Parents and Children

Sow an act, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.

As Hannah gets closer to her fifth birthday, I have started to feel that I need to be more careful what I say about her on my blog and even to friends – it seems disloyal and unloving to make much of someone’s failings and faults when they get beyond the funny baby stage.  There are many things I appreciate and marvel at about Hannah: her willingness to help, her oddly insightful way of looking at things, her unreal ability to memorize anything, and her thoughtfulness about spiritual things, plus many more.  However, at her age the faults and problems seem to be growing more difficult to handle and so I find myself constantly thinking of ways to help her grow stronger in character and replace bad habits with good ones.  To be honest, I find parenting to be very difficult at times and a good impetus to prayer since I often have no idea what I’m doing!

Because I’m struggling to find effective ways to deal with a few habits with Hannah, I really appreciated the emphasis in Charlotte Mason’s second book Parents and Children: The Role of the Parent in the Education of the Child.  This book focuses less on general education methods and more on how parents can prepare their children for the classroom and really life in all its aspects by taking an active role in fostering good character in the child.  Mason points out that even if you give your child a few good habits of character, you will help him go farther spiritually, mentally, and socially than he would otherwise be able.  I like that her emphasis is not on drilling the child on outward compliance, but on really working with him on the state of his heart and modeling dependence on God as you do so.

I did find some areas of disagreement with Mason’s views, but those areas, although important from a theological standpoint, didn’t mitigate her broader points about parenting and education that form the lion’s share of the material in the book.

Overall, I would recommend Parents and Children, especially if you’ve wondered about the practical aspects of habits and character training in your young children.

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4 thoughts on “Parents and Children

  1. OK, any thoughts on how to combat back talking? That is our biggest problem with Morgan, and I don’t want it to get out of hand.

    1. Jen, that is a tough one. I guess when a child is backtalking, the root of it is that you want them to cheerfully and promptly obey right away, yes? We have a slogan at our house: “Yes ma’am (or sir) and obey, right away!” Sometimes we add “with a happy heart” if attitude is the problem. You want kids to be critical thinkers and not just trot off to do whatever anyone suggests, but they also need to know that Mom and Dad are authorities in their lives, and prompt obedience shows respect for that authority. We memorized Ephesians 6:1 (Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right) and Exodus 20:12 (Honor your father and your mother…) so it’s not just the parent’s power trip – God says to obey your parents and honoring means obeying with a good attitude and not rolling the eyes and sassing first.

      That said, talking back is a habit. It just becomes second nature to sass a little even if the kid is going to obey, to the point where I think they don’t think about it. So you have to replace the bad habit with a good habit. When we get talking back, I say something like “Is that the right answer?” or “What would be the right answer when Mama asks you to do something?” and I try to remember to praise them when they give a GOOD example of cheerful obedience like “I LOVE to see you obey with a happy heart!”

      One thing I try to keep in mind (and often fail, but I’m trying!) is that I never want to make the child feel like THEY are the problem. The bad habit is the problem. It’s not Mama vs. Child, it’s Mama and Child vs. Bad Habit. I don’t want my kids to internalize labels that are self-defeating like “I’m a Bad Kid/Problem Child/Whiner” etc.

      It’s really hard for me to be consistent at any of this, and definitely something I’m always working on. So I’m offering this comment for what it’s worth, not because I’m a guru!

      1. I think it’s mainly an attitude problem with her….thanks for the suggestions. We have stopped the demanding tone in her voice by doing exactly what you said “Is that the correct way to ask for something?” but we are struggling with attitude. I do really appreciate your advice!

  2. Thanks for the review, Catherine. I just finished Volume 1, and was left wanting more on the training of the will. I guess Volume 2 is the place to find it!

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