My two year old scares me.
I can’t be the only mother who worries that her toddler is going to end up robbing banks!
When I see my children miss behave, I’m always concerned that it will become a habit. And as we all know, habits are no fun to break.
But lately we’ve been in a rut of only correcting bad choices, not really instilling anything positive. My kids are so young, I wasn’t sure where to start. But I knew I needed them to start maturing, so our lives weren’t one chaotic moment after another. The Dream of a Smooth Life
When a friend of mine came back from a homeschooling conference, she was stoked about a speaker she had heard. The gal had explained the value of instilling good habits in children. The more wonderful habits, the more “smooth” a typical day would go. Imagine a life where your children were habitually obedient, neat, and kind.
Yeah, that’d be swell.
But it’s pretty much the opposite of our reality right now. How in the world can you work towards those habits.
Enter one of my heroines, Charlotte Mason.
Mason wrote extensively about the value of training our children to have good habits. However, she never wrote a book exclusively about habits. Lucky for us, the book Laying down the Rails : A Charlotte Mason Habits Handbook compiles all of Mason’s quotes about said habits into a well organized book.
There are three sections, all meant for parents.
First, the rational behind habit training.
I’ve gotta admit, the Type B personality in me bristled at the idea of habits. I don’t want robotic kids. I want their hearts to desire all these good character traits. But as I read Mason’s logic, it became clear that the goal IS genuine heart change but that everything becomes a habit, both good and bad, so we might as well be striving for those good habits.
Take the habit of truthfulness for example.
Do I want my children to LOVE truth and see the beauty of a transparent life? Yes! Is that a practical expectation for a three year old? No. But, can a three year old develop a bad habit of lying that will make the first goal even harder to achieve? Unfortunately, yes. Hence the need for instilling GOOD habits.
The main section of the book covers each habit in great detail, of which there are nearly 50! Mason had a lot of wisdom to share about each trait. There are definitely quite a few areas where I was convicted of my short-fallings.
The last section addresses how to correct bad habits, based on specific issues like tantrums, dawdling, and lying. It’s incredibly thorough and helpful.
Making Things Down to Earth…
After reading Laying down the Rails : A Charlotte Mason Habits Handbook, I was convinced that I needed to start working on instilling these habits in my kids.
But I was overwhelmed.
Where to start? What methods to use? Can this even be done?
That’s where this second book comes to the rescue! Laying Down the Rails for Children: A Habit-training Companion is where the rubber meets the road. In it, parents are encouraged to pick one habit to work on for 6-8 weeks. Each habit has 12 corresponding lessons. Some of the lessons are poems or short stories, highlighting the habit in action. Others are discussion starters or even games!
I love that at the beginning start of each habit, there’s a place for parents to write out their goals, celebration ideas, even personal stories they’d like to share. They encourage starting each new habit training with a family meeting so everyone is on the same page and excited to ALL grow in that particular area.
We started with obedience. I can’t tell you how helpful it was to officially discuss how to handle our son’s disagreement in a respectful way. Instead of saying “but” to everything I say, he’s getting better at saying “Can I share my thoughts?”BIG DIFFERENCE! He also has to stop sharing those thoughts once we’ve said, “I’ve made my decision.” He then has to respond quickly, cheerfully and without delay.
While we’ve only implemented one habit so far, I’m thrilled to have a proactive way to instill character in my kids. They’re excited too and love having a say in family meetings. We’re all being heard and we’re headed in the right direction; building kids’ character.
(To save money, consider getting the books in a bundle here.)
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These are some helpful tips, Julie. We also use Virtue cards in our homeschooling group, which are really great. I definitely need to purchase some of these tools to help me have a system of teaching these habits.
I’m realizing that I’m the one with the bad habits! It’s hard to stick to this, especially in the third trimester! 😉