Parents Take On the Effort of Decision: Habit-Training, part 2

A Parent Takes On Some Effort of Decision for Habits

As we discussed last week, in many ways your job of cultivating good habits in your child is just like cultivating them in your own life. Most of the principles and practical steps are similar.

But there are also some differences between laying down the rails in your child’s life and laying them down for yourself. When cultivating good habits in your child’s life, you do some of the work for him.

There is a lot of effort involved in making new decisions. You’ve probably experienced it for yourself when trying to navigate your way through a big city. That’s one reason we love to depend on GPS mapping and directions to tell us where to go and what to do. Stress rises with every unfamiliar choice you have to make.

It’s the same with new habits. It can take a lot of effort to think about which habit you need to work on, what it will look like in your life, whether you need to break it down into smaller more manageable stops along the way, when you are going to start working on it, how you are going to practice it often, and what you can use for a prompt or trigger.

So one of the parent’s roles when working on good habits with a child is to remove that effort of decision. The parent makes most of the decisions for the child. The parent chooses which habit to work on and when and how. In this way, the child has minimal conscious effort.

“A great function of the educator is to secure that acts shall be so regularly, purposefully, and methodically sown that the child shall reap the habits of the good life, in thinking and doing, with the minimum of conscious effort” (Vol. 2, p. 124).

What habit are you going to work on over the next couple of months? Whether you are focusing on a habit you want to instill in your own life or a habit you want to cultivate in your child’s life, you will need to take on the effort of making the up-front decisions.

Once the initial decisions have been made, you have only one decision left: do it. Repeat the new habit as often as possible. We’ll talk about that next time.

Learn more in Laying Down the Rails for Yourself: Good Habits Are Not Just for Kids, a new book from Simply Charlotte Mason.