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    31 Days of Charlotte Mason: The Flip Side of Habit Training by Naomi Goegan

    October 27, 2013 by Brandy Vencel

    I’m thankful to Naomi, my fellow AO Auxiliary member, for writing this post just when I needed it most.

    Naomi Goegan is wife to a Canadian entrepreneur and homeschooling mother of four, who serves as an AmblesideOnline Auxiliary member, and blogs at Living Charlotte Mason in California.

    Our youngest son is now two and as I revisit Charlotte Mason’s ideas on habit training, or maybe some collectively gathered ideas on training and educating, I’ve come to realize the importance of the flip side of habit training — the side that maybe we don’t consider often enough.

    I think for the most part, we think of habit training along the lines of our homeschooling pursuits. Things like obeying mommy, being quiet while reading, no drawing or ripping books, no bickering, no whining or fussing, no touching breakables, sitting still, etc.. And then there are the intellectual habits — living books and no twaddle, an ear for classical music, nature time, etc.

    These are really, really important habits when you’re a homeschooling mom. Without some of them, chaos ensues affecting everything and everyone. It is good for us to take the time to train our children in right behavior and to make it a priority in the early years, as it most certainly does make way for smooth and easy days down the road. What is equally important, and sometimes, I think,  neglected, is the flip side of habit training — treating them as a person. 

    Let me explain.

    So many of the struggles around the very early years come from a little person, who is quite stumbly and uncoordinated, who wants to do what everyone else is doing and have what everyone else has.

    They want the knife, the big boy bike, the sharp stick, the glass, the toy. They want to climb the rock, walk the ledge, close the door themselves, run across the busy street, help cook next to a burning stove, open the fridge and fetch themselves a drink, plug the vacuum in the socket, etc.

    They are already ‘persons’ these little people. They may not have the coordination, but the desire to know and understand, and the ability to think and process as they send their little tendrils out into the curious world is already fiercely within them. As their parent, we are presented daily with fearful and wonderful opportunities to guide them in those “first-born affinities” that fit their newborn existence to existing things, as penned by Ruskin in The Prelude, which CM quotes so often. 

    What I often see are mothers, who, from sheer frustration in handling the child’s daily desires and curiosities, arrive at the end of their rope resorting to bribes like candy, a new toy, play with my cell phone/iPad, watch TV, or anything else that will buy just. a. few. minutes. of. peace. I completely sympathize. I can assure you with four kids I’ve had my share of days.

    But what if we stop for a moment and try to consider the child, even the six-month-old, the one-year-old, the two-year-old, as a person, as CM says?

    Next time, when the child whines or fusses, stop and ask yourself, before jumping to exasperation at their whining and shuffling them off to the TV — What is all this fussing about? What is it they want and are unable to do?

    Ask them, “What do you want?” “Stop your fussing and talk to me in your regular voice. Tell me what you want.” And then take the time to listen to them. 

    Some things, obviously, are out of the question. But in all our wisdom as mothers, can’t we help them find some way of doing what they want?

    They want to get into the drawer for a spoon? “No! Get out of the drawer, I’ll get it for you!”
    Child: “Whaaaaaaaaa! Fuss, fuss, fuss.” 
    OR, what if instead we bring them a step stool and show them how to open the drawer safely? What if we set aside a spot for their special utensils and show them where that is and how to get them? “This side is yours, this side is no touch.” What if we took the time to teach them how to avoid getting their fingers pinched when closing the drawer? 

    They want to get into the fridge? “No! Get out of the fridge! Dinner is in ten minutes!”
    Child: “Whaaaaaaaaa! Fuss, fuss, fuss.” 
    OR, what if instead we put something on the bottom rack of the fridge, accessible for them to drink or snack on, like a cold sippy cup of water and some carrots?

    They want to cut vegetables like mommy with a knife? “No! It’s too sharp!”
    Child: “Whaaaaaaaaa! Fuss, fuss, fuss.”
    OR, what if we set up a step stool, a cutting board next to ours, and a blunt cheese knife with some lettuce for the child to “cut”? Or have them wash the vegetables for us in the sink or even in a bowl of water on a towel on the floor?

