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basic habit training

Basic Habit Training-Charlotte Mason Mondays

  |   Charlotte Mason Mondays, Christian Parenting, Curriculum, Parenting/Homeschooling in General, Teaching Elementary School, Time Mangagement   |   8 Comments

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Charlotte Mason talks over and over again about the importance of basic habit training. She believed that a parent’s job was to instill good habits in their children from early childhood.

“The habits of the child produce the character of the man . . .every day, every hour, the parents are either passively or actively forming those habits in their children upon which, more than upon anything else, future character and conduct depend.”  ~Charlotte Mason on basic habit training


But how do you do it? How do you train your children in good habits?

Start with basic obedience!  This is the key to child training. If you can teach your young child (1+-3) to be obedient, everything else will flow more easily from that. Obedience means first-time obedience, with a pleasant attitude.

This begins with you.


Guidelines for Mom (and Dad)

1. Make sure you have your child’s attention before giving an instruction. Speak calmly, firmly, and clearly. If your child is old enough, teach him to respond to your instruction. Teach him to say, “Yes, Mommy” or “Yes, Daddy.” so you know he’s heard and understands. Or if you live in the South, this will most likely be “Yes, Ma’am,” or “Yes, Sir.”

If you are teaching a chore, realize there will be a process involved. It will take time and repetition. You may have to show a child how to do something a few times. And when he gets the idea, you’ll probably have to do it with him several times.  Eventually, he’ll understand and can do it on his own. And you may have to correct him or have him re-do it a time or two until he gets it.  Although please don’t have discouragingly high standards for a young child. Expect that it will take your child longer than you to do something and she won’t do it as well as you can. Yet. 

2. Be lovingly consistent.  I mean really consistent. When your kids are very young (1+ to 3-4), child training must be a major focus (the major focus?) of your time.  Because if you’re training a child to be obedient, and she isn’t, you’ll have to stop what you are doing and deal with her.  Right then. Every time.

Doesn’t matter if you are tired, on the phone, fixing dinner, or would rather be doing something else.

If you do this EVERY time, there will come a time when you won’t be doing this every second of every day, I promise. In fact, it will become the exception, rather than the rule.

3. Remember that you are the parent, and you are in control.  When you find yourself getting angry, it’s often because you didn’t deal with disobedience promptly. And now your child is in control. And this is why you’re angry. Remember that. And if you catch your temperature rising, stop what you’re doing and think about what’s going on.

4. Don’t raise your voice, count to three, give conditions, or bargain with/bribe your child to be obedient. (Example: I’ll give you a cookie if you’ll be quiet at the grocery store.) 

5. Don’t punish your child for being a child. Focus on punishing for disobedience. There is a difference between being childish and being willfully disobedient. It’s childish to knock over the milk, get dirty, and make a mess out of the kitchen cabinet. (Although even young children can be taught not to make a mess out of the kitchen cabinet. But the first time they do it should be a “freebie,” until they’ve been taught not to.)

6. To be the most effective, correct your child as soon as possible after he does something disobedient. The longer you wait, the less effective your correction will be.

Again, if you can get first-time obedience down, all other habits will be taught so much more easily.

One of the first things your child needs to learn as he grows in understanding is that he has a higher Authority.


You are not Your Own

Ms. Mason thought children were to be raised with the idea that they are not “their own.”  In other words, children, just as their parents, hold their lives in a sacred trust from the Creator.

They were created for God’s purposes.  And it is their job to develop healthy bodies and minds in order to be ready to fulfill that special purpose that God created them for.

In other words, children are to be taught from the beginning that they are living under a greater Authority than themselves. And were created for a purpose.

What a contrast to our child-centered culture!


Correct behavior becomes automatic with basic habit training.

One of the many byproducts of habit training is that it makes good habits automatic. 

If you regularly perform a certain task, such as getting up and immediately making your bed, over and over again, it becomes automatic.  If you get up and do it ten times, you probably still are thinking about it every morning.

But if you do it one hundred times or a thousand times, you do it automatically, without thinking about it at all.

Making your bed is a simple task that takes absolutely no thought and not much more effort.  However, if it is not a habit, your child has to decide every day to do it.

