk and talk or read and write. And no parent starts out with all the necessary skills to raise a child to adulthood. Mercifully, parents and children learn and grow together. And this is just as true in the journey of homeschooling. You and your child will learn together what works and what doesn’t. You will get up each day a little wiser and a little more confident. And on the days where everything seems to go wrong, you will chalk it up to growing pains and you will remind yourself yet again that YOU are exactly the parent your child needs.


At ShillerLearning we passionately support parents and children in finding the joy in learning. As a Montessori based program, we cultivate the whole child - teaching and inspiring using all the learning styles. We equip parents by providing beautiful materials, scripted lessons and Montessori resources.


ShillerLearning also has a unique diagnostic testing system which will enable your child to fill in any learning gaps they might have without the frustration and boredom of repeating work they have already mastered.

So sit back, stress less and take time today to enjoy your child. It’s not about benchmarks and passing grade levels. Homeschooling is about learning together and fanning the flames of curiosity and wonder. And YOU are the best one for this job!

Catherine Donnelly

Catherine began her formal education journey in Montessori preschool. Following a short stint in regular school she was homeschooled from 5th grade on. After being her college's first homeschooled graduate, she and her husband decided upon home education for their five children. 27 years, and many adventures later, she is still homeschooling their youngest 3 children. The foundation of Maria Montessori's principles have been a consistent thread throughout their learning journey and Catherine was delighted to discover Shiller Learning and join forces with them in 2020. In her sparse free moments she can be found reading with her children (or hiding in a corner reading by herself); writing articles for her blog, books or various clients; playing with her children; or dressing up in various time period costumes and traveling to historical sites.

See Inside Our Kits

Language Arts Kit A (PreK/K-G1)

Language Arts Kit B (G1-G4)

5 Learning Goals To Set Your Child Up for a Successful Future

5 Learning Goals to Set Your Child Up for a Successful Future

How can one hit a target that doesn’t even exist? Homeschooling without defined goals is like standing in one's backyard with a bow and arrow spinning in circles trying to decide what to shoot at. Or worse yet, letting those arrows fly randomly and hoping for the best.


As fall approaches each year, the panic settles over many homeschool parents and they become glassy eyed from pouring through catalogs and websites of curriculum options. How to choose the best materials for each child can be agonizing.  


As a veteran homeschool mom of 27 years who was also homeschooled as a child, let me ease your burden just a wee bit.  


Before you even start looking at all the options, may I suggest you step back and decide what your big goals are. What are the most important lessons, skills or qualities you’d like to be sure your child leaves your homeschool with when the time comes for them to launch?


The answer to these foundational questions will then guide and narrow the rest of your decision making process. And hopefully significantly reduce your stress levels.


No matter what your plans are, it is very important to note that your homeschool goals do not need to mirror those of any other family or school, public or private. (I am going to share our family’s goals with the hope that these will get you started thinking about your own!)

When I was a new homeschool mama, I would sit for hours, researching and writing lists of all the specific skills I hoped to cover each year with each child. This exercise was fine and it did help steer our choices for the year but after a few years I realized that everything boiled down to a few foundational targets I wanted each child to hit before they “graduated” from my homeschool.


So each year I still make a general list of subjects and skills we will cover but everything always points back to our family’s “Five Learning Goals.”


The Donnelly Family Learning Goals


1. That the child would learn to read well.

2. That the child would learn basic mathematics.

3. That the child would learn to communicate effectively both orally and in writing.

4. That the child would learn how to learn.

5. That the child would cultivate a lifelong love of learning.


(Number 5 is the one that is the absolute most important to me!)


When I sit down one day to write each of them a transcript or a diploma, I will look back at these foundations to our homeschool and judge our mutual success as student and teacher. If these targets were met, I will have confidence that any subject they didn’t completely ace or a skill that wasn’t on our radar can easily be filled in if they find a need for that skill or knowledge in their adult life.  


The ability to read well is the key that unlocks any door.  

A deep love of learning will inspire and drive them to seek the knowledge they need.

An understanding of how to go about learning will steer them to be able to follow their dreams.

The ability to communicate what they have learned will insure their usefulness in whatever professions they pursue.

And mathematics, well we all know that math is used all day every day in one way or another.


May I encourage you to take some time to evaluate what your family’s most important outcomes are for your homeschool and then let everything else be driven by your foundational goals.


Welcome to the beautiful world of homeschooling. It’s hard. It’s wonderful. It’s worth the investment of time and money. You can do this! And here at ShillerLearning we are available to come alongside you in your education journey. Feel welcome to call 888-556-6284 or message/email with your questions. We are passionate not only about helping your kids learn but helping them learn to love learning.


Catherine Donnelly

Catherine began her formal education journey in Montessori preschool. Following a short stint in regular school she was homeschooled from 5th grade on. After being her college's first homeschooled graduate, she and her husband decided upon home education for their five children. 27 years, and many adventures later, she is till homeschooling their youngest 3 children. The foundation of Maria Montessori's principles have been a consistent thread throughout their learning journey and Catherine was delighted to discover Shiller Learning and join forces with them in 2020. In her sparse free moments she can be found reading with her children (or hiding in a corner reading by herself); writing articles for her blog, books or various clients; playing with her children; or dressing up in various time period costumes and traveling to historical sites.

