Charlotte Mason writes extensively on habit training as it relates to early education. Much of what a child learns in their early years will be forgotten, or would be more efficiently learned at a later date. This fact may well prompt you to decide to teach it at a later time, and so save many years of work. There must be more to early education, Mason argues. That “more” is habit training.
Miss Mason compares good habits to rails on a train track that a mother lays down for her child. Once the rails are laid, the child can then “run on” these rails smoothly, without much thought or stress.
“The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days; while she who lets their habits take care of themselves has a weary life of endless friction with the children.” Charlotte M. Mason, The Original Home School Series
Here are some of the main points to consider when you think about habit training.
We are constantly training our children.
What are we training them into is the question. “Every day, every hour, the parents are either passively or actively forming those habits in their children upon which, more than upon anything else, future character and conduct depend.” Charlotte Mason Vol 1, pg 118
Consistency is paramount.
If we begin working on a certain habit with our children, we ourselves must be consistent in enforcing that habit. This can be very hard, but it will pay off in the long run.
It may be easy to let something slide once or twice when we are learning or teaching a new habit, but every time we let a bad habit pass by without correcting it, we are losing ground in the training process.
A good habit is not any harder to keep than a bad one.
“…The forming of habits in the children is no laborious task, for the reward goes hand in hand with the labour… For a habit is a delight in itself…” Charlotte Mason
You may have noticed this in your own life when you are learning a new task. For example, when I first starting making sourdough, it was difficult for me to keep it fed and get around to making bread. After awhile, it became second nature to weigh out the starter in the morning, replenish the old starter, and follow the steps through until the end results. (I admit a hectic week threw me off and I need to get back into this.)
Because of this, we need not fear that we are burdening our children by training them. Once a child is accustomed to doing something, it is as easy for him to do it as not do it.
How to Begin Habit Training
Decide which habits are important to you. Pray over each child and ask God what areas in their life need to be directed into more peaceful and productive channels.
Make a list of the areas where you can see your child needs improvement. It is a good idea to work on no more than one or two habits at a time. I would suggest picking one “attitude” habit and one “activity” habit.
Write down your goals to keep yourself accountable in this area. Work consistently and prayerfully on the goals and you will reap the fruit of your labor.
I hope these thoughts on habit training are a blessing to you.
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