Counseling 101: a Homeschool Parent’s Most Important Skill

If there were any skill I would recommend for the pre-parent, it would be the one I discuss today: counseling 101, a homeschool parent’s most important skill (how to kindly, authentically, and diplomatically deal with people).

Really. Tough. Work. Trying to figure out how to co-exist in the world with other people (especially our little people, and our little people trying to coexist with their siblings: one of the hardest aspects of homeschooling).

However, because we weren’t put in this world alone, we need to learn to empathetically engage in our social sphere. Hence, I offer you: Counseling 101: a homeschool parent’s most important skill.

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This is a homeschool parent’s most important skill if she doesn’t want to lose her mind.

Counseling, conflict management, and communication will likely be a lifelong lesson for all of us as we continue to discover why we (& others) do what we do.

Our children have differing natural-born penchants for navigating these things, but we know intuitively that our kids learn to navigate relationships by watching us navigate our relationships.

First, let me establish a few of my beliefs about relationships:

  1. We are happier when we live in authentic harmony (with others and ourselves).
  2. Also, we feel more connected and are more creative when we do.
  3. We like our lives more when we’re living in harmony.
  4. Therefore, we must have a plan to address conflict when it arises. Because on this topic, I don’t agree with Forest Gump’s mama: you know that quote: “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.'” In a relationship, you definitely do: if you’re living alongside humans, including yourself, you’ll get into conflict).

ps I did a little research on chocolates at this point, and I discovered that I could probably eat every single Purdy’s chocolate available to Canadians? Do y’all have Purdy’s, when I did a rabbit trail of unsavoury international chocolate offerings, I discovered Heinz ketchup, vegemite, and insect flavoured? What even? Just no.

I’d love to hear about your least favourite chocolatier and oh also, send me a sample of your most favourite, haha.

The sibling relationship, especially in a homeschooled home, where continuous contact is present, requires an energetic, proactive parental approach.

Teaching kids that they have relational power to influence and affect others is important. They have the relational power to build up or tear down others.

Teaching our kids empathy, learning to actively listen, expressing their feelings and needs, empowering (theirs and others) choices, learning collaborative problem solving, setting clear boundaries, and practicing patience…all of this doesn’t happen overnight.

two kids fighting over a teddy bear: a homeschool parent's most important skill

Some days it feels like no matter how much counseling we offer our kids, they still resort to headbanging, hairpulling, tattletaling, and generally bugging one another.

And as a homeschool mama, you get to hear the full transcript 24/7…

From the other room, a child runs in, “Mom, so and so said…”

But first she pinched, or hit, or told me what to do, or grabbed that thing away, or won’t let me take a turn with the thing or you fill-in-the-blank…” because I think you know the drill.

On my best days, when my kids were younger, I had each of them talk out their problems with each other in front of me (& when I learned the basics of NVC, I incorporated those concepts); occasionally, I suggested they do it independently when I just couldn’t again.

Me: “So, let’s just stop, take a breather, then when we’re able, you can sit here on the sofa and I’ll ask each of you to take turns sharing what you’re feeling, or what you need. Then when one of you has shared, the other is going to repeat back what they’ve heard– matter of factly–in a way that the other can hear you, preferably with kindness, no contempt, no rolls of the eyes, just repeat back what you’ve heard, so she knows that she has been heard”.

Kid #1: “So this is what I thought you said: you think I’m a purple elephant riding a green tiger that poops on figure eight on the sidewalk…”

As long as she’s not lecturing, making “you did wrong” statements, or “I can’t stand it when you…” statements, kid #1 has the freedom to share with kid #2 what she thought she heard.

Kid #2 then has a turn:No that’s not what I said! I said you can be the pink elephant riding a green tiger that loops around the figure eight on the sidewalk!”

And though it takes a few go-arounds to figure out WHY they were even talking about pink or purple elephants riding on green tigers that loop around anything, they might come to some understanding of one another and live happily ever after. Mwahahaha.

Watch from 14:30 “What to do about Kid Conflict”

Though this is not magic, no magic tricks, and no magic wands effective for this topic, this process enables siblings to understand one another more (thereby, possibly even, engaging in less conflict, eventually).

Gradually, they’ll come to understand that other people have different perspectives which doesn’t make either of them right or wrong. It just makes their perspectives different.

Hopefully, they’ll come to understand that there really will never be just one right way to do anything, explain anything, or understand anything.

Perhaps they’ll come to understand that sometimes they won’t get what they want first and sometimes they will. They can learn to be happy either way.

Hopefully, they’ll come to understand that it can take next to no effort to get locked into goofy conflict with the most important people in their lives because someone used a word in a way that the other didn’t understand. (Since, in the scenario above, we learn that it wasn’t a purple dinosaur, it was a pink dinosaur…why were they even talking about dinosaurs???)

If you’re someone who is thinking: I would just like to have kids who don’t argue, complain, fuss, tattletale, headbang, hair pull, bug, grab things away, or fight, I regret to inform you that my magical homeschool mom coaching wand doesn’t have magic for that.

Also, if you’re someone who might be thinking: Teresa, this approach you speak to sounds like it will take WAY too much time: I do not have time for this, just deal with it yourself kids, and stop it already!

Well, I feel ya. Certainly, I have had those thoughts. And I’ve probably even said them at one time or another.

I do understand entirely how overstimulating and stressful it can be to have repeated conflict in our homes. Or to have yet another lovingly planned activity interrupted by yet another incomprehensible squirmish.

But, I suggest that teaching your kids these skills is more valuable than any skill learned under your homeschool roof (one of the most important skills they can learn in their childhoods).

Counseling 101: a homeschool parent's most important skill

There isn’t a bigger gift that you’re going to give your child than the gift of empathy, people skills, and emotional self-regulation.

