My oldest has always been intense. From the time that she was born she made her presence known…and heard.
Sleep was her mortal enemy.
I thought that if I could just get her into a routine, all would calm down and be better. Sadly, struggles nursing were quickly replaced by the start of school and mommy going back to work as a teacher.
A routine never happened.
To make matters worse, somehow, my husband and I, got it into our heads that babies should never be allowed to cry. If they are crying, it is your parental duty to make it stop, anything less is not being responsible. If the newborn is not allowed to cry, then the baby is not allowed to cry, which leads to a toddler whose parents will do anything to keep them from crying. By the time she was 4, she was a full-fledged tyrant!
My friend who worked in daycare’s for years wouldn’t watch her. It was that bad.
She was intense!
Was she intense naturally, or did we unintentionally create a monster?
I’m guessing a bit of both.
Her intensity certainly comes out when she isn’t getting her way and we surely fed that monster every time we gave her what she wanted instead of what she needed but that is not the only time her intensity is obvious.
She loves intensely. Sometimes, too intensely. We call it love bombing because that’s what it feels like to be loved by Grace. When baby Peace just gets up from a nap, Grace will swoop Peace up, swing her around, and smother her in kisses exclaiming the whole while about how much she missed her favorite baby sister. Or the time she yelled at a group of kids, all older than her, because they had purposely ruined younger brother’s castle. That’s love bombing. That’s Grace.
She plays intensely. Not only with much energy and sound but much imagination. When reading Little House on the Prairie, she wanted to dress like Laura, eat like Laura, play the same games as Laura (seriously, we looked a few of them up on Google). She even went so far as to demand (demand!) that we convert our attic into a loft so she could sleep like Laura. She refused to understand why that wasn’t possible.
And then the range of her emotions is so, so intense! This is by far the hardest part for me as a homeschooling parent. It’s both why I want to homeschool her and why I seriously consider sending her to public school. She can go from rage to bliss in a matter of minutes and then back again.
It’s exhausting being in the same space as her, even now as an almost 10 year old.
And then, add in homeschooling.
Somehow, we have made it through these past 10 years with everyone more or less intact. In fact, since we looked at our intense 4 year old and decided change needed to happen, things have progressed very well. Very slowly, but we are getting there none the less. I no longer feel hopeless that she will be a raging monster in her 20’s that no one wants to be around.
What follows are the steps that we have taken to survive homeschooling this intense person without losing my mind…or hearing.
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Step 1: Keep 1st Things 1st
What is the most important part of homeschooling? What part will you hold onto when you are old and an empty-nester? It’s the relationships. Your relationship with your child is more important than school. Yes! More important than math, reading, or even chores.
The way I make sure I keep first things first is by making one-on-one time with them a priority. Every day. If nothing else gets done, that gets done. I put it in their student bullet journal when I am not feeling motivated to get it done. They’ll make sure it’s done.
If you are having a bad day and think, I just can’t get it all done. Make sure you spend one-on-one time with each of them.
All kids need this time. But for intense kids, this is a lifeline, a stabilizer in their very intense little lives.
When I miss one-on-one time with my kids it’s not a big deal. I might even be able to go a couple of days without it. But if I miss it with my intense child, watch out! It’s going to take a lot of work and patience to get her balanced again!
Resources to learn more: If I Have to Tell You One More Time…
Step 2: Create a Bare Bones Schedule
An intense child has all of the same needs as any other child. But when an intense child doesn’t get the love or nourishment they crave, they feel it more intensely than your average child.
All children want boundaries. They want to know what to expect. Having a schedule that is followed regularly (as in 90% of the time) helps children to understand where they fit and what to expect.
That doesn’t mean you do the same thing everyday. But there should be a pattern. The younger the child the simpler the schedule. I’ve seen schedules for preschoolers where they are doing a different thing every day and each week it changes. An intense child will not handle that well.
You’ll have to experiment with how many events your child can handle. My preschooler could not handle going anywhere on a regular basis. Now, I think she could handle once a week but that’s probably it. Remember, intense children feel everything more, including excitement and joy. Going to different classes or field trips everyday would be too much excitement for her.
Step 3: Let Consequences Be the Boss
Think about the things you argue with your children about: chores, school, chores. Now, put them on a list like I do with the student bullet journal. Set up times in the day that you check their list. If what you are expecting to happen, hasn’t, no privileges. I don’t worry about checking my students list until right before I make dinner, that’s media and friend time. If they haven’t done their list, no media or friend time.
I also wait until something they like is about to happen before asking them to do something. Right before breakfast, I make sure their floor doesn’t have clothes on it. If they made a huge mess I might wait until right before lunch before asking them to clean it up. Food is really big in my house.
I can’t tell you how many power struggles I have avoided by simply waiting to ask right before a privilege.
By lowering the amount of power struggles, you lower the stress level and everyone benefits.
Step 4: Have a Backup Homeschool Plan When It’s Too Intense
I like teaching almost all of the subjects with all of my students. It normally brings variety to homeschooling and enriches our lives. However, some days, my intense child does not want to learn with everyone. Sometimes it’s because she’s feeling overwhelmed and just can’t handle all of the noise teaching 3 children at once would bring. Sometimes she just doesn’t want to and nothing you can say will change her mind, so there.
Intense and willful. Fun.
When those moments occur, I don’t even bat an eye. That’s what happens when you live with intensity, you get used to it. I just hand her her workbooks and gently escort her to her room. This is not a punishment. I am not angry. She can still mark school off of her list. This is a way to let her control her environment. If she decides she doesn’t need alone time after all, she is welcome back into the family lessons.
Step 5: What Makes Your Child Feel Less Intense?
It took a lot of observation and paying attention on my part, but over the years I have found a small list of things that calm Grace down. I have made these things available to her and as she has gotten older she has started to self regulate.
The things that calm Grace down:
- swinging! In fact we have installed two swings in different rooms to the ceiling.
- creating things, and more things, and more things
- reading (although sometimes this doesn’t help. Mom! Dumbledore died!)
- alone play
- listening to music
- being outside
- sensory play (although I don’t leave this out all of the time because I can’t stand the mess)
Pay attention to your child and what causes them stress or stress relief. Try to reduce the stress and offer activities that bring calm.
Homeschooling an Intense Child
Raising an intense child is, well, intense. Add homeschooling and mom never gets a break from the intensity. I could not have gotten this far homeschooling had I not found these 5 steps and implemented them. I hope they bless your homeschool just as much.
Which step do you see missing from your homeschool? Share in the comments.
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For more posts from the talented bloggers at iHN visit How to Homeschool Your Resistant Child