Have you ever driven to the grocery store and, after you pulled into a parking place and shut off the car, you realized that you didn’t remember the drive there? It was almost as if you drove on auto-pilot. Whenever that happens to me, my next thought is, “Oh, I hope I didn’t run any red lights!”
Taking the same route over and over seems to embed that information into our brains, and soon our brains just run down that path with little or no conscious effort on our part.
That’s how we form habits.
The fact is, that the things we do a good many times over leave some sort of impression in the very substance of our brain; and this impression, the more often it is repeated, makes it the easier for us to do the thing the next time (Vol. 4, Book 1, p. 208).
Here’s a little science lesson for you. You have neurons in your brain. Those neurons talk to each other. And if you have certain neurons repeatedly talk to each other in a certain sequence, your brain starts to make note of that sequence, or route. The more times you mentally travel down that neuron route, the closer your brain gets to running on auto-pilot.
It’s the same for your child. Every time he runs through a specific mental sequence, his brain is one step closer to making that sequence a habit.
Charlotte put it like this:
Every time we do a thing helps to form the habit of doing it; and to do a thing a hundred times without missing a chance, makes the rest easy (Vol. 4, Book 1, pp. 208, 209).
It stands to reason, then, that if you allow your child’s neurons to take a wrong turn, you will not be reinforcing the correct route. To put it in habit-training language, the longer a habit is performed without lapses, the stronger it becomes. So try to correct any “wrong turns” immediately.
Just like driving the same route to the grocery store soon allows you to do it without consciously thinking about it, so repeating the same mental route and accompanying actions will soon allow your child to do a task (or even adopt an attitude) without consciously thinking about it. It will become a habit.
Encourage your child to take advantage of every opportunity to do the thing that he is trying to make a habit. Let’s help our children take the same route each time until they can do it on auto-pilot.