It’s time for another Ask Dr. Leman! What do you do when your homeschooled kid fights you tooth and nail? Listen to Dr. Leman’s advice on today’s episode.


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Doug: Homeschooling moms must be perfect or they must be close to perfection. This is mother today says, “Something’s gone awry. Something’s gone bump in the night,” and that second child is fighting her tooth and nail. How do we help this homeschool mom? That’s the question we get to ask Dr. Leman.

Doug: Hi. I’m Doug Terpening.

Andrea: I’m Andrea.

Doug: We are so glad that you are with us with Have a New Kid with Dr. Kevin Leman. If this happens to be your first time, we just want to let you know that this is for your education and entertainment purposes only. If the subject matter raises any concerns for you or your child, please go seek a local professional for help.

Doug: We love getting your caller questions, and I think we should jump right into today’s questions. How do we help this homeschool mom?

Homeschool Mom: Hey, Dr. Lehman, I have a question about homeschooling. I’ve been homeschooling for 16 years now, and sometimes it can be messy and hard, but I’ve also seen the rewards with my oldest being a college graduate and an amazing young woman. However, there’s something I never did quite get right with her, and now I see I’m making the same mistakes with my 11-year-old.

Homeschool Mom: A couple months ago, she started becoming a powerful homeschooler. When she needed help with figuring out, let’s say, a math problem, as she was frustrated and would ask for help, I would start to open my mouth and give out one word out, and she would immediately explode and not want to listen. She’s even gotten to the point where she is telling me she doesn’t want to do certain subjects or she gets mad if she has to rewrite a sentence. Obviously, she has to do her work. However, I’ve gotten to the point where I’m petrified to open my mouth or mark something wrong and for fear of her having a meltdown for the entire day. I love to teach and make things interesting and fun, but this isn’t fun for her nor I.

Homeschool Mom: I read a lot of your books and implement your techniques in parenting, and they have worked great. Fear of homeschooling though can seem like a whole nother animal sometimes because when I need to let the teacher or school deal with homework issues, it is still me dealing with it. Hey, I have a great idea, Dr Leman, you should write a book called Have a New Homeschool by Friday. I guarantee it’ll be a bestseller, and I’ll be first in line to buy it.

Homeschool Mom: In the meantime, can you help me get my little homeschool buzzard back onto stable ground?

Dr. Leman: Oh, I love your spunk, the fact that you have spunk in your life. By the way, did she mention her name?

Doug: She never did.

Dr. Leman: Oh, no, I got to call her Nameless. Oh, Nameless, listen, darlin’, you homeschooled 16 years and you still have spunk and a bounce in your step. You ought to be congratulated. That is a long time to homeschool. Now, again, I love homeschoolers. I talk with them all the time, and, you’re right, and I had been asked to write a book called Have a New Homeschooler by Friday, but that hasn’t surfaced yet, so let’s start with giving yourself some credit for what you’ve already accomplished. You’ve got one young woman, a great young lady, you say, out of the house. How did that happen? That happened because of the love and the support and the encouragement that she found in your home, so my guess is that you suffer from a bad case of perfectionism, and you have to just understand that none of us are perfect.

Dr. Leman: We all are flawed to the core. As a believer in God, you have no claim to heaven, but through the mercy and grace of God will enter his kingdom if you’ve learned to love his son, so, that being said, you have to back off a little bit on yourself. That’s step number one. Realize that the principle here is perfectionism is slow suicide, so, if you’re always shooting for perfection, you’re going to walk away dissatisfied and you’re going to say, “Nameless, you failed,” and I’m saying, “Nameless, you’ve done good so far.”

Dr. Leman: Now, let’s turn to younger sibling at 16, and isn’t it interesting that they ask you for help and then, as soon as you open your mouth, you get criticized or put down or told you don’t need their help? One of the things that I’m going to suggest you do is memorize a very short phrase, and I want you to start using it today with 16-year-old. I want you to learn to say, “Honey, I’m sure you can handle it.” You got it? “Honey? I’m sure you can handle it.”

