One way to use a helpful resource like Parenting With Scripture is as a reference for instilling good habits of character in your kids. Since I first read the book several years ago I’ve used some of the scriptures for habits we’re working on, and I found it useful to review it again recently for the same purpose. Although at first I think I thought habit and character training would be something we only did for preschool (ah, that once and done mentality of early parenting!) but actually I find it’s even more important as the kids get older. Frankly, it’s something I’m working on as an adult too.
Habit training is a long-term project.
When I read Johanna’s post recently on how she’s working on good habits with her small children, it reminded me of what we did when our kids were little. As I looked back over the post I wrote in 2009, I was surprised to see that the habits we were working on then are quite similar to the habits we’re working on this year. We still approach habit training in a similar format (habit, scripts/examples, Bible verses), but some of the verses have changed or grown longer since the kids are older, and the examples are different now.
Sometimes habits are quickly learned and easily maintained. Some habits come naturally to certain people, but are a lifelong struggle for others. I can look back on my life and see how I’ve had to learn similar lessons many times in different circumstances and am still working on problem spots in my character that have probably been evident since I was two years old! At the same time, I can look back and see progress, both in my life and in the lives of my children.
What is habit training anyway?
I first learned about habit training while reading up on Charlotte Mason’s educational philosophy, but basically the idea is that habits of behavior and attitude are daily components in character traits, both good and bad. We can train ourselves (and our children) to have good habits, and we can replace bad habits with good ones.
As I mentioned above, we start with a habit that we need to work on. You might pick prompt obedience, or diligence, or patience, or kindness, and so forth. Then I come up with some examples of how I’ve seen that habit (or its opposite) come up lately, and make up some easy scripts to go over with the kids, so they have a good idea of how they ought to respond in those situations. Sometimes it’s enough just to give the child tools to implement the habit that way. I also list a verse or verses that go with that habit, to emphasize that this is not just something Mama came up with, but something that God cares about too. For some habits these are longer passages or entire parables or stories, and that’s ok, but I do like to have a shorter, memorizable verse too. This is where a reference like Parenting With Scripture comes in handy.
How do you use habit training?
After we do our Bible reading, I pull out our current list of habits and we go over one. I have certain habits in mind for particular children, but we go over them together so no one is singled out.
- I’ll briefly mention which habit we’re talking about that day, then go over the scenarios and script responses.
- If we have time and it seems appropriate, I might give the kids a scenario and ask them what they would do to show that habit (of kindness, for example, or patience, or respect) in that situation.
- Then we go over the Bible passages, and the kids can recite the verses they already know. After a couple of times through a given habit, they do remember them pretty well.
I also use the habits in the course of daily life, although I could stand to be more consistent about that. If I notice a child giving a good response related to a habit we’re talking about, I’ll commend him. If the response was maybe not so good, I might ask if they could try again but remember kindness (or some other habit), or ask what God’s word says about anger (or whatever). If the situation is really tense and tempers are involved, I might wait and bring it up later when everyone calms down, and try to talk it through with the child or children involved.
What about habit training for adults?
This year I decided to approach my resolutions with more of a habit training mindset. I made myself a monthly chart with different measurable things I could do to make my resolutions into habits, and every day I mark off whether I accomplished them. This is sort of similar to the approach Gretchen Rubin advocates (which she based on Benjamin Franklin’s practice) in The Happiness Project. I find that when I can view the month as a whole, it doesn’t stress me out not to get everything every day, and I can also see that I’m making measurable progress as the month goes on. It has helped me tremendously to put small tasks in as components of larger goals. Something like “Be more loving” is easy to forget on a busy day, but seeing a check box for “hug and affirm” reminds me to take time out to build up my husband and kids.
But wait! We had a giveaway winner!
As you can see, brevity is not one of my blogging habits. But fear not! I did actually use a random number generator to find out who won the Parenting With Scripture giveaway, and the winner is Thia! Send me an email with your contact information and I’ll pass it along to the publisher so you can get your copy.