5 Steps to Deal with Bad Attitudes in Your Children

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bad attitudes

What do you do when your children have a bad attitude about doing homeschool work?

I confess, my initial reaction is not usually pleasant, although I am working on that. If you struggle with this in your household (and who doesn’t?) here are 5 steps to deal with bad attitudes in your children that could help.

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.

Actually, 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 is my own attitude and expectations. Am I giving this child enough help and attention?

Or am I more focused on what I want to accomplish during school time?

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 is a physical or psychological reason that can easily 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 the completion of 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 the heart condition of a child is more important 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.  

I’m afraid this is a “do-it-over-and-over,” everyday thing for a long time.  But it’s well worth your time! Have him 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 immediately begins the task.

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 facilitate communication is a weekly “Presentation Night.” 

Our kids had the opportunity to share what they’ve learned that week and present reports, recite memorized material, show 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. 

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, but you may want to take it to the next level. A system of tally marks or stickers per incidence with a “store” of small items, where those tallies can be redeemed at the end of the week, may work well with your child.

But please don’t overdo this. You don’t want a child to be doing his work just for a tangible reward. The reward is actually supposed to be the learning itself.  Maybe just do it sporadically for the character issues that you are working on.

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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