Charlotte Mason's Training The Habit - Teaching the Habit of "OK"

Good Morning, Everyone! Happy Independence Day as we celebrate the glorious freedom of our country, and the courage of fathers and the equal courage of mothers who gave of their lives to establish the freedom we know today.

Today I would like to discuss habit training, a key aspect of Charlotte Mason's philosophies and methodology. Many years ago my husband went through Air Force boot camp to learn how to be a responsible and vigilant soldier ready to obey commands at a moment's notice WITHOUT EXPLANATION. This was and still is vitally important to military work and their missions, and it is vital to the success of our homeschools. Not that our children should feel like they are in boot camp or that our requests of them should never have an explanation attached, but all too often we get into sparring matches of discussions that wear us down to stop asking things of our children. Now, this fatigue may not be as obvious when your children are young and so are you, and you have the stamina to go the verbal mile, but as you get older and your children get older this will serve neither of you well. Someone is going to get tired of the fight and let's just say kindly and frankly, it will not be your children.

So what's a mother to do?!

Well, we will need to train one of the first habits that Charlotte Mason knew (and we know) is vitally important to having relative ease in our schooling and in our daily life. This first of the three important habits is the habit of obedience. Charlotte Mason said, "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). Smooth and easy days do not have to be a pipe dream, but with proper care and "pains" we can up the odds for days such as these.

Here is a practical way to train this habit. It's quite easy and does not take long at all, but has to be practiced every day as long as you are working on this habit. Charlotte Mason said that to adopt a new habit give yourself and your child 6-8 weeks for the habit to form a clear and comfortable neural pathway in the brain. Sometime before you formally begin working on this habit, sit down with your child/children when things are calm and explain to them about having noticed that they are having a hard time with saying "ok" to the things that are being asked of them. Let them know that you want to help them with this and assure them with some training, we can make this a habit. Habits serve us well in that once a habit is established there is no longer effort to make a decision of what to do. 

Now, how to train the habit. Once a start day is decided find time in your day to take about 5-10 minutes to try this technique. Sit with your children and ask them questions as you would ask them for different things during the day. Tell them their response is either, "Ok" or "Yes, Mom". (remember no one is doing anything, they are just rehearsing and practicing the agreeable statement.) Here's how it works:

During practice session:
Mom: Tommy, can you please pick up your shoes?
Child: Yes, Mom.
Mom: Johnny, can you come here please?
Child: Yes, Mom.
Mom: Sally, will you put your sweater on, we're leaving now?
Child: Yes, Mom.
Mom: Susie, please put your dish in the sink?
Child: Yes, Mom.
Mom: Joey, please feed the dog?
Child: Yes, Mom.
(make up more line, even put them on index cards if you like. You will need about 30 statements to practice to give you about 10 minutes of practice time.) 
Once this is practice is trained a few times, take it on the road. You can do this in the car or on line at the market, etc. 

You will be surprised to find that all this rehearsing of lines will form that lovely neural pathway making agreeable statements a habit that will come to them more easily since it has been practiced. A number of parenting experts do like the idea of giving children choices and I like that as well and try to use it where and when I can. But in my experience, sometimes there are occasions that may not be good for choices or I do not have the brain power to think of them on the spot. I like having both options available to me, and it is a matter of balance. 

Give it a try if you are looking to train the habit of obedience. It will a faithful assistant to us, moms, as we train our little ones' weak wills making our days smoother and easier as Charlotte Mason said. And as Charlotte also said, “Habit is inevitable. If we fail to ease life by laying down habits of right thinking and right acting, habits of wrong thinking and wrong acting fix themselves of their own accord” (Vol. 6, p. 101) 


  1. I am so trying this, I'll let you know in 8 weeks if it works. What a great way to prepare for Charlotte Mason.


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