    They want to cross the parking lot without holding your hand? “No! You must hold my hand!”
    Child: “Whaaaaaaaaa! Fuss, fuss, fuss.” 
    OR, what if we teach them to stay right next to us and look both ways and then cross together only when mommy says “Go!”

    They want to walk the dog?
    Mommy: “No! The dog is too big, he will pull you!”
    Child: “Whaaaaaaaaa! Fuss, fuss, fuss.”
    OR, what if instead we hold the leash and they can hold the loose end of it? Or maybe tie another string to the leash for the child to hold?

    They want to play with their siblings in the middle of a Monopoly game. “No! You mess everything up!”
    Child: “Whaaaaaaaaa! Fuss, fuss, fuss.” 
    OR, what if instead we let them roll the dice for us every turn and pull a card when needed, or pass money from the bank to the players?

    They want to get wet in the mud or the creek?
    Mommy: “No! It’s too messy!”
    Child: “Whaaaaaaaaa! Fuss, fuss, fuss.”
    OR, what if instead we let them and bring a garbage bag, a hand towel, and a change of clothes?

    They stopped in the way and want you to look at something.
    Mommy: “No! Let’s go, we’re late!!”
    Child: “Whaaaaaaaaa! Fuss, fuss, fuss.”
    OR, what if instead we take one minute to stop and look and wonder with them at the crack in the sidewalk? 

    These are just a few examples off the top of my head, and maybe not the best ones, but hopefully you get the idea. It’s not that we’re giving in to fussing, sometimes a “No” truly is in order and we reserve the right to make that determination, and they must respect it. But as we begin to see the child as a person, we see the opportunities to help them establish habits in communicating with us, being heard, being considered, included, and involved, being trusted and thought of as capable, and turning to us to lead them in learning and understanding.

    To expect a child of this age to always simply obey without opportunities to grow and learn in what interests them is somewhat dehumanizing and incredibly frustrating. Sometimes it is a symptom of our society that says children don’t belong in the real world, they are incapable of doing real things and are merely to be tolerated and set in front of a TV or an iPad. Don’t buy in to it; electronics can never truly substitute for the kind of learning a young child of this age needs any more than a stuffed animal can substitute for a real pet dog. And they are capable of so much more than we give them credit for. 

    This treating them as persons from the beginning also opens the way for habits of attention, curiosity, self-education, and others that will only aid them in their CM education.

    As people, even little people, we want to be treated as valid and valuable. We want to touch things, know things, try things, experience things, and be seen as an important part of the family, not just a nuisance. The young child wants to grow in independence. If we take just a moment to consider if there is a way we could help them rather than always throwing out a knee jerk “No!” we would be surprised at how manageable children really are.

    There’s sun on the river and sun on the hill…
    You can hear the sea if you stand quite still!
    There’s eight new puppies at Roundabout Farm —
    And I saw an old sailor with only one arm!

    But everyone says, “Run along!”
    (Run along, run along!)
    All of them say, “Run along! I’m busy as can be.”
    Every one says, “Run along,
    There’s a little darling!”
    If I’m a little darling, why won’t them come and see?
    There’s wind on the river and wind on the hill…
    There’s a dark dead water-wheel under the mill!
    I saw a fly which had just been drowned —
    And I know where a rabbit goes into the ground!

    But everyone says, “Run along!”
    (Run along, run along!)
    All of them say, “Yes, dear,” and never notice me.
    Every one says, “Run along,
    There’s a little darling!”
    If I’m a little darling, why won’t they come and see?

    Come Out with Me, A.A. Milne

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  • Reply Anonymous October 29, 2013 at 4:41 am

    Absolutely lovely. Thank you.

  • Reply Anonymous October 27, 2013 at 10:26 pm

    Lovely, Naomi, lovely. This is a great explanation of sound parenting.


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