Is My Dyslexic Child Stubborn or Struggling?

by | Sep 11, 2014 | Encouragement | 6 comments

Sometimes a student with dyslexia will appear stubborn. Being dyslexic is hard. So how do we know when they are struggling or being stubborn?

Is My Dyslexic Child Stubborn or Struggling?

I received this great question from a reader last week about homeschooling her dyslexic son:

Its so hard to know when to push him and when to back off. He’s smart – very smart – but he’s also very ‘slick’, if you know what I mean. How do you know when its time to be strict and make him focus (be the teacher) and when to back off and help him to regroup/refocus (be the mom)? I worry constantly that I’m either being to hard on him for ‘making’ him do his schoolwork and tutoring sessions OR that I’m letting him play on my ‘mommy sympathies’ to get out of doing his work. SUGGESTIONS?!

We all want order in our homes.  Kids don’t understand the importance of running a tight ship like a mom does.   On the flip side, homeschooling is also a lot more than academics.  Oftentimes, it is about instilling character.   A wise homeschooling mom will nurture her relationship with her children as she tries to instill character.

So what to do when a child doesn’t want to do their schoolwork?  How do we know when they are truly struggling and when they are being stubborn?

Truths About Dyslexia

First of all, parents need to understand that having dyslexia is hard for the dyslexic.  As I often say, dyslexia affects more than reading and spelling.  It can affect math ability, writing ability, attention and focus, communication, and organization.  If you are not dyslexic, you really cannot fully understand, no matter how much you may empathize.  I am not dyslexic and even after homeschooling and parenting dyslexic kids for 22 years, I was shocked by what I learned about how hard it was to be dyslexic by taking a dyslexia simulation.  You can go through the dyslexia simulation here.

That being said, dyslexia is only overcome with hard work.  Yes, mama, homeschooling is good for your dyslexic kids but I never said that it was easy!

Your dyslexic kids need to understand that there will be times that learning will be hard, especially learning to read and write and spell, but that this is good for them.  I call the subjects like reading, writing, spelling and for some of our kids, math, the exercises of learning.  Sometimes exercise hurts, just as when we run or play soccer, exercising to get stronger and become better players.  This is important for kids to understand.  Dyslexic kids like to understand why.  This can help them understand.

Here are some ways that we deal with resistant learners in our homeschool

1.  No whining.  Whining is a character issue.  All kids can ask politely for help.  If they can’t, they can go to their bedroom until they are able to ask politely.

2.  No quitting.  My kids will likely go into their adult lives hearing me say, ‘We don’t quit.’  At least I hope so.  Kids who want to quit can ask for a break.   Often times this break is helpful for mom and student.  It can give mom the time to step away from any tension and evaluate whether or not the assignment was too big or hard or if the child just didn’t want to do the work.

3.  Rewards.  You want to play, you need to finish ‘x’ amount of school work.  Remember, our ultimate goal is to empower them with self-awareness and self-control.  If finishing an entire math lesson in one sitting is truly too much, offer to break it up into smaller chunks to be completed throughout the day.  Help your child to understand how they learn best and then provide them those opportunities.

4.  Consequences.  For my strong-willed, dyslexic 7-year old, I draw 3 lines on our dry erase board at the beginning of school  Lines are erased for whining, complaining or out bursts of anger.  If all 3 lines are gone by 2:00, when he is normally allowed to go on the iPad for an hour, he loses his turn.  I always warn him before erasing.  A gentle, ‘Hmm, it sounds like you are complaining.’ is usually enough to help him self-correct these days.

5.  Provide accommodations.  Reading long passages or sitting for long periods of time or on the other hand, being rushed or distracted can powerfully affect the dyslexic learner.  Homeschooling affords you the freedom to provide accommodations so that they can learn without getting so frustrated.  See this post on understanding accommodations and this one on some of the most effective accommodations.

