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All of the things we have discussed over the past few weeks on habit-training—taking on the effort of decision, spotlighting the trigger, and adjusting the consequences—are ways to help support your child’s Will.
Habit-training yourself depends on a strong Will that can make the right choices even when it’s hard. You have to decide which habit, when and how, what triggers will work, and then choose to respond to them with the desired action every time. Those are all decisions of the Will. Making yourself do what you know you should is hard work.
Most children aren’t strong enough to take on such difficult choices successfully. They cater to “I want” and have feeble Wills. So the parent shoulders many of the responsibilities of habit-training in order to help the child. The goal is that the child will form good habits and, along the way, strengthen his Will so it will eventually be able to choose right on its own. Imagine what an advantage it would be to enter adulthood with a strong Will—one powerful enough to choose right even when it’s hard!
But there is another way you can support your child’s Will. As an adult, you don’t usually have someone alongside to cheer you on in your habit-training, someone who will support your efforts and encourage you to keep going and make the right choices. Habit-training as an adult is often lonely work.
Habit-training a child provides an opportunity for a built-in support system. You can be that supporter and encourager to your child. He will find it easier to succeed because you are right there beside him—sympathizing with his efforts, challenging him to be his best, and cheering him on.
That’s quite a gift! And your contributions to his life don’t stop with the present; you are also setting up a gift that will keep on giving to him in the future. More on that next time.
(To learn more about how the will is involved in habit-training, read Laying Down the Rails for Yourself: Good Habits Are Not Just for Kids, a new book from Simply Charlotte Mason.)