Habit training is the best advice Charlotte Mason gives young parents, because she likens training to “laying down railway tracks” in a child’s life that allows the smooth and easy days to follow.
I have thoroughly underlined, highlighted, noted, summarized and prayed over her hints on training Habits and Character in my book Charlotte Mason Study Guide by Penny Gardner!
Here’s how she describes how to correct a bad habit:
Note – Nagging doesn’t work!
Identify the bad habit.
- Just choose one, perhaps just a personal habit or a schooling habit. Remember my other post Just this 1 thing?
- It is good for the child to know the one habit they must focus on.
- Realize that the bad habit is set.
Stop the bad habit for 6 to 8 weeks.
- This is a long time for a child – up to 2 months!
- You could mark it off on a calendar for reference. (Does this remind anyone of potty training?)
Introduce a new habit.
- Start with something encouraging, set the goal with enthusiastic, yet realistic expectations.
- Have a “happy, confidence”.
- Present the new habit with a stimulating idea. (You could buy a new bedtime storybook for a new bedtime habit or a new pen for handwriting.)
- It helps to state your goal with a positive phrase, “From today onwards, we will…”
- Ensure your child’s imagination and will are with you.
Make sure the new habit is contrary to old, bad habit.
- Establish an entirely new routine.
- Keep the new habit in focus and don’t refer to the old, bad habit.
Keep stimulating the new idea until it takes hold.
- See that he does it. Every. Time.
- But oversee the behaviour in a cheerful and quiet way.
- Remember this is the MOST IMPORTANT part of habit training!
- It must take hold. This will take long – 6 to 8 weeks.
- Keep at it for the full-time and don’t slack off.
- Maintain “incessant watchfulness“.
Make sure the old habit never recurs.
- Your vigilance and constancy are vital to ensure the child does not fall back into old ways.
If they fail, don’t condone it.
- Charlotte Mason says, “Let the punishment, chiefly the sense of your estrangement, be acutely felt.” (I wish my children were so easily persuaded by my grieved looks!)
- Let him feel ashamed.
- Teach your child to pray for help, but also try harder. “A parent’s chief duty is to form in his child right habits of thinking and behaving.“
Success is the reward!
- As we teach our children to “Sow a habit, reap a character”, they love to recognise their progress.
- Review the habit regularly to maintain it.
- Do you give rewards? I don’t think Charlotte Mason used any star charts, prizes or rewards. Success is the reward in itself.
Now you lay down the next track – the next habit.
My added thoughts …
- When you are intentional and focused with your children, most training is added to well-established basics, and you are not spending as much time undoing bad habits.
- I find that I have to realign my children periodically. From time to time their characters, attitudes and behaviour need “sharpening”.
- My experience of training is that children most often do what is expected of them.
- When we face a difficult situation or a challenging problem, I find that they fare better when they are prepared. It often helps to spend some time at bedtime and talk through what may happen the next day. They can quietly choose how they will respond. Often they make good decisions.
There is so much more to share on this …
What habit training tips can you share with other readers?