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The Power of Good Habits

I’ve made hundreds of decisions already today, and so have you. You just don’t remember them because they were habits. They didn’t require a lot of mental effort and stress. For example,
Should I get up? . . . Now? . . . On which side of the bed?
Should I take a shower? . . . Brush my teeth? . . . Which should I do first?
Should I get dressed? . . . Should I start with my right foot or left foot when I put on my socks?
How about breakfast? . . . Which hand should I use to eat with? . . . In which chair should I sit at the table?

We do most of those things by habit, and habits reduce stress. The stress comes when you have to think about something—when you have to consciously make the decision.

Over the past several months I’ve been studying what Charlotte Mason had to say about habits. Cultivating good habits is at least one-third of doing a CM education. Remember the motto: Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life? Well, the “discipline” part is all about intentionally forming habits in our children’s lives. And those habits don’t have to be limited to brushing their teeth and making their beds. Charlotte outlined habits in basically five broad categories: mental, moral, decency and propriety, physical, and religious.

Charlotte likened habits to railroad tracks. Once we lay down those rails, our children can “run on them” smoothly and with little effort or stress. And, of course, we get to reap the benefit of those rails as well: “The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days; while she who lets their habits take care of themselves has a weary life of endless friction with the children” (Vol. 1, p. 136). Think about it: how would life be different if your child had the habit of obedience? or the habit of paying attention?

Along with specific suggestions for specific habits, Charlotte also gave some general guidelines that apply to cultivating any habit.

  • Be diligent to deal with any departure from the desired habit immediately. Habits are formed by consistent repetition.
  • Concentrate on one habit at a time, merely keeping watch over those habits already formed.
  • Motivate your child with interesting and inspiring examples of people who demonstrated that habit. (Much more effective than nagging!)
  • Once a habit has been started, be extra careful not to excuse a lapse in that good habit. Any break in the “repetition chain” sets you back to the beginning.
  • Repeat. In other words, make it a habit to cultivate good habits in your children!

Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing the more than fifty habits that Charlotte mentioned in her writings in those five categories: mental, moral, decency and propriety, physical, and religious. We’ll also look more in-depth at the Top Three habits that she mentioned most.

So what habits do you want to cultivate in your children during 2007? Leave a comment and let us know.

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10 Responses to “The Power of Good Habits”

  1. Jan Bryson January 4, 2007 at 11:01 am #

    Thank you so much for starting this series on habits! It is just what we need at this time as God has had it on my heart but I haven’t “jump started” it yet. I want to really work on the habit of attention and follow-through, especially with my son.

  2. erika January 4, 2007 at 3:53 pm #

    Unfortunately, I came across CM somewhat late in my oldest’s habit-forming game (he’s a ripe old 4). For that reason, we are starting at the beginning with obedience, honesty, and respect. I’m always up for some encouragement and advice!

  3. Sandy January 4, 2007 at 8:05 pm #

    On a very practical note I would love for my children to have the habit of cleaning up their own messes whether that is toys, meals, clothes, or school work. I have not been good at deciding on consequences or following through with them. I will be reading the next few weeks with great interest!

  4. Lori January 4, 2007 at 8:41 pm #

    The habit of good atmosphere in the home. The habit of attention with a good attitude. The Habit of speaking slowly with concise prounounciation and with a kind tone in the voice. The Habit of self-discipline and control of attention to tasks begun through to a job well done. The habit of disciplined and appropriate table manners. The inspiring habit of a mother being a good help mate in the family business(es), and home-tasking and home-schooling, without becoming overwhelmed.

    Thank you for this study!

  5. Maryellen January 5, 2007 at 1:12 pm #

    This particular subject (habits) is what drew me to CM schooling in the first place. I really was not tought how to have good habits as a child and as a adult I strugle in this area. This is one area I do not want to fail my children. I find my self and my children drawing back to our old sinful habits of slouthfulness and laziness. It is a strugle to keep good Godly habbits ongoing. The one habbit we really strugle with is self discipline. Thank you for disgusing one of my favoright subjects.

    Thank you so much for this study!!!!!

  6. juliet January 5, 2007 at 1:19 pm #

    Soo nice to see this one! I really need some encouragement in developing good habits in keeping the house tidy at all times, and taking the time and patience to teach the kids to do so, including picking up there stuff right away. My DH will not tolerate anything less, or the kids will be entering the system next school year. I need the encouragement to believe this is possible too. Other good habits to work on are listening and obedience, gentleness and respect, and focus. Thankyou for exploring this, I look forward to reading and marinating in it!

  7. Lori Seaborg January 5, 2007 at 10:15 pm #

    I’m so excited to see that you are doing a series on habits. A few months ago, I read Charlotte’s writings on habits and it changed our homeschool. I am still working on so many of our poor habits that developed over the years, so will love your wisdom as well as Charlotte’s again.

    In our house, the Habit of Attention is the one that has needed/still needs the most work.

  8. Patti January 7, 2007 at 8:13 am #

    In our house, we have been working on the morning routine. Get up, make bed, brush hair, get dressed, eat breakfast and start lessons before 9am. For some reason, this is a tough one for our family.

  9. Christine January 11, 2007 at 10:28 pm #

    Great comments ladies! I have been encouraged, AND struggled over the years about the habit of good habits, but for those who have only wee children at present, be encouraged… I have seen great results as I pray to be consistent. If I am not consistent one day or another now, the children catch me and get us back on track!!! We had a bad habit of too much Lego LEFT in the living room after reading time, but I told them it would be banned from the l r for the rest of the month (which was huge here) if not picked up after reading time. It took losing a month, but after that remembered to pick it up and put in their rooms. Now, after holidays, I have noticed MOST put away but a few extra pieces left out so will remind them of the “none for a month if not picked up” rule. (They did draw more when unable to play with the Lego)

    On another note, my dh has helped us all with a good and disciplined habit Saturday morning too. Detailed clean up time for the whole family after a leisurely breakfast. After that something fun out of the house and back to a tidy, clean house!!!

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