Sunday, May 15, 2011

What Charlotte Mason Has Taught Me About Habits

Charlotte Mason has taught me that teaching my children habits isn't about getting them to do what I want them to do, but rather teaching them to have strong character. For instance, when I teach them the habit of brushing their teeth daily, the bigger issue is teaching them the habit of cleanliness and managing one's own body. When I began reading about Charlotte Mason's writings about habit training I was discouraged because I am weak in so many areas. I am not neat and orderly, and I often struggle with focus, concentration, and attention. I have found it to be a beautiful thing when my children and I walk down this path together encouraging one another to develop good habits so we can all have admirable character traits in our lives. In the area of forming habits, a mother must give herself and her children grace because it is a slow progression of learning one habit and moving on to a new one. "The mother devotes herself to the formation of one habit at a time..." (Vol. 1, p. 136). This statement was a tremendous relief to me. I do not have to have it all figured out. I can simply take one step at a time.

Charlotte Mason has taught me to not nag my children and yell, "Do this and do that!" Instead she has encouraged me to focus more on the character traits of obedience, cleanliness, orderliness, and neatness rather than the to-do list. I often try to say things like, "Please get your room neat and orderly" rather than saying (or shouting) "Clean your room!"

Here is my list of what I call "Household Habits" that we've been working on for at least a couple years now. I still have to sometimes remind the children to do their morning work and say, "You have eaten your breakfast, what do you need to do now?" Some days they do it automatically, but some days they do need to be gently reminded.

Morning Work
Eat Breakfast
Brush Teeth and Hair
Get Dressed
Make Bed

Weekly Chores
Monday - Bedrooms
Tuesday - Bathrooms
Wednesday - Living Room
Thursday - Kitchen and Dining Room
Friday - Grocery Shopping or Basement Cleaning

Recently I printed out a list of Charlotte Mason Habits from Sonya Shafer's free e-book, "Smooth and Easy Days." I read them to the children and let them think about what habit they believe they need to work on. The household habits above are pretty well established. Both of my older children believed they needed work in the areas of mental habits. My son wants to work on attention and concentration, and my daughter wants to work on memorizing. I let them evaluate their own hearts and decide what habits they want to work on, and I have promised to encourage and help them in any way I can.

As my children and I work together on forming habits, we are developing godly character traits, and I try to find applicable Scripture to go along with the habit we are working on. For instance, my youngest daughter struggles with complaining. So, in order to work on the habit of self-control and thanksgiving, we have memorized Philippians 2:14, which says, "Do everything without complaining..." So much complaining comes from an ungrateful heart. My son used to struggle with anger, and to form the habit of self-control in his life we memorized James 1:19: "...everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry." My middle daughter went through a period when she struggled with lying. We began working on forming the habit of truthfulness and we used Proverbs 12:22: "The LORD detests lying lips, but He delights in men who are truthful." If I want the formation of habits to have a lasting impact on my children, I must help them hide God's Word in their hearts so His truth will take root in their hearts and transform their lives (Psalm 119:11).

A Hive of Busy Bees and Another Hive of Bees are two books I have read to my children, and I believe they helped teach them about how habits can help transform their character. One story we refer to a lot is about the topic of orderliness (this habit is an ongoing process in our home). The story closes with this prayer, " I thank Thee, Lord, for showing me that neatness really honors Thee. So help me, Lord, to learn to be the kind of child who's orderly." (The link to A Hive of Busy Bees takes you to a FREE Kindle download)!

I will close with this final quote from Volume 2, p. 124 - "As has been well said, 'sow an act, reap a habit. Sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character reap a destiny.' "

The benefits of teaching my children to form good habits far exceeds the blessings of a clean home or neat and complete schoolwork, but rather they are reaping godly character traits and destinies!


amy in peru said...

yay! I am in complete agreement that morning duties (as we call them), or "household habits" are one of the most important keys to smooth and easy days! of course there are a multitude of other things we could work on as well, but those simple things down, sure makes the day run more smoothly!

I really appreciate this post and am encouraged by your gentle tone! Thanks for submitting it to the CM Blog Carnival!

Penney Douglas said...

Working on one new habit at a time is so important. I tend to try to deal with too many things at one time and not get anything done.

I'm right with you on learning new habits right along with the kids.

I've been writing true confessions on my blog lately about my bad habit of being on the computer too much. And here I am - on the computer. I'm doing it in the middle of the night - when I should be sleeping. But I know that God is helping me to change my mindset and He will help me to stop taking time away from my precious children to stare at my computer screen.

I enjoyed this post. Thank you for sharing it in the CM Carnival.

Unknown said...

Good habits are hard to break and I think having a morning routine contributes to a better day. I loved it when I realized that I no longer had to remind my children to do their morning was automatic. Keep on working and you will see the rewards!

Nadene said...

I love that your children read through the list and chose the habit to focus on themselves. Spirit-led habit training is always specific. The appropriate scripture is also an encouragement and a great motivater. Thanks for sharing!