Planting Habits, Reaping Character

One aspect of my Charlotte Mason research that I have loved is the great advice on habits or character-training.  Her advice is phenomenal.

  • It begins with prayerfully considering what character trait to work on with your child—just one at a time.
  • The next step is a conversation with your child to discuss the harm of his/her current behavior and the character trait that will be the solution. This is not a lecture, but rather a healthy conversation to engage the will of your child in this effort and to position yourself as your child’s friendly ally in this endeavor.
  • During this conversation with your child, discuss some strategies that you will use to help remind him/her until the habit is established: a question you will ask to help the child think about his/her behavior and a nonverbal cue to strengthen the child’s will and remind him you are their to help. The idea is that you do not want to nag or command. You want the child’s brain to be doing the thinking, charting a new neural path for this habit.
  • The last step is patient vigilance; new habits aren’t made overnight. Be vigilant as you hold your child accountable for the new behavior. But then, provide reinforcement as well—a Scripture verse to encourage, a biography of a person learning or exhibiting this trait to inspire your child.

So how do habits coexist with the Holy Spirit and the fruits of the Spirit? Is this my work or His? My son and I recently had this discussion, and I illustrated it this way: I can plant a seed in good soil, water it, provide just the right sunshine and nutrients, but only God can make that seed grow into a plant and bear fruit.

Habits are prepping the soil and watering the seed. I can teach good habits and encourage right behavior, but I cannot change my child’s heart or inject character into his life. That’s the Holy Spirit’s work. Habits may plant the seed, but only God gives the increase.

I cannot recommend these free resources enough! They have been absolutely invaluable to me lately. For more on habit training and parenting, download Smooth and Easy Days, Masterly Inactivity, and The Way of the Will.