Charlotte Mason, an early educator from the early 1900’s, had a unique outlook on the education of children. She claimed that the foundation for knowledge didn’t begin in the classroom, but rather in the teaching of good habits at home (the top three being: attention, truthfulness, and obedience).
She explains, “The mother who takes the pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days.”
I’m really intrigued by this simple idea, not just for the fact that I crave smoother days, but that these years leading up to a formal education are in themselves informally formal. 😉
Instead of waiting until I see a bad habit and then find myself in a position that I need to fix it, I can start by intentionally instilling good habits.
I can start off on a positive note, instead of a negative behavior. It also gives me a plan and direction in my parenting, which gives me purpose, and I like that.
When I came across Charlotte Mason’s material I resonated with her ideas, especially with her concept of habit training. I wanted to share some of her thoughts and tips that I’ve found and perhaps you can get some inspiration from it as well…
Charlotte Mason’s Habit Training Wisdom
1. Habits Rule
“Whether habits are planned and created conscientiously, or allowed to be haphazardly filled in by chance, they are habits all the same. Habit rules ninety-nine percent of everything we do.”-CM
It doesn’t take long to realize that our children, (like us) function out of habit. They like their food a certain way, and their blankets just right. They thrive on routine and with that being said, a bad habit is just as easy to form as a good habit.
An example of this at our home as been meals. They have gotten out of hand a couple times. With three kids insisting their preferences and us catering to their particular habits, (Such as trying to match the color of their cups to their outfits, or getting their panties in a wad about daddy-forks and mommy-forks 😉 ), we’ve had to do some retraining of habits so our moments around the kitchen table can be enjoyable for everyone.
2. Good Habits are Chosen by the Parent
“In the hands of the mother, is as his wheel to the potter, his knife to the carver—the instrument by means of which she turns out the design she has already conceived in her brain.” -CM
One of the habits we have chosen for our kids, is a regular bedtime. When 7:45 pm rolls around, it’s jammies, books, and prayer, so all the littles are ready to be tucked in by 8pm.
The benefit of establishing this habit has not only been happier, rested children during the daytime, but has given us time together as a couple to reconnect and recoup from our day.
3. Good Habits Take Intentional Work
“It takes a few weeks of work to build a new habit. Once the habit is in place, it must be guarded diligently to prevent a reversion to the old ways, but keeping watch is not stressful or difficult once the new habit is secure.” -CM
We quickly discovered the hard work that went into establishing good habits when we insisted that our kids stayed in their beds for the night. Consistently walking them back to their bed after the twentieth request to quench their dire thirst or empty the two drops they had left in their bladder was tiring. Yet with gentle persistence, they learned.
Charlotte Mason also compared this hard work to the tending of a sick child. You wait on them with a consistent care until they are brought to a place of stability. This picture of care has really aided our understanding of the diligent effort it takes from us to instill a desired habit. 🙂
4. Good Habits Give Freedom
“The point of training children to have good habits is so that they’ll do things without being nagged, or scolded. Then the mother isn’t constantly chasing them down with a barrage of commands and reminders. She can leave them alone to thrive in their own way, once a habit has secured a boundary for them to grow in.”-CM
As our kids are getting into the preschool years we are starting to experience some of this freedom that comes from the boundaries we have already set. Just the other day, I had the garage door open and as the kids were riding bikes, never once did they cross that line we had established was ‘too close’ to the road. My one-year-old, however, still needed my constant watch because she hasn’t earned the freedom to explore that comes from the learned boundary.
Laying a good foundation…
The teaching of habits can sometimes feel like monotonous training, but they are really a vital foundation we are laying for the rest of their education. We are teaching our little people how to have relationships, how to pay attention, and how to gauge morality.
The encouragement in this is…what you do is so much more that just long days and dirty dishes. You are giving them the gift of good character that will allow them to function as healthy, productive, and kind adults.
Parent Resources for Habit Training
1.Laying Down the Rails for Children from simplycharlottemason.com. This is a two book set that contains different character habits you might want to teach your kids. Some of the habits include, but are certainly not limited too: Cleanliness, courtesy, kindness, manners, courage, diligence, generosity, meekness, patience, attention, honesty, obedience, respect for others…etc.
Each habit comes with a set of various lessons containing stories, poems, and scriptures you can share with your children to develop good habits from within.
This book is Charlotte Mason style, so the content is very old school and based on rich literature.She recommended you spend at least eight weeks teaching a particular habit. With that being said, there are ten years worth of habits in these books! 🙂
2. Habits: The Mother’s Secret to Success. This is a selection of Charlotte Mason’s writings on the topic of teaching habits.
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I’d love to hear from you!
What are some habits are you teaching your kids?
What are some habits you really want to teach them?