See Inside Our Kits

Language Arts Kit A (PreK/K-G1)

Language Arts Kit B (G1-G4)

How Much Control Do You Really Have Over How Your Child Turns Out


How Much Control Do You Really Have

Over How Your Child Turns Out?

(The answer is both more and less than you might think…..)

As parents, especially homeschool parents, we sometimes link so much of our own views of success or failure to our children. When our child is excelling academically we pat ourselves on the back thinking we are doing such a great job. When they struggle in math or reading we berate ourselves, wondering if we are in fact ruining this child’s future with our inept teaching. (Hint: Don’t take the credit or the blame here. But DO keep searching for the right tools to help your child succeed and be the best that they can be. No one cares as much as you for your child. Keep looking until you find the best educational fit.)

Similarly when our child is kind and polite at a social gathering using their pleases and thank yous generously, we hide our self satisfied smiles of pride in our great parenting and offer a sympathetic smile to the parent whose child took a bite out of a cookie, put it back on the plate, and ran outside with nary a nod of appreciation. Really we are internally shaking our heads, glad that one is not ours. But wait….. Sometimes that child IS ours. Then, we hide our shame by laughing it off, “kids will be kids,” secretly embarrassed, knowing we have failed to teach this child manners.

“You are NOT going to believe what YOUR child did today?” greets the frazzled mother as her tired husband steps in the door at dinner time. Dad, not yet ready to be lambasted for the failings of his genepool on little junior, hesitates, feeling somehow less-than before the conversation even starts.

But wait…. How much of our children’s character IS the result of nature? Did they just come wired a certain way, and we have no control over how they turn out? And how much of who they become IS the result of nurture and really does weigh heavily on the shoulders of parental responsibility?

While not a genetic scientist nor a trained psychiatrist, I do have some experienced observations that will ease both your concerns and turn you into a detective searching out the best in each of the children you’ve been gifted with.

Clearly children are wired with certain propensities right out of the gate (or the womb). Often even observable prior to birth, they arrive with a basic set of personality traits. This observation, while guilt relieving, is not absolution for the parents just yet, because there is clearly a very malleable side to all children. Nurture is inextricably intertwined with nature - the parenting, education, friends, and everything that makes up a child’s environment will have a profound effect on who they are and who they become.

As a young parent, I learned to hold my confidence in myself as a result of my child’s successes very loosely. I recognized that things could quite easily go the opposite way and didn’t want to be left holding that bag entirely either. What I did begin to recognize in my children, in children I worked with, and in humans in general is that each character quality they possessed has two distinct sides.

Let me demonstrate:

- Lying is clearly a negative trait. Could lying have a positive side? YES. Imagination and creativity. This child can write an amazingly creative story and come up with answers to questions on the spot.

- Rude and outspoken = a child that is not easily pushed around and will stick up for what is true.

- Disrespectful = confident in themselves and less likely to be swayed to peer pressure.

- Shy = humble, introspective and thoughtful, able to be comfortable within themselves.

- Lazy = innovative thinker often looking for easier or better ways to do things. (Many inventors claim they are lazy.)

- Tattler = great reporter and recorder of details. Possibly a good story teller.

- Bossy = leader, organizer, someone willing to take responsibility. These humans get things done.

- Aggressive child = assertive personality often justice oriented and willing to stand up for what they believe is right. (The parent’s job is to help them learn what is right and what is worth standing up for.)

- Short Tempered = passionate, powerful emotions.

- Forgetful = engrossed in life.

- Prideful = confident.

- Obstinate = determined, able to stand up for what they believe and persevere when things are difficult.

This list is not exhaustive, but you get the idea.

You’ve also read the memes about the strong willed child and how IF they can survive childhood they will be one amazing adult!. This is a beautiful, though often frustrating truth. The qualities in our children that may seem difficult or unpleasant, ALL have a positive side. Every single one of them. It is our honor bound duty to find them!

As parents it is our job to search for the beauty in our child’s personality and even more importantly to help them discover who they are and celebrate their strengths. Way too often, even within the homeschool community, I have seen kids pegged as “bad kids” when in reality their personalities are wonderful and amazing and they need to be loved and respectfully guided into all that they were born to be.


Oprah Winfrey said, What you focus on expands, and when you focus on the goodness in your life, you create more of it.


This is nowhere more true than in the life of a child. The child who is punished constantly and always criticized for their “bad behavior” does often grow up to be a bad adult. If you take that same child and place even one adult in their life that believes in them and encourages the good side of their personality, they are exponentially more likely to grow up to be a world-changer or at the least a wonderful human being.

As a parent, I had to learn to make decisions based on what was best for my child, not what was best for my pride. Knowing that even though I was seeking out the good side of my child’s character qualities, not everyone cared to take the time to see that beauty. Sometimes this meant finding more nurturing environments or curricula, and sometimes it meant understanding talks with my child in navigating negativity from less understanding adults or advocating for my child in these situations.

