Image by Judge Pera (cc cropped, tinted, text added)
If your year is starting and you’re feeling sheepish—that nagging sense that you and your child are not on the same page—here’s a practice that can help to “reset” the dial between you.
Take your child out for a shake, or a slushie, or something yummy.
Once you are settled, own up to whatever contribution you’ve made to the icky feelings. One mom I spoke with shared how last year she made a list with her daughter of fun things to do in homeschool—and then never did them. She let “school” rob her of her confidence in pursuing things like baking and sewing. Understandably, the daughter’s attitude toward this year’s curricula is hostile.
Maybe you and your kids are at odds over a particular program, practice, or problem in your family. You can’t begin with the fresh feeling of a new school year if there is distance, edge, or irritation between you.
Children can’t put you in “time out,” they can’t take away your technology, they can’t give you a low grade. What they can do is pick at your bad habits, laugh derisively when you make mistakes, or roll their eyes when you express enthusiasm. This is how they hold you accountable—they resist.
Reestablishing connection has to come first—before algebra or study of the ancient Greeks.
Start with your part.
How have you contributed to the alienated feelings between you? Have you ignored your child’s unhappiness? Not followed through on a promise? Shouted or shamed your child into performance?
Maybe you are teaching a curriculum you don’t even like—yet you expect your child to “like” it. Perhaps there’s a level of admission there that needs to happen—”I don’t like this program, yet I’m requiring you to like it. I see the inconsistency in that. I’m sorry.”
Once you share how you see yourself contributing to the negative energy between you, ask your child what else is upsetting. Is there something else you should know?
Create space for them to add to the list of what is not going well. Apologize for that too—even if it feels unfair.
Sip. Take big slurps of your milkshake to help you hold back from being defensive. Listen. Your child can even be flat out wrong—your only task is to leave space for the child to share his or her perspective in that moment.
Next, talk about what will be different this year. Make it concrete, keep it short. Perhaps you are about to switch to one new program. Or maybe you will follow through on the promise to get your child piano lessons (and will do it that day, when you get home).
Go low. Be the one who apologizes first—who creates space for a renewed connection. Make eye contact. Be open.
If your child does the whole, “I don’t know” and “There’s nothing wrong,” that’s okay too. It could be that your child is still figuring out whether or not you will change—will actually do what you are now promising to do. So do it! Start the change cycle.
And see what happens next.
Your tasks? Pay for drinks, apologize, offer to listen, make one or two new plans, follow through.
You can do this!