3 Little Words for Habit Training: Tact

sledge hammer mom

Many of you are in the throes of habit training this fall. So over the next few weeks let’s take a look at three little words that will play a big role in that process.

We’ve discussed key words in habit training before. Repetition is an important part of forming habits. Motivation is also crucial.

But these three little words are different. These words—that Charlotte Mason encouraged us to embrace as keys to success in habit training—must be performed, not by the child, but by the mother.

“Tact, watchfulness, and persistence are the qualities she must cultivate in herself; and, with these, she will be astonished at the readiness with which the child picks up the new habit” (Vol. 1, p. 122).


Tact is one of those words that is a bit difficult to define. Basically it means being considerate of others—considering their feelings. One person explained it as “making a point without making an enemy.”

Charlotte believed that tact was a key in habit training our children. She wanted us to go about it in an understanding way.

Think about it: habit training is all about changing someone’s behavior and thinking patterns. Often a new habit becomes the focus because the child has a weakness that needs to be addressed. But telling someone he has a weakness and needs to change is a task that is best approached with sensitivity.

Charlotte described a mother’s rule in the home as “considerate” and went on with dry humor to paint this vivid picture:

“She does not crush with a sledge-hammer, an instrument of rule with which a child is somehow never very sympathetic” (Vol. 3, p. 23).

No one likes to be embarrassed into obedience or humiliated into cleanliness. Drawing attention to a child’s failures or shortcomings in a condemning, sledge-hammer way will do more harm than good in his heart. And broadcasting or ridiculing his weaknesses in front of others (including siblings) is a sure-fire way to plant seeds of resentment and bitterness.

Let’s put away the sledge-hammers and approach habit training with loving tact. Give your children the sensitivity and consideration they deserve as persons, just like you.