Dr. Leman: What you’re doing there is she’s coming to you with a problem that she wants you to give advice to or fix and, as soon as you open your mouth, she’s going to what? She’s going to badmouth whatever you’re saying, so, your money ahead, the very next time she asks for any advice about anything related to school, of course, you simply say, “Honey, I’m sure you can handle it,” and she’s going to get frustrated and she’s going to make you the bad guy, and she’s going to say things like, “You don’t care.” “Honey, if you want to believe that lie, you go right ahead. I sure don’t believe that because that’s not the truth, but if you want to believe that, you go right ahead,” and what you’re doing is you’re pushing back in a way that forces her to take a look at herself, and that’s the healthy thing here.

Dr. Leman: If you’ve listened to our podcast, one of my favorite little sayings is keep the tennis ball of life on the right side of the net. I know you’re the teacher, but when you start feeling used as a teacher, your tendency ought to be to back off and say, “Okay, student, handle it yourself,” and if that young student of yours is sensitive to correction, which I assume she is, and she asks you to look over a paper, for example, if you want to look it over, look it over and just look at it and say, “Wow, looks great to me,” and hand it back to her and then, when it’s due in, get your little red pencil out and start checking things off and see how she reacts to that.

Dr. Leman: In other words, I’d just start throwing her a few curve balls that says, “Listen, I’m your teacher. I need to be respected, and, obviously, I’m your mother and I need to be respected,” so you earn your stripes, so to speak, on your sleeve, Ms. Nameless, by simply holding your ground without name-calling, without getting mad. You have to have an even temperament here because this kid is a powerful child, which suggests, and I’m going to say this real softly, that you just might be a powerful person yourself.

Dr. Leman: As we heard on your question, you’ve got a lot of spunk in your kid and chances are you yourself know pretty much how things ought to be, and so maybe both siblings have caught a little bit of that from you, but, again, I think you’re being too hard on yourself, so, remember, fighting is an act of cooperation. That’s another principle, so, if you engage in a battle with her, you get what you ask for, so that’s why when she says something just absolutely stupid or dumb or whatever, just say, “Interesting.” Don’t correct it. You know the right thing. Don’t correct it. Let her figure it out especially with her relationships with other people or if she’s involved with some activities at the local school, maybe you and… part of a coop or something like that. Let her figure it out. Let her experience failure.

Dr. Leman: Remember, failure is a great place to take place where? In the home. It’s the safest place for your son or daughter to understand what true failure is all about, so, anyway, that’s for starters. What do the Terpenings think?

Doug: How does she deal with that, as soon as she starts to talk to the child, the child starts to blow up on her? What does she do when that child verbally blows up on her?

Dr. Leman: The minute she does that, she turns her back and goes to a room where she can lock the door and be alone or she gets in her car and takes a little drive some place. She physically removes herself, and you’ve heard me long enough, Doug and Andrea, to know that turning your back on a child, I mean, a lot of people think, “Oh, that’s too harsh,” it’s deliberate for a reason. It’s not harsh. It’s deliberate, but it says, “Hey, I’m not doing this dog and pony show.”

Dr. Leman: You can’t fight by yourself, and so this kid… and this is true of all adolescents. Think of when you were an adolescent. You needed your parents. You needed your parents, but you didn’t want to admit it. You’re being driven to school and you say, “Hey, mom, drop me off here.” “Honey, we’re not even in school yet.” “Mom, just drop me off here. I want to walk the rest of the way.” It’s like you don’t want to admit that you have a parent. It’s part of breaking away. It’s called adolescence. It’s okay, so, again, you guide the sheep. You just can’t grab them by the neck and drag them here and drag them there, but you certainly don’t get kicked around by your children verbally ever.

Doug: Andrea, you’re a homeschool mom with four. Could you imagine your second child blows up at you like this? Could you just get in your car and leave or go in the backroom?

