Today we’re going to try and talk about the practical side of habit formation, or how it is actually done. First and foremost, let me caution you that habits are best formed one at a time. Think about how overwhelmed you’d be if you tried to overhaul your entire life in one day. It is the same for children. Pick one thing and work on it together, and pick another thing only when the first habit is completely solidified.
Before I go further, can I just take a moment to tell you moms of very young children that you have a chance to do what Miss Mason called keeping watch at the letting out of waters? In other words, you have a chance to stop bad habits before they start. If there is something that would be a bad habit, you can simply not allow it before it gets to that point. I know some children are more determined that others, but as a general rule it is really helpful to have this perspective instead of thinking something is a “stage” out of which the child will grow.
Let me tell you: children really will lie, throw tantrums (or other objects) and generally do whatever strikes their fancy unless you teach them otherwise. That is why God gave them parents.
I mean: did you ever read Lord of the Flies? Crazy!
So. The most detailed post I’ve ever written on this subject is: Habit is Ten Natures (Part II). I’ll paste the actual steps here, but you’ll want to read the whole thing.
The official Charlotte Mason steps to habit formation (which are used to break bad habits and replace them with good) are fairly simple:
(1) Commit ourselves to the time and energy required for the task. Do not begin until we are committed.
(2) Pray for strength and perseverance.
(3) Talk with the child; form a mother-child team determined to acquire the good habit.
(4) Don’t allow the old bad habit, or expect the new good habit.
(5) Remind the child as needed, in a way that keeps mother and child on the same team.
(6) Challenge the child to excel, if appropriate.
(7) Permit NO reversion.
(8) Guard the habit.
I don’t think I need to write a new post about this because I’ve already written about the subject so many times. So here are some links here on the blog (and beyond!) to get you started on the nitty gritty of habit formation:
- Habit is Ten Natures (Part II): already listed above, but a must-read if you want a more detailed description of the steps in the eight-step process I listed
- Nipping it in the Bud: stopping bad habits before they start
- Enlisting the Will: how to build that mother-child team
- Education is a Discipline: by Elizabeth Foss
- More Habits!: by Willa Ryan
- Smooth and Easy Days: I haven’t read this, but it’s been recommended by some people I trust, and it’s a free ebook, so really you can’t go wrong, right?
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