Blog

Habits of Decency and Propriety

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).

  • Cleanliness
  • Courtesy
  • Kindness
  • Manners
  • 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)
  • Courage
  • Diligence
  • Fortitude (bearing hardship or discomfort with courage)
  • Generosity
  • Gentleness
  • Meekness
  • Patience
  • 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.

Tags: ,

11 Responses to “Habits of Decency and Propriety”

  1. Sandy January 11, 2007 at 3:33 pm #

    I would love to have a ‘habit record’ I could use for each of my children. Please, oh, please tell me that you are creating one. I have used Miss Mason’s methods for over ten years and this is one area I would like to have more help with. (I have at least ten more years to go!)
    Sandy

    • Sonya January 11, 2007 at 4:36 pm #

      Hi, Sandy –

      Actually, I am just finishing up a handbook on habits that will be a collection of the 50+ habits Charlotte mentioned, along with her comments about each. And, yes, it will have a very practical checklist in the back for those who want to track each child’s progress in this area 🙂 We’re hoping to release it this month.

      Sonya

  2. Dale Harris January 11, 2007 at 5:55 pm #

    Sonya,
    That will be such a wonderful tool and so easy to access!! Thanks for
    such hard work!!

    Dale

  3. Christine January 11, 2007 at 10:58 pm #

    Hi Sonja, I love your idea of having a habit record for each child, and I would START using it for sure. Hopefully, continue using it also.

    Right now, I do keep mental record of the children’s habits and work on them verbally. We also have some poster cards that illustrate pictures of people interacting with other people ie. “kindness”, “helpfulness” etc. I post one a month on our basement door so the children (and their friends) can see them and learn from them (like the beautiful art idea). But it would be good to dig deeper in writing down each child’s habits, and later reflecting on progress!!!
    The best “little ongoing habit record” we keep and that has worked very well for the younger children is an idea I received from another home educator/speaker. That is a tracing of the child’s hand on a paper labelled as follows. On the thumb I stick a thin post it with his chore of the week and on the four fingers I print a habit such as make bed, or brush teeth, comb hair etc. Then each day I say, “Have you done your five fingers”. This is posted in their rooms (or could be posted wherever best for the family). It saves lots of repetitive talk from one child to the next also.

  4. Helen Griffin January 12, 2007 at 10:26 pm #

    Hi Sonja,
    Actually, I would love one first for myself! Coming from the background of disorder that I have and struggling all my adult life to find my path, I too am disordered. Not as much as I was when I first married but still need a lot of work. And as I improve I feel the children can’t help but to improve also. For as you said in your email “a child will unconsciously learn as he lives in an atmosphere that is filled with these habits, They do need to be about him like the air he breathes.” I can see a difference in my children just in the last few years since we have started homeschooling and the disorder in all areas of our lives became very obvious. But it is taking time and 2 of the children are already grown. So I hopefully will be able to improve and help those still at home and I pray that those already grown will have gotten enough of the good changes to create a better life for themselves and their families.
    Thank you and I look forward to your handbook for me and my children!
    Helen

  5. Christy Canfield January 13, 2007 at 8:48 pm #

    The idea of keeping a record of my children’s habits is actually a little overwhelming for me , but something that I want to develop and begin, however i read that you are creating something along these lines and i would definitely be interested on getting my hands on this. I am new at this CM idea so slow but steady is my theme. Thank you again for all your work, time and energy we all benefit greatly.!!!! Christy

    • Sonya January 14, 2007 at 6:45 pm #

      I agree, Christy. I also felt a little overwhelmed when I was putting together all the habits Charlotte talks about. I had no idea she mentioned more than fifty! But a passage in Volume 1 kept helping me with two key thoughts: (1) Just one habit at a time and soon it will become my habit to do so, and (2) the atmosphere of our home will be the biggest influence on the children. Here’s that passage.

      ” ‘But,’ you say, ‘if habit is so powerful, whether to hinder or to help the child, it is fatiguing to think of all the habits the poor mother must attend to. Is she never to be at ease with her children?’

      “Here, again, is an illustration of that fable of the anxious pendulum, overwhelmed with the thought of the number of ticks it must tick. But the ticks are to be delivered tick by tick, and there will always be a second of time to tick in. The mother devotes herself to the formation of one habit at a time, doing no more than keep watch over those already formed. If she be appalled by the thought of overmuch labour, let her limit the number of good habits she will lay herself out to form. The child who starts life with, say, twenty good habits, begins with a certain capital which he will lay out to endless profit as the years go on. The mother who is distrustful of her own power of steady effort may well take comfort in two facts. In the first place, she herself acquires the habit of training her children in a given habit, so that by-and-by it becomes, not only no trouble, but a pleasure to her. In the second place, the child’s most fixed and dominant habits are those which the mother takes no pains about, but which the child picks up for himself through his close observation of all that is said and done, felt and thought, in his home” (Vol. 1, pp. 136, 137).

      Take courage,

      Sonya

  6. Sandy January 15, 2007 at 1:09 pm #

    Thank you, Sonya, for creating this. My credit card is ready to go. LOL
    Sandy

  7. Betty January 17, 2007 at 2:16 pm #

    Sonya,
    I’m going to be brutally honest. Out of everyone in my home, I’m needing as much help, if not more, than my children in the area of habits. I’ve been a Christian for many years, read my Bible daily, have used CM methods for 6 years, and want to raise children who love the Lord. I don’t know where to start in the area of habits. I either go overboard and too detailed in forming a “schedule” for our home (and become seargent Mama to enforce it–sapping our home of joy) or I toss the whole thing to the wind and am very unproductive. I’ve tried every book, website, etc… I’m still praying about it and hopeful that He who began a good work in me will finish it! PTL!

    Blessings, Betty

    • Sonya January 17, 2007 at 2:35 pm #

      Thanks so much for your honesty, sweet Betty! Finding the productive, joyful balance is very tough, you’re right! May I encourage you with one thing? That’s it: One thing. One habit. Only one. Ask the Lord to impress upon your mind and heart the one habit He wants you and your precious family to focus on this year. Not the twelve new habits; not even the two habits. Ask the Lord for His guidance in one habit. And then rest in Him as you gently cultivate that one habit, knowing that His yoke is easy (not hard, harsh, sharp, or oppressing) and His burden is light. Don’t panic; He knows your heart’s desire for your children. Yes, He is still working in their hearts and yours.

      Grace to you today and this year, Betty.

  8. Sherri January 29, 2007 at 5:37 pm #

    I have been looking over your website, actually looking for a list of verses I wanted to work on memorizing with my family. I found great resources and even more. As I read the words written by Betty, I felt her pain and frustration as a parent. There have been days I just want to cry because I feel like I just couldn’t get my children to clean up and also do some of the other things expected of them. Lately though I have felt better with help. First, from God and me learning to depend on Him through prayer and knowing he will help me teach my children what they need to do. And…He will help me work on the parenting skills I need to work on. I have also had some help in other places and I wanted to share this with some of the other parents reading this. I use FlyLady to help me gain control of my house – her website is FlyLady.net. And…through there I have learned of the House Fairy. I believe her website is the HouseFairy.org. The house fairy visits our house and I have been able to get the children to clean their rooms without me having to tell them over and over and lose my patience. As I write this, my 8 year old (strong-willed) daughter just finished cleaning up her bathroom that needed a lot of work – without any mumbling or complaining. This is a really big deal!!! I encourage parents to use these creative ways that make it fun for the children – this allows us to work on the other character traits we need to teach them.

    May God Bless,
    Sherri

Free basic shipping on USA orders over $75!