Andrea: Like Dr. Leman says, fighting is an act of cooperation, and, often, it draws you in, so it is hard to step away and especially when you feel like this is your workplace or your responsibility. It feels different than your homes… than just parenting, so it’s harder because you’re like… especially if you are one that is driven to have good grades, like a recent podcasts, “My kids have got to get good grades so they can get into a good college,” and now it’s a reflection of you. It’s really hard to imagine giving your kid bad grades, so I think there’s a lot wrapped up into this, and I agree with Dr. Leman. Yeah, we have to step back.

Dr. Leman: Andrea, I’ve got a question for you. Would you have a problem giving your daughter or son a bad grade?

Andrea: Would I have difficulty? Yes. Do I do everything I can to help them so they can earn a good, honest grade? Yes.

Dr. Leman: Help me know. Help me know. Help me understand why you’d have difficulty giving a grade your son or daughter has earned. I wish you could see me right now because I do have a smirk on my face because [inaudible] if that answered the question, but-

Andrea: You’re evil.

Dr. Leman: Yes. This kid has earned that bad grade. Today, let’s take a public school with a broad brush, and people can write me nasty emails if they want, but we’ve watered things down so badly. How much effort does a kid have to put into public school today to get C work or better? I don’t think an awful lot. I really don’t, so, when a kid really fails and gets a “bad grade,” does she or he not earn that grade by not doing a homework, by not participating in class, by not doing well on a performance test?

Dr. Leman: You’ve got to own it. I see these shirts today that a lot of young people wear that says, “Own it.” Okay, own it. This is on them. This isn’t you. I always tell parents when the grades come home and they’re crushed to the grades, you got to remember these are grades that belong to your son or daughter. They don’t belong to you. Don’t own, don’t take possession of what you really aren’t a part of. You’ve done your share. You’ve done your best.

Andrea: Yeah. As I listened to this lady ask her question, who you’re calling Ms. Nameless, her… This second child is actually 11, and as a homeschool mom, I’m thinking this is a great time to give them bad grades because these aren’t going on the transcript. These colleges aren’t going to look at these grades. This is a great time to let her experience a little bit of “failure,” and hopefully get their relationship right so that, as they get into the high school years, their communication is better, so I don’t know if knowing that this child is 11 gives you any other insights into what might be going on here.

Dr. Leman: Yeah, folks, you’ve just heard the pragmatic side of Andrea saying, “Hey, if you’re going to give them a failing grade, a bad grade, give it to them before it goes on the transcript.”

Dr. Leman: I talk to parents. I’m a former dean of students. I know something about getting people into college and what college admission officers are looking at, and I always tell young people, “Someone, a stranger that you don’t know is going to look at a computer screen and see some grades in your name and your Social Security number, and they’re going to make all kinds of judgments about who you are based upon some numbers and some grades,” and that’s the sad truth, so grades are important. Education is important.

Dr. Leman: Can you make a child do something? I mean, I’m the author of Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours. Can you make a child mind? Literally, you can’t, but you certainly can do things that set up parameters in your home that make a kid sooner or later come to the point where he says, “You know what, I’m, I’m money ahead here to do what’s expected of me. This isn’t working out for me.”

Doug: For Mrs. No Name here, she’s got this kid 24/7. I mean, this kid, this 11-year-old that’s just back-talking and firing up on her, it’s all the time. At what point does she give her the bread and water treatment or any of that kind of stuff? Is that effective when you have a powerful child like this?

Dr. Leman: It is. The bread and water treatment, by the way, parents, is just… Obviously, you got to feed your kids, and they have a roof over their head, but you don’t have to do anything for them, quite frankly. If you’re used to fixing breakfast for them, you can go on strike.

