7 Tips for Establishing Habits

When I first read Ms Mason’s philosophy on early childhood education, I was simultaneously relieved and overwhelmed. In short, she believed education in the structured academic form should be delayed until age 6, and the teacher’s time was best spent developing habits that would “lay the tracks” for an easy learning experience when the time came.

I was so happy because it so aligned with what I believed- that small children shouldn’t be overburdened with academics, but gently guiding in the basic foundations of being a human in society. It just seemed like a perfect solution for teacher and child.

But as I looked through Laying Down the Rails book of habits, I soon realized that while Ms Mason was indeed revolutionary in her education beliefs, she was a Victorian nonetheless! There are at least 50 different habits that she believed should be strived for- AAAAAGHH! How was I going to do them all??

I of course didn’t. But I took this approach, and it’s been working well so far in the 3 years I’ve been using the CM approach.

I looked at all the habits, and I identified both the ones we valued as a family and the ones the Prince family could really benefit from. 

But...I ran into a problem…

We weren’t in Victorian england...how was I to graft these crucial habits into my modern world?? So the List Maker in me piped up and got to listing…

We don’t do this list every day- that would be much too overwhelming. Instead, I keep it posted in my homeschool-ish room, and when I realize that say, my son is having a difficult time sitting still, refer to the list and fit it into our routines.

Everybody’s list will be different. But here are some things I learned along the way, and hopefully you won’t repeat the mistakes I made!

1. Identify and pursue the habits that fit into YOUR family’s core values.

2. Don’t begin to execute until you have thought it out. Be realistic about the season that you are in, and where your children are at developmentally. Is this a realistic time for that habit? Will there be a shift in life in 2 months that will make it difficult to continue? Map these things out- its better to not start a habit than to start and be inconsistent because you couldn’t keep it up. Children are quick learners to what we aren’t serious about, and you may find yourself in a Boy who Cried Wolf situation later.

3. Hold yourself to these standards FIRST before you teach them to your children. “More is caught than taught”. Not only will it be easier to teach them, you will avoid embittering them by being hypocritical. This doesn’t mean you need to be perfect, just pave the road a bit before you ask the kids to.

4. Don’t nag. Don’t nag. Don’t nag. Don’t nag. Like dripping water is the person who nags. Soon it will fade into the background and won’t even be heard. Instead of saying “TURN OFF THE LIGHTS!!!” Every time your child leaves them on, say “What did you forget in your room?” This will literally retrain their brain into recalling what they are supposed to do. It is SO LIBERATING!!!!!!

5. Hold their hand until they begin to remember on their own. How are you will habits? Going to the gym? Flossing your teeth? Putting your keys away? I think if we were honest, we would say that even as adults it is REALLY hard to engrain a new habit. How much more for the child? Too many times I would find myself frustrated and nagging about something, and then I would remember that learning something takes time, and it wasn’t really realistic to expect a 5 year old to remember the habit. I needed to hold his hand and ask “what are you supposed to do next?”
6. When you let go of their hand, use natural consequences. Something that is important to me as a mom of 4 young kids is teaching my kids to take initiative where they are able. I set my oldest up with a list of things she can and needs to do before she can go play. If she asks me, “can I go play”, I respond “Have you done what you need to do to play?” Now, what if it's the end of the day, and she wants to play, but her list isn’t done? Use the natural consequence- she did not finish her work, therefore she doesn’t get to go play. This will work it’s magic.

7. Encourage them. Tell them what an awesome job they are doing, even if you had a crappy day. So many times I have forgotten to do this, even though encouragement is a strong need for myself! Don’t let the journey of habits overshadow the light of enjoying your children during the day.

We are still on our journey of creating habits, and we are NEVER perfect at them! Isn’t it funny how homeschooling your children has a curious way of working out the perfectionist in you?? 

How about you? What habits have you gone after? Any tips you would like to add in the comments? 


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