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To most of us, the idea of self-discipline comes with a mental picture of a ball and chain. We think of discipline as a taskmaster, forcing us to do what we don’t really want to do. Today let’s change that mental image. Today let’s consider how discipline brings freedom!
Charlotte Mason’s three-pronged approach to education includes discipline: Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life. You see, Charlotte understood the freedom that comes from applying discipline in order to form good habits. For example, think about the freedom that would come if your child developed the habit of obeying the first time you told him to do something. And don’t just think about the freedom it would bring to you; consider how your child would be free from a nagging parent, mental unrest because he has unfinished business, and overall conflict that disobedience always brings in the home. Talk about walking in freedom!
Here are some more examples of how discipline brings freedom in various areas of life:
Discipline: Plug in your cell phone every night to charge it.
Freedom: You don’t have to worry about whether your battery will run out in the middle of a call. Your family members don’t have to wonder whether they will be able to reach you.
Discipline: Put things away as you finish using them.
Freedom: You don’t waste time and energy searching for the items you need. The discipline of taking two minutes to tidy up each time saves you from spending half a day (or more) sorting through the numerous piles that have accumulated.
Discipline: Give every reading assignment your full attention.
Freedom: You are prepared for the narration or exam questions and don’t have to re-read the whole thing to learn what you could have learned the first time through.
Discipline brings freedom! Now, keep in mind that self-discipline is the ultimate goal. It’s not true freedom if you are always depending on someone else to prod and push you. That’s why discipline is such an important part of our children’s educational process. Notice that word “process.” We guide them with discipline from without until they can make the transition to discipline themselves from within. Charlotte said, “This subject of training in becoming habits is so well understood amongst us that I need only add that such habits are not fully formed so long as supervision is necessary. At first, a child wants the support of constant supervision, but, by degrees, he is left to do the thing he ought of his own accord” (Vol. 3, p. 108).
So where are you in that process? Are you in the constant-supervision stage, just starting to lay down a new “habit rail” in your child’s life? Are you somewhere in the transition-by-degrees stage, making small, incremental adjustments that are encouraging your child toward self-discipline and success in a habit? Or are you seeing the fruit of your child’s exercising self-discipline in a particular habit and the freedom that it is bringing?
Wherever you are in the process, don’t forget the wonderful result that you and are working toward. When you’re tempted to focus on the effort and exertion of helping your child develop self-discipline in a particular habit, take some time to meditate on the freedom that will come because of your consistent efforts.
Right now think of a habit that you are trying to cultivate within your child. What kind of freedom will that habit bring once it is instilled?