Here's what to do.
Tea with Julie

Welcome to "Tea with Julie," a weekly missive by me, Julie Bogart. My wish is to give you food for thought over a cup of tea to enhance your life as an educator, parent, and awesome adult. Glad you're here. Pinkies up!
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Cincinnati, September 12, 2020

Hi Friend,

If your year is starting—and it's not going well yet, keep reading. Do you have a nagging sense that you and your child are not on the same page or that your child seems to be struggling and you don't know what to do about it? If so, this email is for you!

Examples of your possible worries:

  • isn’t reading yet but should be
  • likes Minecraft too much
  • takes a really long time to finish (do a math page, eat breakfast, tie shoes, brush teeth, handwrite one sentence…)
  • seems sad
  • has no obvious passion
  • hates (fill in the blank—math, writing, history, a brother or sister, sports, life)

Here’s a practice that can help to reset the dial between you.


Enjoy a shake, or a slushie, or something yummy with that child, alone.

Set a date to be together, pick a treat to share, and make sure there is no appointment that crowds the back end of your time together. You're going to talk to your child about this feeling between you, with an open-heart to hear your child's experience.

Take these steps.

Start with your part

Keep in mind: what you see as struggle may be your misunderstanding—you may have the “struggle” right but have missed the interpretation.

For instance, you might believe your child hates math because the math problems are difficult. It may turn out that your child hates math because the mechanical pencil led snaps off each time your child handwrites, which is annoying. A pencil swap may be the only issue! Let's find out what's really going on.

Once you're settled, own up to whatever contribution you’ve made to the icky feelings. One mom I spoke with shared how last year she made a list with her daughter of fun things to do in homeschool—and then never did them. She let “school” rob her of her confidence to pursue activities like candle-making and sewing. Understandably, the daughter’s attitude toward this year’s curricula was hostile.

Maybe you and your kids are at odds over a particular program, practice, or problem in your family. You can’t begin with the fresh feeling of the new school year if there's distance, edge, or irritation between you.

Children can’t put you in “time out,” they can’t take away your technology, they can’t give you a low grade. What they can do is pick at your bad habits, laugh derisively when you make mistakes, or roll their eyes when you express enthusiasm. This is how they hold you accountable—they resist.

Ask yourself:

  • How have you contributed to the alienated feelings between you?
  • Have you ignored your child’s unhappiness?
  • Not followed through on a promise?
  • Shouted or shamed your child into performance?

Maybe you're teaching a curriculum you don’t even like—yet you expect your child to “like” it. Perhaps there’s a level of admission there that needs to happen—”I don’t like this program, yet I’m requiring you to like it. I see the inconsistency in that. I’m sorry.”

Reestablishing connection has to come first—before algebra or study of the ancient Greeks.

Create space and listen

Once you share how you see yourself contributing to the negative energy between you, ask your child what else is upsetting. Is there something else you should know?

Make space for them to add to the list of what is not going well. Apologize for that too—even if it feels unfair to your sincere efforts. When we hurt, we are rarely proportionate in how we see the other person's efforts on our behalf. So for now, be the grown-up and take it.

Sip. Take big slurps of your milkshake to help you hold back from being defensive.

Listen. Your child can even be flat out wrong—your only task is to leave space for the child to share his or her perspective in that moment.

Ask open-ended questions like:

  • “What do you love about Minecraft?”
  • “What’s hard about ____?”

Sprinkle in broad happy questions:

  • “If you could design tomorrow, what would we all be doing?”
  • “What’s one thing I could eliminate from your life right now to make it easier, better, more peaceful, happier?”

You’ll think of others. This time is not a “fixer-upper” with loads of suggestions. It’s a moment of connection where your child knows you hear and trust your child.

Next, talk about what will be different this year

Make it concrete, keep it short. Perhaps you're about to switch to one new program. Or maybe you will follow through on the promise to get your child piano lessons (and will do it that day, right after the meeting).

Go low. Be the one who apologizes first—who creates space for a renewed connection.

If your child does the whole, “There’s nothing wrong,” that’s okay too. It could be that your child is still figuring out whether or not to trust you with that level of sharing. Your child may want to see if you will actually do what you are now promising to do. So do it! Start the change cycle.

And see what happens next.

Your tasks? Make the yummy drinks (or pay for them, if you went out), apologize, offer to listen, make one or two new plans, follow through.

Check back in a month and see if your connection has improved. You can do this!





P.S. Catch up on all the “Tea with Julie” emails here!

Julie Bogart
© 2020 Brave Writer LLC™

Brave Writer




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