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5 Ways to Cultivate Good Habits

1. Charlotte Mason encouraged us moms to concentrate on forming one habit at a time, keeping watch over those habits already formed. Soon it will become your habit to cultivate good habits in your children.

2. Be diligent to deal with offenses immediately. The more times a child repeats an action or progression of thought, the more it will become ingrained as a habit. We must seek to stop our children’s minds from running in those same old paths and lay down the new path of the good habit.

3. Motivate your child with living examples of people who have displayed the good habit you’re trying to instill. For example, read the story of George Washington and the cherry tree if you want to motivate your child toward the habit of truthfulness. The Bible is full of great examples of habits like obedience, respecting others, prayer, and meditating on God’s Word.

4. Use natural consequences as much as possible to reinforce the results of the child’s choices. For example, if the child is trying to learn the habit of full attention to his lessons, set a time limit in which he must finish his lesson correctly. If he finishes early, let him have those extra minutes to do whatever he would like before the next lesson. If you think about it, natural consequences are a reflection of real life. If we, moms, have set aside half a day to clean house and we work hard and get it done an hour early, we are rewarded with an hour to do as we please. Natural consequences can be very effective. The only problem is that it is often harder to think of an appropriate natural consequence, so many of us take the easy way out and resort to that old stand-by: nagging. Which brings us to #5 . . .

5. Seek to motivate your child with expectant encouragement rather than nagging. Hebrews 10:24 and 1 Thessalonians 5:11 remind us to consider how we can encourage each other to do good and to build each other up. None of us enjoy being nagged, and we soon learn to ignore it or tune it out. Encouragement will go a long way toward keeping your relationship with your child intact while cultivating good habits.

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Next time let’s talk about how discipline brings freedom!

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3 Responses to “5 Ways to Cultivate Good Habits”

  1. Ann May 24, 2007 at 3:41 pm #

    5 in cultivating good habits says to use expectant encouragement. What does that look like. I’m guilty of nagging and would like some examples of expectant encouragement.

    • Sonya May 25, 2007 at 1:07 pm #

      Good question, Ann. I think the main difference is tone of voice and facial expression. A phrase like, “Do you think you can get this done in five minutes?” could be delivered in a way that attacks the other person or in a way that says, “I want to help you succeed. Let’s work together on this habit.” The attitude of positive expectancy can also be communicated well if we take the time to walk with our child through the action, rather than just sending him to do it, until he has developed the habit thoroughly.

      Charlotte gave this practical example in Volume 1, page 120: “The child goes to dress for a walk; she dreams over the lacing of her boots––the tag in her fingers poised in mid air––but her conscience is awake; she is constrained to look up, and her mother’s eye is upon her, hopeful and expectant. She answers to the rein and goes on; midway, in the lacing of the second boot, there is another pause, shorter this time; again she looks up, and again she goes on. The pauses become fewer day by day, the efforts steadier, the immature young will is being strengthened, the habit of prompt action acquired. After that first talk, the mother would do well to refrain from one more word on the subject; the eye (expectant, not reproachful), and, where the child is far gone in a dream, the lightest possible touch, are the only effectual instruments. By-and-by, ‘Do you think you can get ready in five minutes to-day without me?’ ‘Oh yes, mother.’ ‘Do not say “yes” unless you are quite sure.’ ‘I will try.’ And she tries, and succeeds.”

      Now, obviously, a mother can stand there and watch her child tie her shoes with a stern look and a tiresome sigh, so just the action of being there with the child isn’t a magic formula. The difference is all in our attitude. Does that make sense? I think this point especially ties in with the Are You a Thermostat or Thermometer? post.

  2. Betty May 29, 2007 at 8:09 am #

    Sonya,
    This is great! Very good! And very encouraging! I look forward to reading the rest in your series!

    Grace and Peace,
    Betty