A big part of homeschooling – especially Charlotte Mason homeschooling – is cultivating our children’s characters through good habits. Some may feel that time spent on habit training is not as important as academics. I admit, I am even guilty of overlooking behaviors and attitudes that I have hoped will go away on their own.
“Here is an end to the easy philosophy of, ‘It doesn’t matter,’ ‘Oh, he’ll grow out of it,’ ‘He’ll know better by-and-by,’ ‘He’s so young, what can we expect?’ and so on.”
Yet I have come to realize that cultivating good habits is a valuable time investment. It takes a lot for me to admit, but over the years, small anecdotes have struck me in the heart and I’ve felt uncomfortable in the presence of others because of something my son has said or done. He is impatient, demanding, obstinate, and can be disrespectful at times. He is never satisfied and is always wanting more.
Additionally, he does not respect the property of others and frequently gets into things that do not belong to him without permission – his dad’s tools, craft supplies I’ve set aside for school projects, and his sister’s things – and then doesn’t care for them properly or return them to where it was found. His behaviors have escalated and ultimately broke through the blinders I had unknowingly put before my eyes this past week.
My husband is very tech savvy and he saves the boxes for all electronics, even a $10 pair of earbuds. When we upgraded our iMac earlier this year, he repackaged the old one in its original box for resale and again saved all the original packaging for the new one. He is meticulous and admittedly a little overzealous.
The Fatal Error
While playing with a friend recently, my son inadvertently decided that the box for our new iMac [which we had stored on a high shelf in the garage], would make the perfect target for their sword play. Without checking with me, the two of them somehow managed to get the box down and proceeded to stab and pierce it repeatedly. When I came out to check on the noise – my heart literally stopped. The box was destroyed. Needless to say, Dad was furious. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak. Things need to change.
“The habits of the child produce the character of the man.”
Thus, as I have made plans for the upcoming school year, along with the academics, our focus for 2013-14 is the virtue of Contentment. The first step to overcoming his selfishness – for me – is to grasp whole-heartedly that he won’t grow out of it or know better on his own. He won’t overcome his selfish behavior by-and-by unless we teach him better. And we are teaching, either intentionally or unintentionally. The habits learned from us – his parents – have the greatest impact upon his developing character.
“Every day, every hour, the parents are either passively or actively forming those habits in their children upon which, more than upon anything else, future character and conduct depend.”
Fortunately, we were able to find a replacement box online (eBay rocks!) and Buddy will need to repay us the purchase price, including shipping. It comes as a hard lesson – particularly just weeks before our departure for China. He will have no money of his own to spend on souvenirs and keepsakes. Undoubtedly, each time his sister makes a purchase, it is going to sting.
It is so true that punishments are often harder on the parents than they are on the child. Patrick and I will need to stay strong on this one.
So which habits are you planning to focus on this year? What strategies have you had success with to combat selfishness? Leave a comment and share your ideas.
(All quotes taken from Charlotte Mason Volume 1, page 118)