Last week we explained that the habits Charlotte mentioned can be outlined in basically five broad categories: mental, moral, decency and propriety, physical, and religious.
This week, let’s take a look at Habits of Decency and Propriety. How’s that title for sounding intimidating? But habits of “decency and propriety” are simply those habits that you develop in your child so he won’t be “a social outcast” (Vol. 6, p. 101). (Don’t you love that description?)
And most of these habits, Charlotte believed, a child would unconsciously learn as he lived in an atmosphere that is filled with them. “Cleanliness, order, neatness, regularity, punctuality, are all ‘branches’ of infant education. They should be about the child like the air he breathes, and he will take them in as unconsciously” (Vol. 1, p. 125). “Every look of gentleness and tone of reverence, every word of kindness and act of help, passes into the thought-environment, the very atmosphere which the child breathes; he does not think of these things, may never think of them, but all his life long they excite that ‘vague appetency toward something’ out of which most of his actions spring” (Vol. 2, p. 36).
Here are the habits she emphasized that fit well in this category of Decency and Propriety (with a few definitions to clarify).
- Modesty and Purity
- Neatness (“pleasing and suitable”; similar to good taste)
- Order (everything in its place)
- Regularity (adhering to a schedule or routine)
She also briefly mentioned some other habits that fit in this category, but didn’t really elaborate on them:
- Candor (not prejudiced; sincere; respecting the opinions of others)
- Fortitude (bearing hardship or discomfort with courage)
- Temperance (moderation in action, thought, or feeling)
- Thrift (careful management, especially of money)
More than once Charlotte encouraged parents to have a record of habits that they wanted to cultivate in each child and to keep track of his or her progress. She thought that birthdays would make good milestones for regular evaluations and plans. “Obedience in the first year, and all the virtues of the good life as the years go on; every year with its own definite work to show in the training of character. Is Edward a selfish child when his fifth birthday comes? The fact is noted in his parents’ year-book, with the resolve that by his sixth birthday he shall, please God, be a generous child” (Vol. 2, p. 65).
Remember, focus on only one habit at a time, but be intentional. “Parents should take pains to have their own thoughts clear as to the manner of virtues they want their children to develop. Candour, fortitude, temperance, patience, meekness, courage, generosity, indeed the whole role of virtues, would be stimulating subjects for thought and teaching” (Vol. 3, p. 136).
What do you think about the idea of having a “habit record” for each child? Would such a checklist help you to be more intentional about cultivating good habits on a regular basis? Do any of you already have some sort of record that helps you? What does it look like? Share your thoughts.