Homeschooling a Strong-Willed Teen

This week on Homeschool Highschool Podcast: Homeschooling a Strong-Willed Teen. This post is running concurrently on the Ultimate Homeschool Podcast Network.

Homeschooling a Strong-Willed Teen

Homeschooling a Strong-Willed Teen

We had a request from one of our 7th Sisters to talk about homeschooling high school with strong-willed teens. (BTW- there are six of us 7Sisters, so who is the 7th Sister? YOU are!)

I have to admit that the truth is, if we have more than one kid, we could make a lineup of easy- to hard-to-homeschool teens. If we happen to do that, it is likely that most of us have at least one easier kid and definitely one harder to homeschool. Often that harder to homeschool teen is strong willed.

However, you can be of good cheer! You and your all your teens (even the strong-willed ones) CAN love homeschooling high school- at least most days. Believe me, I’ve been there and done that.

With that in mind, let’s talk about some tips for homeschooling strong willed teens.

There are several mindsets that will benefit us parents of strong-willed teens. Here are a few:

Remember, you and your teens are not enemies (even on bad days)

Pray for God to give you a vision of being a team. To do this, we need an openness to always think of ourselves, even on bad days, as together (not against). This is such a necessary mindset. Keep in mind that God created your strong-willed teen. He has plans for that will. Not only that, but when you have that strong will working WITH you on a project or plan, amazing things can happen!

And those amazing things that happen (not every day but enough days), even strong willed teens come to see themselves as team players. One benefit of this team mindset is that over the years these teens come to see themselves as friendly with their parents.

Of course, this can be a challenge to those of us who were with a highly authoritarian parenting style. If you were raised as “the parent is the authority and the teen must submit”,  AND you want to repeat this with your strong-willed homeschooler, life will have more challenges.

God creates our teens and their personalities

In His infinite wisdom, God gave you the perfect teen with the perfect personality to fit with your personality. NO kidding! God knew it was the very best thing for you to be together through their adolescence.

We can trust God with the process through their homeschooling years. Also, keep in mind that through this process, He is not out to break their wills- or yours. Rather, He is working to mold you both into the image of Christ. Therefore, you both over time grow into the fruit of the Spirit.

Now, some practical tips for homeschooling strong willed teens

Okay, so what is the rubber-meets-the-road in tips for homeschooling these teens?

First off, pray

As our Sister Kym always says: Pray first, last and always! The true secret of success is praying for God’s wisdom for raising these particular teens.

For homeschool success with strong-willed teens: Remember you are on the same team!

Have an easy but helpful resource

We are not affiliates, but there is a wonderful resource for raising these teens: How to Really Love Your Teen by Ross Campbell. This is a book that helps you find a balance of helping these teens get and stay on your team by making them feel loved. While creating this loving atmosphere Campbell also shows useful ways to set rules and boundaries with these teens.

Here are some ideas from Ross Campbell:

  • Eye contact
    • Eyes are the gate to the soul. When you check in with your teens’ eyes periodically, it feels their “love tank” (as Campbell calls their emotional needs).
  • Positive and healthy physical touch
    • All teens (and all humans) need occasional touch, for instance: a pat on the back, a high-five or a quick hug. When you give your teen a quick hug, a high five or a pat on the back, their brains (and yours) release oxytocin, which is a bonding and calming hormone. Not only that, it’s just a nice thing to do.
  • Focused attention
    • Strong-willed teens often will not want to sit down on the couch together for a long chat. It can be hard to find time to be with them in a listening way while they and you are so busy with this phase of life.
    • However, here is something we have found often works: have the teens leave their earbuds at home, then get them in the car for a drive and a walk at a nearby park. You can count this as Phys Ed for the day. At the same time, walks and car drives are often times that teens will talk about something. It does not need to be deep or problem solving, it can be about the level they just beat in their game…whatever. It’s the time together that matters.
  • Unconditional love
    • Teens need to feel loved. This means periodically hear the words, “I love you.” They also need to know that even when they have been a pain in the neck or blown it somehow, they need to know you still love them. (So, de-escalate your own anger before dealing with their irritating behavior.)

Another fabulous resource is Star Finder by Anita Gibson. A homeschool mom herself, Anita shares ways to guide a strong-willed teen so that they discover their strengths and then use their will to make good things happen.

Now, onto tips for educating the strong-willed teen

Here are some practical tips for working with that strong will instead of against it.

Do not hand them a stack of books and syllabi and issue a command: Get this done!

Instead, during the off season, sit together and plan your homeschool for the next year. (In fact, it is good to also work on a together-vision of the high school years.) First do some research ahead of time on planning homeschool high school and gather ideas for resources.

Then get together with your teen. Listen and get their thoughts about high school. Next, if their ideas are totally ridiculous (which they sometimes are), ask questions about their ideas.

Show them some options, for instance:

Keep working to be a team (even if it means lowering your education standards a little bit). When you have a buy-in from your strong-willed teen, they will co-operate better.

Remember, homeschool years are rarely “steady state”. You and your teen discover that what worked in September is totally irritating by January…or maybe it never worked to start with. Model for your homeschooler a growth mindset by working with them to adapt or change how the problem credit is being earned.

Hold onto some basic expectations

As you plan together, let your teen know that there are some requirements you both have to reach. These might include:

  • State graduation requirements
  • Umbrella school or other supervising organization requirements
  • College or vocational school entrance requirements
  • Any personal non-negotiable (although, these may need to be flexible…well, probably will need to be flexible)

Also, make sure you ask them about their expectations for their homeschool high school years. If they don’t have a clue, be sure to add some Career Exploration activities to help them start visualizing the future.

Write all these down. Have a copy for you and for your homeschool high schooler. Remember that Habakkuk 2:2 instructs us to:

Write the vision and make it clear so that those who read it can run with it.

BTW- if you have a creative teen, have them create a vision board based on these expectations and dreams.

These written and/or visual expectations and dreams help homeschool high schoolers stay on their own team.

Teach and plan on time management skills

Also, plan together for the time management and scheduling that you both agree on. This will vary by personality and personal and family needs. A good way to start with this is to do a time audit before doing your planning together. This can help them make realistic adjustments and plans.

Do not nag

Make sure you have regularly scheduled check-ins (on the calendar for you both). This can be daily, weekly or monthly according to the level of responsibility a teen is able to handle.

If you find they are behind, do not nag. Rather, stay on the same page. Talk together about the agreements about the plans you both made for the year and how to recalibrate. Here’s a post you can read together about catching up when you are behind.

Find things to laugh about

Laughter keeps you bonded and is good for body and soul. Anytime you can have laughter it helps education and relationships. If nothing else, watch a funny movie or YouTube together.

Model apologizing

Own your own stuff when you make a mistake. It is good for your soul and theirs.

Also, make sure you model true apologies, such as, “I’m sorry that I lost my temper.” That is a better choice than, “I’m sorry YOU are upset that I lost my temper.” (This, of course, is not actually an apology.)

Remember: there’s no such thing as a perfect teen

Strong willed teens will need more forgiveness and that is okay. God has plans so keep praying and growing together. Strong-willed teens are a lot more work than compliant teens but they are so worth the effort. Hold onto the truth that God has plans for them (and you)!

Join Vicki for a helpful discussion on homeschooling strong-willed teens.

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Vicki Tillman

Blogger, curriculum developer at 7SistersHomeschool.com, counselor, life and career coach, SYMBIS guide, speaker, prayer person. 20+year veteran homeschool mom.

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