Recognizing Passive-Aggressive Behavior in Our Children
Ask any homeschooling mom what frustrates her most and she will mention the kids taking forever to finish their work, not doing their work or complaining about their work. There seems to be a theme here. If I burned 100 calories every time I heard such a complaint, I would be conducting weight-loss seminars.
Most moms silently suffer, reluctant to acknowledge defeat, until they meet with their facilitator. Facilitators talk to many moms; thus, they are exposed to the bigger picture, but individual homeschoolers struggle alone, not realizing that this problem is typical. We dare not ignore it, however, because typical or not, it’s annoying!
Much more than annoying, it leads to panic when we believe that we are unusual, which just isn’t true. I guarantee you that this hassle is common at one time or another to every homeschool (or for that matter to every home). It happened in mine, and I bet it has happened in yours. In fact, you might be struggling with your children’s passive-aggressive behavior right now.
Finding a Solution
The first step in finding a solution is to admit the problem. The second is to realize that you are not alone. The third is to get smart.
There are many dynamics at play here. First of all, there’s Mother’s fear of failure. Most likely a product of a North American school system, Mom is performance oriented. She wants to succeed (boy, does she want to succeed!) and homeschooling is her baby.
Resistance from Others
Someone is resisting her — a mother-in-law, a husband, a neighbor, a girlfriend. She has blabbed up the benefits and joys of this idea to her skeptical friends and now things don’t seem to be panning out. The kids don’t delight in school work (first shock) and they can’t seem to get it done in a day, at least not in time (maybe there’s too much work, the wrong curriculum, a poor schedule). Although she’s sold on homeschooling, she’s afraid that maybe it’s not for her. Maybe she’s ruining her children. She feels chained to a sinking ship. More and more frequently, she finds herself longing for the return of her peaceful pre-homeschooling life.
The second dynamic is Mother’s delusion. Most homeschoolers’ expectations are unreal. They strive to grasp a phantom carrot, which not only can’t be reached, it doesn’t exist! Their Norman Rockwell painting of the perfect homeschool goes something like this:
Mom, looking well rested and dressed in a sharp outfit and starched apron is baking pies from scratch in the large, open kitchen of the family’s log cabin. It’s harvest time and she’s eager to sample the new apple crop.
In one corner of the room, a cheerful fire radiates from the field stone fireplace. At the solid oak island, close to Mom’s elbow, sit three well dressed, finely groomed, jolly children. The family collie barks playfully. The calico cat catches a sunbeam. A perky parakeet, trained to sing along with music, dances on her perch and chirps the melody to Don’t Worry, Be Happy.
The seven-year old is parsing his Latin verbs, the nine-year old is reading War and Peace while completing tomorrow’s calculus assignment, and the elven-year old is writing his second novel. Every few minutes, one slaps another on the back and says, “Good job! You’re doing so well!”
At their elder siblings’ feet, sit two contented toddlers constructing Meccano cities while reciting their timetables to song. Handel’s Messiah plays softly and melodically through the home’s intercom system. As the oven timer signals removal of the home baked beans, the ten-year old calls gently and respectfully form the table where she is rocking the baby’s cradle with one foot while completing a chemistry experiment.
“Mother, am I permitted to finish next week’s lessons today before I fold the laundry and chop wood? I am so eager to complete the textbook by Christmas and begin my physics. I do not want to fall behind. Oh, and Mother… You look lovely. Have I thanked you today for homeschooling me?
Across the table, the eight-year old whistles Amazing Grace as he builds birdhouses to sell in the family business. All of the people in this picture are smiling and reciting Psalm 119 simultaneously. “That’s great, children!” Mom sings out as they complete verse 176. “Now let’s try it in Japanese!”
Can we all agree that no homeschool looks anything like this? Most of them look remarkably like yours, complete with the sticky countertops! So enough of the delusion already! We will never attain perfection.
We need a plan. Let’s start by lighting a candle and a stick of incense, breathing deeply and doing the following:
Acknowledging the problem: Kids dawdle and balk. It’s normal. It’s not evil, only childish. We’re not alone. Repeat ten times: “My kids are normal and so am I!”
Adjusting our focus: Our homeschool doesn’t have to look like a cover spread for Homeschooling Today. Repeat ten times: “Our school is normal and so is our house!”
Taking back control: Repeat twenty times: “I am the adult here.”
Number three can be a challenge, but it’s actually easier than you think (and an awful lot of fun). Have you ever asked yourself, “Why am I arguing with an eight-year old?” There really is no argument. You are the boss. Hold on to that thought until my next article when I will lay out a great plan for you to take back control. That’s the part where we get smart. For now, give yourself a break. You’re normal, you’re not going nuts, and there is hope.
Dianne Dachyshyn is a freelance writer and a motivational speaker who lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. She works as a home education facilitator, helping homeschooling families plan their programs and deal with challenges. Dianne is passionate about teaching children to write. Visit her website at HomeschoolWell.com.