There isn’t a bigger gift than teaching your kids to listen to other’s emotions, needs, and requests.

Understanding someone else’s perspective is a tool your kids will use for the rest of their lives, enabling their internal peace, mental freedom, and deeper, more connected relationships.

NOTE: In the upcoming Homeschool Mama Book Club, we’ll be reading and discussing Daniel Goleman’s book, Emotional Intelligence.

Trying to teach empathy and emotional self-regulation isn’t a lesson learned in a one-hour block. It’ll be a lifelong classroom–and it’s one of life’s most essential skills, certainly a homeschool parent’s most important skill!

And IMO is the best reason to home educate your kids by the way: you can’t do this as well in a schooled classroom. So if someone is pitching that age-old, uninspiring concern about socialization, refer them to this episode, because homeschool socialization is one of the best reasons to homeschool!

Homeschool Mama Book Club

Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is a powerful tool for resolving conflicts and fostering connection, even with children. Here are some basics of applying NVC principles to conflicts involving kids:

1. Start by empathizing with the child’s feelings and needs.

When they’re upset, acknowledge their emotions and let them know you understand. For example, “It seems like you’re feeling frustrated because your brother took your toy.”

Marshall says, “Empathy is a respectful understanding of what others are experiencing.”– Marshall Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life.

2. Practice active listening by paraphrasing what the child is saying to ensure you understand their perspective.

Reflect on their feelings and needs to show you’re truly listening. For instance, “So you’re feeling sad because you wanted to play with the toy by yourself.”

Marshall says, “Listening with empathy is the most important thing we can do for another human being.”– Marshall Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life.

3. Share your feelings and needs in a non-blaming way.

Instead of accusing or criticizing, express how their actions affect you. For instance, “I feel worried when I see you both fighting over toys because I want everyone to feel happy and safe.”

Marshall says, “When we express our own needs, we’re more likely to get them met.” — Marshall Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life.

Celebrate Homeschool Mother's Day with Teresa in the Confident Homeschool Mom Collective

4. Offer choices to help the child feel empowered and find mutually satisfying solutions.

For example, “Would you like to take turns with the toy, or would you prefer to find a different activity together?”

Marshall says, “Choice empowers people to meet their own needs.” — Marshall Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life.

5. Collaborate on finding solutions that meet everyone’s needs.

Brainstorm ideas together and encourage the child to develop their solutions. This helps them feel valued and teaches valuable conflict-resolution skills.

Marshall says, “Conflict cannot survive without your participation.” — Marshall Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life.

6. Establish clear boundaries and expectations while respecting your child’s autonomy.

Communicate the consequences of certain behaviors calmly and respectfully.

“Calmly and respectfully” is a learned practice for some of us.

If you find it difficult, I’ll offer one reason you may be finding it difficult: you haven’t had your own needs met or been taken seriously. If that’s you, then know that there may have been a giant gap in connection and attachment for you as a young person; therefore, you might be loud and more anxious when you’re expressing your needs because you’re desperate for them to be met.

Your kids can’t be the ones to meet your needs. If what I’m suggesting here resonates with you, might I suggest exploring this? You can learn to address your own unmet needs and create a plan to speak calmly and respectfully with your kids. (I am Case Exhibit A).

Counseling 101: A Homeschool Parent's Most Important Skill

Book a no-obligation conversation with me if you’d like to do that.

ps You deserve that connection and attachment just as much as your kids and it wasn’t automatically installed in you like computer software just because someone gave you the right to vote, the right to purchase margaritas, or a license to drive a car.

If you were a child who grew up without it, then mothered your kids still without it, you need to address that need for connection and attachment.

Marshall says, “Speak your truth even if your voice shakes.” — Marshall Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life.

7. Remember that conflicts are opportunities for learning and growth.

Stay patient and understanding, even when emotions run high. Or if you can’t, practice breathing slowly AS you are speaking to your high-emotions child and speak to yourself calmly “I am okay I am okay I am okay”.

Or learn to take breaks if needed to cool down before addressing the issue again.

Learn to journal on your big emotional moments. Might I suggest using the Big Emotions Journaling Workbook for Homeschool Mamas?

Marshall says, “Empathy is a quality of character that can change the world.” — Marshall Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life.

My kids in the Wild West: me too as I learn to incorporate Nonviolent communication strategies with my homeschool family

8. Be a role model for nonviolent communication by practicing it in interactions with your child and others.

Children learn best by example, so demonstrating NVC principles in all your relationships has a powerful impact.

If you’re in a relationship, consider this the most important space to learn Nonviolent Communication. FYI this is where I was first introduced to Nonviolent Communication techniques and it has profoundly impacted my relationship with my husband.

(And also many many many other books and techniques along our almost 25-year marriage journey together.)

One of the many other books that deeply impacted us was the upcoming book selection for the Homeschool Mama Book Club, Hold Me Tight by Sue Johnson. We’ll be chatting about that book in the Mother’s Day Tea in the Confident Homeschool Mom Collective. You’re invited!

Marshall says, “We can only be said to be truly alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” — Marshall Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life.

The art of counseling, conflict management, and communication is a homeschool parent’s most important skill. Navigating the intricate dynamics of relationships, requires empathy, understanding, and proactive engagement.

Conflicts will arise, and they serve as opportunities for growth and learning, both for parents and kids. By incorporating principles of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) into daily interactions, homeschool parents can create an environment that fosters empathy, cooperation, and emotional intelligence.

Because the rewards of deeper connections and harmonious relationships are immeasurable.

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Teresa Wiedrick

I help overwhelmed homeschool mamas shed what’s not working in their homeschool & life, so they can show up authentically, purposefully, and confidently in their homeschool & life.

Call to Adventure by Kevin MacLeod