Five Stages of Charlotte Mason Habit Formation
"A habit becomes morally binding in proportion to the inspiring power of the idea which underlies it.” School Education, page 110
A little seed of an idea can motivate and inspire. This can be as simple as a motto, a Bible verse, a book, or a hymn. You could also just give a few words about the new habit. This is not lecture time- they will learn in the next step.
Related: Family Habits Meeting
2. Set Clear Expectations
Clearly explain what the new habit should look like. Too often we assume that our children know how to do things, either concreate or abstract, when they don't. Obviously, it will be easier to set expectations for the concrete habits, but it's a little more difficult to set expectations for abstract habits, like being kind.
In Charlotte Mason's passage about shutting the door, Johnny’s mother clearly explains that the door should be shut for the comfort of those in the room. Through brief explanation, she has given him a what and a why.
"Having in a few- the fewer the better- earnest words pointed out the miseries that must arise from this fault, and the duty of overcoming it, and having so got the (sadly feeble) will of the child on the side of right-doing, she simply sees that for weeks together the fault does not recur.” Home Education, page 120
3. Follow Through
"Tact, watchfulness, and persistence are the qualities she must cultivate in herself; and, with these, she will be astonished at the readiness with which the child picks up the new habit.” Home Education, page 122
This is probably the hardest part of our work. In order to help our children develop a desired habit, we have to be sure that they never fall back into the old habit. We think as we are accustomed to think. Charlotte Mason described our brains as having “tracks” that our thoughts run along. When we work to establish new tracks, revisiting the old ones, even once, can be detrimental to our cause.
Establish some sort of signal to remind your little one to stick with the good habit. This prevents us from nagging and saying the same thing over and over- something that parents nor children enjoy!
4. Dangerous Stage
Getting too comfortable is always dangerous, right? Maybe we assume that our children already have the habit down, or maybe we feel badly that they’ve been working so hard. (It probably doesn't feel like work at all to them!) We have to be aware of this dangerous stage, instead of letting our guard down and leaving our children to fall back into their old ruts.
"Now comes the critical moment. Some day Johnny is so taken up with a new delight that the habit, not yet fully formed, loses its hold, and he is half-way downstairs before he thinks of the door. Then he does think of it, with a little prick of conscience, strong enough, not to send him back, but to make him pause a moment to see if his mother will call him back. She has noticed the omission, and is saying to herself, ‘Poor little fellow, he has been very good about it this long time; I’ll let him off this once.’ He, outside, fails to hear his mother’s call, says, to himself– fatal sentence! –’Oh, it doesn’t matter,’ and trots off.” Home Education, page 124
"One word more,- prompt action on the child’s part should have the reward of absolute leisure, time in which to do exactly as she pleases, not granted as a favour, but accruing (without any words) as a right.” Home Education, page 121
This isn't really a stage, because it is repeated throughout the whole habit training process, but celebrating your child's progress is so important! I don't mean that you should throw a party or give a reward, but allow some natural benefit to come from the habit that they've formed.
If you're looking for more habit training help, check out My Little Robins' eBook, Habits for the Early Years. You can also get a self-paced habit training course through the Thinking Love Podcast!
Sarah Crombiewheeler says
Thanks Leah. We are having a door battle at the moment alongside a tidy as you go habit forming. This blog has reinforced my methods and given encouragement.