So, if she has to decide, thoughts like this creep in: Do I feel like doing it?  Do I have time to do it? I will come back later and do it. Or – If I don’t do it, maybe my mom will do it for me.


Basic household habits for everyone

Carrying your own dishes to the kitchen counter, putting away your own clothes, shoes, toys, etc., brushing your teeth after eating, feeding a pet, and making a bed are all common tasks.

And even young children can do many of these things. 

Without this training,  we would be constantly struggling with our children.  There would be no time left to get anything done, let alone school work because we’d be fussing and/or following our children around all the time enforcing the completion of these daily tasks.

One of Charlotte Mason’s goal for families was having a harmonious household. And you can’t have a happy household without constant, reliable training of good habits.

 Nine Habits Suggested by Charlotte Mason 

  • Self-Restraint:  using one’s time wisely and productively rather than being lazy or self-indulgent.


  • Self-Control: Staying focused an on task instead of letting minor annoyances upset him. Cultivating a tolerant, pleasant, patient attitude instead of being quick to whine or complain when conditions aren’t exactly as we’d like them.


  • Self-Discipline:  Teaching children to be consistently clean, neat and orderly, no matter where they are—at home, at a friend’s or at Grandma’s.


  • Alertness: Teaching children to actively seek ways to serve others.  What are the benefits of teaching your child to be alert? He will be quick to open doors or carry something for you or a younger sibling. Or he might see an undone task and take care of it, rather than waiting for someone else to do it.


  • Fortitude:  Given the right inspiration, most children’s natural heroic tendencies become activated and can produce an astounding amount of perseverance and tenacity.  Reading about the physical heroism of the Spartans or the knight’s Code of Chivalry can help promote this idea in your young ones.


  • Service:  This is another habit that is promoted by delightful examples of selfless service in excellent children’s literature such as The Box-Car Children series for younger elementary or Amos Fortune, Free Man, for older elementary children.


  • Courage: Again, by reading fine literature,  as well as emulating examples around them, children learn courage, as opposed to recklessness.


  • Caution:  Another word for discernment, Ms. Mason describes caution as preserving our health and ability to serve God and others by acting thoughtfully rather than hastily and possibly harming ourselves or perhaps our siblings or friends.


  • Purity: The last of the physical habits is the need for purity. Read  1 Corinthians 6:19: Do you not know that your body is a temple for the Holy Spirit, Whom you have received from God?  Ms. Mason believed that if you raise your children with this concept when they are young, their actions will support that reverence for their bodies throughout their lives.


Habit training is wise parenting

As parents, we are wise when we realize the value of instilling these habits into our children beginning at an early age.  Our daily, often hour-by-hour training using inspiring examples from our literature and stories as well as gentle, loving correction will produce children who are ready and able to manage their own bodies and accept the responsibilities laid upon them by their parents as they continue to grow and mature.

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.  Galatians 6:9

Let us encourage one another in our high calling!

Basic habit training is one of the most important things you can do to develop your children’s character and make homeschooling easier for YOU.

So have you intentionally worked on basic habit training at your house? If you have, how has it improved your homeschooling? If not, how might it help your homeschooling go more smoothly? Let me know by commenting below or sending me an email at dana@tuacp.com!

basic habit training - dana


Next:  Forming Intellectual Habits

basic habit training










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  • Dana | Oct 7, 2009 at 5:36 am

    Thank you, Kristine! I’m glad the post was encouraging to you. As moms I think we get overwhelmed with the amount of effort it takes in training when it is so much easier many times just to do the tasks ourselves. But the time invested is so worth it in the long run. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  • Kristine | Oct 7, 2009 at 12:29 am

    Great post. Loved your description of what happens when actions are not habits . . . the thoughts and excuses that come to mind to justify not doing them. Such an encouragement to instill those habits consistently.

  • Dana | Oct 6, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    Thank you, Keri! I appreciate your kind comment and thanks for reading!

  • Keri | Oct 6, 2009 at 6:00 pm

    Oh…this is good stuff!
    Good habits are so essential and I really like how you expressed this!

  • Anonymous | Sep 23, 2009 at 3:18 am

    Whoa, wonderful post about habits. I just found your website and am already a fan. =P

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