Dr. Leman: They’d say, “Mom, I’d like this or that.” “Honey, I’m sorry, I’m not in a breakfast mood,” and walk out of the room. They won’t know what hit them, and sooner or later, the bread and water treatment as Doug Terpening has just suggested gets a kid to a point where he says, “Hey, what’s going on?” and that’s when you’re on, parent. That’s where you say to your kid, “Hey, I’ll tell you what’s going on. I don’t like your mouth. I don’t like the constant questioning of me. I don’t like the badgering of me. I don’t like the tone of voice you use with me, and things need to change because you have a very unhappy mother. You have a very unhappy dad,” and, again, I underscore this, kids really don’t like it when you’re unhappy with them.

Doug: Yeah. Something you didn’t say that is interesting, so I’ll ask this question from Ms. No Name. Is she probably being too critical or correcting of her child and pushing her to be perfect?

Dr. Leman: Yeah, she’s probably. I said that softly. She’s probably a very powerful lady. She knows exactly how things ought to be, and, of course, with an 11-year-old, you’ve heard me say this before, it’s a weird, weird age, 11. You’re neither fish nor a fowl, and it’s the beginning of adolescence. It’s actually the beginning of the teenage years. Because kids are growing up so early, I always say 11 and 12-year-olds are teenagers, and so you have to be firm, and, 16 years of homeschooling, I’d be tempted to take a year of vacation to the southern tip of South America.

Dr. Leman: I mean, that’s a lot. I mean, Andrea, you’ve homeschooled. You have to throw yourself into it, and here’s a woman, and that’s why I say I think she’s too rough on herself, which is an indication that, guess what, she’s rough on other people as well, so, anyway, that’s just a few thoughts for her. Don’t be afraid to be firm. Don’t be afraid to say I’m unhappy. Don’t be afraid to say I don’t like what’s happening here, and that will get the kids’ attention.

Doug: Yep. Yep. Before we continue the podcast, I want to make sure I tell you about this week’s E-book special for you, a fabulous one. It is My First Born, There’s No One Like You, September 17th of 2018 to September 23rd of 2019, for $1.99. My Firstborn, There’s No One Like You. Any comments about this one, Dr. Leman?

Dr. Leman: Yes. That’s a wonderful book. Now, they’re offering that at $1.99 to download. Let me give you a little tip out there. If you have any book collector in you, see if you can find a copy of My Firstborn, There’s No One Like You and hang on to it. That is going to be an extremely valuable book. The middle child book, that’s one of six in a series that I do with my son, Kevin, and, that middle child book, I’ve seen it on eBay for over $400, so, if you can find My Firstborn, There’s No One Like You, it’s illustrated beautifully and it hits home, you will see your little firstborn on those pages. It’s a wonderful, wonderful book, so download it for $1.99. My goodness, that’s a no-brainer.

Doug: In conclusion, thank you for this great question, and what I hear you say, Dr. Leman, is give yourself a break. You don’t need to be perfect, but be firm. Don’t be afraid to say that I’m disappointed. Don’t be afraid to walk away. Don’t be afraid to say I’m happy, and give yourself a little bit more grace. You’ve probably done way more than you think, and, as you have said multiple times, if we change, they change and IT sounds like just soften it up.

Doug: Anything else, Andrea?

Andrea: Yeah, oh, just as a very similar kind of person to her, the perfectionist, and having homeschooled for many years, it’s refreshing to hear, “You’re probably being too hard on yourself.” Lighten up, and I would just say enjoy your daughter. These are special years, and it’s really special to be able to homeschool and spend that time with them, so enjoy and don’t worry so much about performance. It’ll come.

Dr. Leman: Wow, that’s well said, Andrea. If every homeschooler had that mantra in their life, this is a privilege to do this with my kids, homeschoolers across our nation would do a much better job and feel better about themselves in the process. Very good.

Doug: Thank you guys for being with us today, and we love helping add to your parenting toolbox. A reminder that that ebook, My Firstborn, There’s No One Like You, get it while it’s available for just this week, and it’s a joy. We look forward to the next time to being with you.

Andrea: Have a great week. Bye. Bye.

Doug: Take care. Bye. Bye.