When Your Child Resists Learning, Don’t Take It the Wrong Way

Homeschooling would be a breeze if our kids would always do the assignments and activities we give them, right? 

There’s nothing worse than spending time looking for the most creative, interesting curriculum on the market, or scouring Pinterest for an awesome activity or experiment only to watch your child refuse to do it.

Some kids will quietly resist. You’ve seen it. The placing of the head on the desk. The polite and lovingly said, “No, mommy. I don’t want to do that.”

Sometimes resistance takes the form of a series of reasons why your child can’t do the work. Perhaps they are too tired, hungry, thirsty, or the activity is too boring to even attempt. 

Then there’s the loud, in your face type of resistance. The throwing. Yelling. Storming off, Slamming doors. Ripping paper. Throwing a punch or a kick. And oh, the tears (sometimes from parent and child)!

What do you think when your child resists? How we understand our kids’ resistance is either going to offer support or worsen the resistance.

Don’t take it personally

When your child refuses to do something you’ve asked – even when you ask patiently and offer support – it’s so hard not to take it personally. 

It feels personal, especially when your child is taking their resistance out on your eardrums or your body. When your child tells you that you’re the worst or that they hate you, it kinda feels personal. 

It can feel like your child is telling you that they don’t want to listen to you. That they don’t respect your role and authority as the teacher and parent. It can even feel like your child’s resistance is your fault and that your child is telling you you’re doing a bad job teaching them. 

I promise you, your child’s resistance is 100% about your child. It’s not a reflection of you as their parent or teacher. They are acting out their frustration and feelings in awful ways because they feel safe and trust that you will love them no matter how awful their behavior. 

Your child’s resistance is 100% not a test of you or of your relationship. There’s no need for you to exert control over your child or punish them when they are resisting.

Seeing your child’s resistance as something completely separate from you is key to figuring out where the resistance is coming from and what to do about it.  

It’s not laziness or lack of motivation

It’s easy to interpret resistance as your child deciding not to work. We feel compelled to cheerlead them on, to motivate them to try the assignment. We may even offer something they love as a reward, some extra motivation. 

When that doesn’t work, we can be quick to conclude that our kids are being lazy, or worse – that they don’t care about their education. We sometimes can feel frustrated or angry at the notion that we care more about our kids’ learning than they do, especially when it seems like we’re doing more work than they are. Our response is usually to threaten to take something away if they don’t do the work. 

This usually leads to meltdowns and explosions. Not fun to deal with at all!

Why are we so quick to see our kids as lazy or unmotivated? Sure, they look like the dictionary definition of both of those words. But still, it’s worth thinking about. 

How have other educators characterized your child’s behavior as a student? If you’ve gone to some parent-teacher conferences before deciding to homeschool, did you hear your child described as lazy, unfocused, lacks motivation, easily distracted, distracts others, or something along those lines? 

Obviously, you saw that your child wasn’t in the right learning environment for them so you switched to homeschooling. 

Do you think you’re still holding on to the description of your homeschooler that others have said? Do you feel added pressure to prove them wrong only to watch your child seemingly proving them right? 

(Cue Elsa) Let it go….


Seriously, let it go. The well-meaning adults were describing your child’s ability to conform and stick with the program laid out by the teacher each day. The emphasis in a classroom is on behavior management because so many bodies have to function together without chaos ensuing. The feedback you’ve received was based on your child’s behavior in that specific environment. It has nothing to do with their desire or capacity to learn.

It’s not you, it’s them

Resistance is a part of being human. I wish I could give you “3 steps to homeschooling without any resistance ever.” But, I can’t. Because our kids will have a bad night’s sleep or will be getting sick or already sick and just won’t be able to perform at their best and do all of the things we’ve planned for them. 

However, that doesn’t mean that your child should be resisting every day or refusing to work on a specific subject. When that happens, something else is going on that needs to be looked into. And changes to the homeschooling experience need to be made. 

Remember, kids learn when they can. So, when a child resists an assignment or activity, they really can’t do it at that time. It’s our job to find out why and remove as much of the resistance as we can.

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