5 Steps to Deal with Bad Attitudes in Your Children

bad attitudes

Bad attitudes and human beings, grownups or kids, go together. No surprise, right? Here are 5 quick tips for dealing with bad attitudes in your children, especially if you’re homeschooling.


There are always deeper reasons why we have bad attitudes, but these quick tips can help you eliminate a few easy-to-fix “contributing factors” to bad attitudes in your kids so you can get back on track with your homeschool day.

Even though your child has a bad attitude, it may not be intentional.  Or it may have something to do with your attitude. I learned with my children that sometimes I was the problem!  Ouch! So before I could deal with bad attitudes in my children, I had to deal with my attitude.

Step 1: Check out your attitude and expectations first.

Over the years, I’ve learned that the most profitable thing to do first when dealing with a child’s bad attitude is to examine my own attitude and expectations. 

  • Am I more focused on what I want to accomplish during homeschool time and not giving a particular child enough attention or responsiveness to his/her questions?
  • Am I short-tempered or critical because I’m in a hurry? Or unhappy about being “interrupted, again?”
  • Do I have too many other activities and commitments to be able to focus on my children and their education? (Ouch!)
  • Am I having trouble balancing homeschooling with my other responsibilities?

If this makes you wince, pray for yourself and your child(ren), and ask God to give you insight and wisdom into this situation. Believe me, He will!

Step 2:  Deal with your children’s bad attitudes by asking calmly about the problem and listening with focused attention.

After you’ve thought through your reaction, it’s time to talk with your child.  Calmly ask about his attitude.  And then really listen to what he says

Is she hungry? Tired? Lonely? Overwhelmed? Sometimes, there’s a physical or psychological reason for a bad attitude that can quickly be dealt with by a snack and/or a little focused attention, especially with a younger child.

Often, when my kids reacted poorly to an assignment, it was because they didn’t know how to do it. I hadn’t been clear enough with my instructions, or they thought the assignment was over their head. 

Teach your kids to ask questions when they don’t understand. And if they have a glazed look about them after you’ve given them an assignment,  have them repeat what they heard. They may have missed a few key points.

Another strategy to try, especially if you have a newer writer and it’s a writing assignment, is to talk it through first. Talk about what he should do first, second, and third to get the assignment done. 

If you’ve done all that, at least by taking the time to talk to him instead of just coming down on him,  you’ll convey to your child that he is more important to you than completing his lesson. This is always a parenting win!

Step 3: Determine if it is a character issue.

Next, if you’ve eliminated those things and talked with your child, determine if this is a character issue.  If it is, it’s time to take steps to do some training or retraining. 

God’s Word is very clear on the issues of anger and rebellion. And I believe a child’s heart condition is more critical than his math facts. I bet you do, too, once you’ve had a chance to think about it.

Gently help your child to see where he’s going wrong. Teach Scripture and train in righteousness.  

Related Post: Basic Habit Training

I’m afraid habit training is not a “once and done” thing. Instead, it’s a “do-it-over-and-over,” everyday thing for a long time.  But it’s well worth your time! Have your child memorize pertinent verses and hold him, your other children, and yourself, to a standard of kind and cheerful speech. 

Teach and reteach that “obedience” is the following: when you give an instruction, a child looks you in the eye and says “Yes, ma’am,” (I’m living in South Carolina) or “Yes, Mom,” and then in a reasonable amount of time (depending on the age of your child) begins the task. Of course, your younger children take longer to process your instruction than an older child!

Step 4: Deal with bad attitudes in your children by getting the principal involved.

Especially if your child is not getting it on his own or resisting your training, this is a prudent time to get the principal involved. Whether Dad helps with academics or not, it’s critical for him to be aware, involved, and supportive of your goals and struggles with each of your students.

Your kids need to know they will answer to Dad for a poor attitude or negligent work.  One of the systems  we’ve had in place in our home during the ‘younger years’ to get Dad involved is a weekly “Presentation Night.” 

Our kids had the opportunity to share what they’ve learned that week by presenting reports, reciting memorized material, showing projects, etc. And Dad has a chance to praise and encourage, as well as peruse any test papers and ask about any substandard work. Depending upon the age, and temperament of your child, some of those conversations are more productive in private. 

And remember, come at these times of training with the attitude that God gave you the responsibility of teaching and training your children. And just as they are responsible to you to learn and be obedient, you are responsible to Him.  You and your children are on the same team, working together. 

Step 5: Try positive motivation/incentive.

Lastly, use positive motivation and incentive.

For example, when a math concept or learning to write a paragraph is hard for your children, encourage them that they CAN learn how to do it — it might just take a little more work than they’re used to.  (But the feeling of accomplishment and boost in self-confidence is worth it, so encourage them to keep trying.) Here are other ideas about teaching your kids to believe in themselves.

Other ideas: Try to “catch” your student doing something positive, such as working quietly, completing an assignment independently or quickly, taking extra time to learn something, speaking kindly, or having a helpful attitude with a sibling. 

When those occasions occur, we generally give children a warm hug and verbal pat on the back. Praising your child for this privately later, and publically to Dad, are also strong incentives to continue positive behavior.

With realistic expectations, a calm, organized, and attentive mom, consistent training, and good modeling, you should be able to see improvement in your child’s attitude. And if you are anything like me, you might even grow a bit in the process. 

Dealing with bad attitudes in your children will help you grow closer and help teach them to grow into mature and responsible adults!

Still learning,


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