Although I probably sound like a drill sergeant, I do care deeply for my dyslexic kids emotions.  Only you can know if your child is truly wiped out and needs a break or if they are manipulating you.  You will probably err on both sides of the equation.  No parent or homeschool is perfect.  Don’t beat yourself up!

If you are in need of encouragement, join us on Facebook and keep the conversation going.

How have you handled a resistant learner in your homeschool?

If you need to better understand dyslexia, consider taking one of my parent courses:


Sometimes a student with dyslexia will appear stubborn. Being dyslexic is hard. So how do we know when they are struggling or being stubborn?


  1. Cherie Anderson

    We just had an experience yesterday that I would like to share. My ten year old son is severely dylexic (as well as having dyscalcula and dysgraphia). He loves science, but struggles with the reading/writing parts of all lessons. I had explained to him on Monday (first day of our school year) exactly what I was expecting from him…using words instead of tears, asking for assistance, asking to take 5 when he felt overwhelmed (he gets 3 per lesson), and the hardest…coming up with his own words for documentation (He tells me, I write it, then he copies it in his book). Monday- Wednesday were tough. I mean…I almost threw in the towel kind of tough. Then, yesterday, we had several documentations to make. I could see the stress in his eyes and the tears starting to form. Instead of letting the tears take over, he quietly said, “Mom, could you help me do this?” I asked how I could help, to which he said “If you could keep your finger on the word I am on, then cross it off with a pencil, I think it would help.” I did, and he finished faster than his little sister (first time in forever!) He was so pleased with himself! I was so proud of him for having self control! Thanks for these blog posts…they are SOOOOO helpful!

    • marianne

      This is a great example of what it is really like to teach a dyslexic at home. You discover a need because of a struggle. You implement a strategy. After time, it works. Usually. 🙂 Over more time, these new skills become a habit. Thanks for commenting!

  2. Shelly

    Yes… I feel I have often erred on both sides of the equation with four dyslexic kiddos. 🙂 One of them is particularly stubborn and slick… But it’s a marathon, not a sprint. These are very helpful suggestions! I remember that with my now 15 yo dyslexic son (my middle child, but my 2nd oldest dyslexic) that when we first incorporated him into our homeschool lessons he threw a major temper tantrum every single school day… For about two years straight!!!!! Of course, this was before I realized it was dyslexia that we were dealing with, nevertheless, I’ve always been a more relaxed homeschooler (and a better late than early one) and I knew I wasn’t asking too much of him. Now that’s a stubborn child… There were always consistent consequences for his tantrums, but he still pitched a royal fit every single time, yet I outlasted him. Would you believe that he eventually became my most motivated student? He will sometimes get impatient with me now because he’s ready to move on to one of our group subjects like history but not all of us will be ready to start and he now rides our case so we can get history done. LOL! (Still stubborn, but at least not avoiding things)
    But sometimes… I just know he still manages to get away with me letting him off more easily than I should sometimes. That stinker! 🙂 it’s that smile of his…

    I have found the rewards to be a great motivator for my dyslexics to stretch themselves further than they have been doing… Like bumping up their reading time by another few minutes to increase stamina.
    And on accommodations… I discovered early on that I had to decide what the focus of each lesson needed to be. Was it to learn to read instructions or was it to learn a new math concept? Let’s face it, most of the time I wasn’t going to get both out of one lesson, though both are important skills and have their place and time.

    • Marianne

      Thanks for the wonderful encouragement Shelly!

  3. Dyann Powell

    These are such great ideas! Thank you! My 10 year old daughter frequently whines and pouts about school work because she is easily frustrated. I want to be understanding but also future minded. I don’t want her to grow up thinking that she doesn’t have to do hard things. She also complains about it being boring. I have done my best to get curriculum that is suited to her needs, but yeah, I think there are some parts of school that are just “boring” to everyone.

  4. Ann Coffeen Turner

    After doing all those good things, make sure the learning process isn’t a horrible chore. Turn things into games if you can, and keep thinking of ways to help things to make sense.



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