YOU are your child’s best advocate, cheerleader, and champion. Not just to the rest of the world, but to themselves. As you constantly dig deep and find the good side of each of their qualities you are helping to build them into exactly who they came prewired to be.

YOU dear parent, have got this! Keep finding and focusing on the good and just watch it expand before your very eyes!


Catherine Donnelly, author and homeschool coach with the Rising Stars Foundation

Catherine Donnelly

Catherine began her formal education journey in Montessori preschool. Following a short stint in regular school she was homeschooled from 5th grade on. After being her college's first homeschooled graduate, she and her husband decided upon home education for their five children. 27 years, and many adventures later, she is till homeschooling their youngest 3 children. The foundation of Maria Montessori's principles have been a consistent thread throughout their learning journey and Catherine was delighted to discover Shiller Learning and join forces with them in 2020. In her sparse free moments she can be found reading with her children (or hiding in a corner reading by herself); writing articles for her blog, books or various clients; playing with her children; or dressing up in various time period costumes and traveling to historical sites.

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Practical Ways You Can Help Your Child Manage Emotions

Children will always have emotions. However, some kids find it very hard to manage their feelings. This post will outline nine practical and effective ways that you can help your child manage their emotions without overwhelming them or yourself.


Importance of Emotional Management to Children

1. Emotional problems can be very damaging to a child's self-esteem; it can also negatively affect their relationships with peers and their ability to focus on schoolwork. Studies have shown that the more emotional control children have daily, the more successful they are in life.


2. Emotional problems can disrupt your child's learning process. Being overly emotional is a problem for students since they often do not know how to cope with their emotions and usually get distracted by them instead of getting work done.


3. Emotional problems can trigger other behavioral issues. An emotionally overwhelmed child is most likely to act out and become disobedient or disrespectful to authority figures like parents and teachers.


4. Kids with Emotional Management Issues are more likely to have relationship problems in the future. These future problems can be related to both intimate relationships and friendships. It is not just kids that struggle with emotional management; many adults do as well. Read about adults who need help managing their emotions here.


5. Children with poor emotional management are more likely to have social problems as teenagers and adults. These social issues can include but are not limited to bullying, drug abuse, and risky sexual behavior.


Nine Effective Solutions for Managing Kids Emotions

Here are nine ways that you can help manage your child's emotions. Every child is different. Sometimes the solutions I outline might not work for your child; however, you should find a solution that does work for your kid. These solutions are based on proven research and have worked for many parents.


1. Talk to your kid about the emotions they have.
Kids feel better when they talk to someone about their feelings. Whether it is a parent, a teacher, a friend, or even an adult who is not familiar with the child, your child feels better when talking out their feelings with another person. Most people feel better when talking through their issues with someone else.


2. Have your child think about what they have done to cause their emotions.
Sometimes, kids feel intense emotions simply because of a particular situation they are facing or how it was dealt with. When you ask your child to think about what has happened, most kids will tell you what event triggered their emotions.


3. Help your child find healthy ways of dealing with their feelings like taking a walk, reading a book, doing an activity that makes them happy, etc.
Sometimes kids need to take in their feelings to be able to let them go. Helping your child find a healthy way to deal with their emotions can be very helpful. Try to think of ways that would make your child feel comfortable when they feel overwhelmed.


4. Help your child express their feelings in a healthy form.
Kids who are bullied, picked on, or made fun of are more likely to be angry and get hurt emotionally by other kids. If you help your child find healthy ways of expressing their emotions, they will be able to take their anger healthily.


5. Make sure your kid has proper health and physical care.
Emotions will affect your child's ability to focus on schoolwork and their physical well-being. If you have concerns that your child's feelings affect their work or health, talk to a doctor about it.


6. Enforce logical consequences to your child's hostile actions.
Sometimes kids act out of anger or frustration when they are not given what they want. This behavior is usually caused by why your child did not get their way or feel that they were treated destructively. Enforcing logical consequences to their behavior can help them learn how to deal with these emotions more productively and healthily.


7. Help your child learn to accept and accept negative consequences.

Sometimes kids act out of anger or frustration because they feel as if they are not being listened to or valued by someone but instead punished for their actions. Please help your child learn to accept the negative consequences that come with their efforts.


8. Help your child learn to take healthy risks.
Kids who learn to take risks and experience positive feelings will be happier and more secure with themselves. Please help your child find healthy ways of taking risks that are beneficial for them.


9. Listen to and appreciate your kid's feelings when they express themselves.
Sometimes, kids feel intense emotions simply because of certain situations they are facing or how it was dealt with. When you listen to your child and appreciate their feelings, they will tell you what is bothering them.

Kids who have poor emotional management can be hard to deal with. The children who are in this group may feel as though they are misunderstood because their peers and teachers don't understand how they are feeling. They may lash out at other kids, their parents, or even teachers without understanding why they are doing it. However, with the right help and guidance, these kids can learn to manage their emotions appropriately and will be able to live happier and more fulfilling lives.

Guest Blog Author: Andrea Gibbs, Montessori Academy

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