How Do You Teach a Child That Does Not Want To Be Taught?


I always imagined teaching my daughter nearly everything — especially her first years. Walking, drawing, how to eat — these were all little milestones I assumed she would need my motherly guidance for.

I assumed wrong.

What I have is a very independent 4 1/2 year old. From a very early age, Bella liked to figure things out on her own. Even though at first I was a bit bewildered on what I was supposed to do (cheerlead?), time passed into some very rough, heavy years for our family and her knack for figuring things out became a blessing. Even things that were supposed to take time, like potty training or learning to dress herself, took a matter of a few days or a few tries. At the age of 3 she was able to cut things out that I could barely cut, and taught herself how to write letters as well as her name.

As things in our life have shifted back to a normal, steady pattern again, I find myself wanting and, at times, needing her to be able to learn from myself and others.  The closer to school age she becomes, the more I think on this. She is at a stage where she has mastered most of the physical stuff or at least has a good idea how to do. She can run forever, hit a ball, do flips, and more. It’s now shifted to the mental/educational side for her.

Although I’ve taught other children before, teaching my own child is an entirely different experience. I feel lost a lot, completely overwhelmed by this tiny person sitting next to me refusing to let me show her anything. I watch her struggle with letters and numbers, asking for help and then cutting me off.

What would I do as a teacher in this situation? Well, I had 15+ kindergarteners. So they all had to stay on track with each other and myself more than my one child does. The beauty of us homeschooling is allowing her to learn at her own pace and in her own style — but that also presents a unique set of challenges.

As the school year (and her first real year of learning with a kindergarten curriculum) approaches, we are both on opposite ends of a power struggle. I realized this the other day as I watched her fidget and attempt to take something away from me I was showing her so she could do it herself. Only she couldn’t — not quite yet.

What’s the solution for this? I’m not sure, but here’s some things we’re trying in order to ease us both into a relationship with education that works. Not simply teacher/student relationship, but learning together with her respecting my authority and me respecting her independence.

I’m starting small.

I’m not trying to teach her how to read at the moment. Right now we sit on the couch and work on mazes, puzzles, dot to dot — anything to let her allow me to join in.

I’m watching carefully.

I was so busy deciding what I wanted her to learn that I didn’t pay attention to how she learned things or why. Now I often just sit and listen to her play and work.

I’m incorporating learning into play.

I get down on the floor and play dinosaurs with her, adding in a little, “Did you know?” and “Let’s try” so that she sees that other ideas can work — or she can build on them.

I’m taking back my parenting role.

Yep, for a while I was so out of it after the death of my son last year that Bella had free reign of the house and of us. My husband and I were exhausted both emotionally and physically, and she was the same. We gave ourselves grace to grieve and now, nearly a year later, have gently begun to establish our roles of, “No means no,” etc in the house again.

I’m waiting.

This is a big one. I loved teaching kindergarten so much that I couldn’t wait for Bella to get to this age. I’ve learned though, that waiting until she is ready to do something makes a world of difference. I wanted to teach her to read months ago, but suddenly she’s taken an interest in it and I can see already how much easier this will be on us both. Part of the struggle may be having her learn things she’s not quite ready for.

We’re going slow this year, and if next May rolls around and we made it through half a year of curriculum, that’s ok. She’s young and we have plenty of time. I want her to look back and remember these years fondly and with memories of us learning together, not of me pushing her or us arguing all the time. Hopefully this is the right way to do that.


Diana blogs at Diana Wrote about her life with a daughter here and three sons in heaven, life as an army wife, and her faith. You can also find her work on Liberating Working Moms, She Reads Truth, Still Standing Magazine, The New York Times, and The Huffington Post, with smaller glimpses into her day on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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