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Do you remember what a “gandy dancer” is? Way back in the first post of this series we mentioned that “gandy dancer” was the nickname that was given to early railroad workers who laid and maintained the tracks.
Parents are gandy dancers. It is the parent’s business to lay down and maintain the rails of good habits in a child’s life.
I hope this series on habit-training has helped you see why Charlotte considered this business of being a gandy dancer a “serious and responsible business.” Laying down rails of good habits in your child’s life affects who he will become.
But, you might say, I struggle with my own habits. How can I instill good habits in my child when I don’t have them myself?
First, don’t let that thought paralyze you. All of us struggle with habits. You don’t have to be perfect before you can help your child improve. Of course, you shouldn’t expect your child to achieve something you’re not even willing to try yourself. But there is nothing wrong with working on an appropriate habit all together as a family, encouraging each other as you go along.
Second, be careful you don’t use your own struggles as an excuse not even to try. Don’t be deceived by the thought, I’m not going to worry about habit-training. My child will be fine without habits. The truth is that you are forming habits in your child right now, whether you are intentional about it or not. Every action that you influence your child to do repeatedly can form a habit. The example that you set will have a large impact on the compelling ideas that steer your child’s life, for good or for bad.
“Every day, every hour, the parents are either passively or actively forming those habits in their children upon which, more than upon anything else, future character and conduct depend” (Vol. 1, p. 118).
So step up to the challenge. Now that you know the power that good habits can have and the benefits they can bring to your child, start nudging those rails into place. Lay down the lines that will carry your child smoothly and easily into his future. Become a gandy dancer.
Resources for Habit-Training
We have some resources to help you in the important task of habit-training—both your children and yourself.
- Laying Down the Rails: The Power of Good Habits workshop—This popular presentation on DVD, CD, or mp3 will give you the quick-start how-to-form-good-habits overview that gets you up and running in just one hour. You’ll also learn some practical tips for the top three habits Charlotte Mason talked about the most: the habits of attention, obedience, and truthfulness.
- Laying Down the Rails: A Charlotte Mason Habits Handbook—This complete reference book is a parent’s guide, in which you will find everything Charlotte said about each habit. Her comments will inspire and give you ideas for everyday practice.
- Laying Down the Rails for Children: A Habit-Training Companion—This two-volume set is designed to share with the children. It’s full of motivational stories, Scripture passages, poems, etc. for each habit. The inspiring ideas are divided into lessons that you can use for each habit you’re working on.
- Laying Down the Rails for Yourself: Good Habits Are Not Just for Kids—This practical how-to book is designed for adults and young adults. It looks at key descriptions that Charlotte gave of habits and pulls from them timeless principles to help you instill good habits in your own life.
How the Laying Down the Rails Resources Work
- Listen to the Laying Down the Rails workshop to get a good grasp on how to cultivate good habits in your children.
- Read Laying Down the Rails for Yourself to understand how cultivating good habits in your children is similar to and different from cultivating them in your own life.
- Choose the one habit you’re going to focus on for the next 6 to 8 weeks.
- Read what Charlotte said about that habit in the Laying Down the Rails reference book, put the book back on the shelf, and go work on encouraging that habit in everyday life (using the practical tips given in the workshop, in Laying Down the Rails for Yourself, and in the first couple of chapters in the Laying Down the Rails reference book).
- Once or twice a week, gather the family and read a lesson from the Laying Down the Rails for Children book to keep everyone focused and motivated for the habit you’re working on.