On Habit Training
“We are not unwilling to make efforts in the beginning with the assurance that by-and-by things will go smoothly; and this is just what habit is, in an extraordinary degree, pledged to effect. 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” (Charlotte Mason).
I think Habit Training can be viewed in a variety of ways, but I was inspired by Charlotte Mason teachings to begin to do short but meaningful lessons with my oldest (now in his second Preschool year).
I am using the suggestion from Charlotte Mason to focus on just one habit at a time, and to spend 6-8 weeks on that one habit. When we move on to another habit, we still find ways to address and discuss the habit we already did. Obviously, many habits require ongoing parenting efforts, but I wanted to at a minimum set aside some time to address these thing with my children so they can understand on a meta-level why we strive to be people of good character.
Charlotte Mason suggest these top three traits for young children, and it’s a great place to begin if you are new to habit-training because there are lots of great resources out there:
“First, and infinitely the most important, is the habit of obedience. Indeed, obedience is the whole duty of the child, and for this reason—every other duty of the child is fulfilled as a matter of obedience to his parents. Not only so: obedience is the whole duty of man; obedience to conscience, to law, to Divine direction.” (Charlotte Mason)
Readings on Habit Training
- For the Children’s Sake
- Laying Down the Rails
- Smooth and Easy Days
- Habits: The Mother’s Secrets to Success
My Habit Training Resources
Do I Really Need a Habit Training Curriculum?
The short answer: no.
Recently, lots of questions have arisen as to the use of Laying Down the Rails for Children for the Preschool years. It’s a pricey investment, so I really want to stress that I do not think this is something you HAVE to have. However, if you are interested in Habit Training as an ongoing thing (or interested in Charlotte Mason Homeschooling), then I do suggest adding this to your wishlist. I justified the expense now because I see us using it for years to come. It is not a curriculum that you just do for one year and then trash.
Also, I’d like to suggest that most habits for preschool-aged kids seem to come through (1) your everyday parenting, (2) incorporating chores & responsibility into your daily rhythm, and (3) developing intrinsically valuable habits like Attention as you go through your preschool curriculum.
That said, after spending a decent amount of time on the Habit of Obedience with my nearing-5-year-old, I am super grateful that we have done these lessons. We have a new framework for discussing rules, why they are in place, and why it’s important to obey instructions. Not surprisingly, we lately have had some tough moments as I write this where discussion like this have been super relevant.
Playful Learning Obedience Lessons for Preschoolers
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” (Ephesians 6:1)
Feel free to steal the image above I created for our memory verse!
Define Obedience: Obedience is behavior that’s respectful and mindful of rules and laws. In terms of the Bible, to obey God means to hear God’s Word and follow it.
** Before each lesson each week, we reviewed our Memory Verse and reminded ourselves what Obedience means!
Review The Ten Commandments – discuss why God’s laws are in place: We must not do these things because God says they are not right. Give examples of lying or stealing.
Play Simon Says. Discuss how important (1) listening to instructions and (2) taking correct action are to obedience. What happens if you don’t listen or if you do the action at the wrong time?
Other options: Mother May I? or Red Light, Green Light
Read Library Lion and talk about obeying rules and when it might be okay to not follow the rules (e.g. safety issues). We also played “library”, transforming our living room into a library and role-played following and not-following rules like being loud or running.
Read Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and talk about what makes it hard to obey rules (e.g. not listening, wanting to do something other than what is being asked of us)
Obedience for protection – blindfolded maze game. Blindfold the kids and have them walk using your instructions around the room or outdoors without running in to anything. Discuss the importance of listening precisely to instructions.
Also: proceed with caution if you have a wild & daring little one.
Obedience lesson with traffic signs.
Play around with toy cars, pretend roads, and traffic signs. Explain what all of the signs mean and have the kids try to follow them. If someone does not obey the signs, have a police car come pull them over.
Added bonus: my kids, as a result of this lesson, are now super in to finding traffic signs on our car rides. It helps make the car rides a little more fun!
Biblical example of obedience: Noah
Craft: God told Noah to make an Ark according to specific instructions. Make an Ark out of craft sticks.
Do some dog training together. How do we get our new puppy to do a new trick? What makes him want to obey? (We recently adopted a new dog so this actually lined up perfectly)
If you don’t have a dog maybe watch an instructional video online or find a friend with a pet to go visit.
Play King/Queen for the Day OR Police Officer for the Day. Discuss authority structures and how being in charge means a lot of responsibility. Parallel this to God being in charge and how he is the perfect example. God loves us perfectly and wants the best for us, so of course we should listen to what He says and do it!
When Did We Do These Lessons?
I typically saved these for our afternoon — either during our tea & snack time or for our outdoor time. This way, we were not doing anything else “scheduled” during that time. Again, I only did this once a week.
Next we will be doing the Habit of Attention. I plan to follow a similar format where we’ll have a memory verse, Biblical example, game (or two), craft, and some picture books.
You may also find my blog post on our Preschool Daily Rhythm helpful, to see how Habit Training fits in to our overall weekly schedule.
I also enjoy some of the Kids of Integrity site and their Obedience post — there are several great memory verse and Bible story options here. I do not use all of that info but it’s certainly helpful if you are not interested in Laying Down the Rails for Children.
Burgess Book Lessons: Obedience — this post has a lot of other ideas for Obedience lessons.