Q&A: Habits


Cynthia Ann says–

  • “Habits. I’m super excited to have habit training as the foundation of my Home atmosphere although as a newcomer to CM and HS I’m a bit overwhelmed by the idea. If you did/do habit training is there a book or outline you followed that you’d recommend? I plan on using Laying Down the Rails by Sonya Shafer but I wanted to get other opinions and options I may be missing. Thanks.”


I personally haven’t seen or used Laying Down the Rails, but have heard good things from people who have used it.

When I did habit training with my kiddos (they’re all grown now), I would choose a habit for each child every month to work on based on what their current needs were. For example, if someone was slacking on brushing their teeth after each meal, we would work on that habit. If someone was having trouble remembering to close the refrigerator door, we’d work on that. The same with schoolwork related habits. I approached it in a very individualized way for each child rather than using a specific list of habits to instill, etc.

Habits book cover imageHave you checked out the Habits book yet which is a compilation of Charlotte Mason’s teachings/writings on habit formation? There is a list in the back of the book of specific habits Charlotte Mason felt could be established in children. Everything from personal hygiene to habits of mind.

One strong suggestion I have about habit formation is to only work on one habit at a time and work on the same habit for 4 to 6 weeks (the length of time it takes to establish a new habit) and make certain it’s fully established as an actual habitual action before working on another habit. If you work on one habit per month, at the end of the year you’ll have established 12 new habits.

Those programs that have you working from a checklist with a whole bunch of habits or behaviors to work on at the same time only train kids to be in the habit of checking the checklist and not to fully establish each individual habit.

You can also work on “family habits” if everyone has the same thing they need to work on. For example, if making the bed isn’t happening for anyone, you could have everyone work together on establishing the habit of making their bed as soon as they get up in the morning. Sometimes working on establishing family habits (whether it’s housework or reading aloud in the evening or taking a daily walk or whatever) can be a good place to start. That way the kids won’t feel like they’re being “picked on” for their personal issues. Everyone’s in it together.

Several years ago, Catherine Levison (author of A Charlotte Mason Education) contributed an excellent Guest Post to this website on the topic of habit formation. Read it here.

Hope this helps!

And always remember to be gentle — gentle with your kids, with your educational methods, and with yourself.  🙂


Deborah Taylor-Hough
Author of A Twaddle-Free Education

I’m going to begin a series of Q&A’s on this blog relating to applying Charlotte Mason methods in a relaxed — somewhat eclectic — home school setting.  If you have a question you’d like to see addressed at some point, feel free to leave a comment here or on my CM Facebook page.Between Grad school, work-related responsibilities, and life, I can’t promise how soon I’ll get to any questions (weekly? monthly? quarterly? randomly?), but I do promise that any questions will be put into the hat for possibly answering later on.


2 responses to “Q&A: Habits

  1. Would you also concentrate on one habit at a time for a twelve year old? I’ve always worked on establishing good habits but as my daughter has become older, she just doesn’t do what she knows she should do. I’m becoming frustrated and tired of reminding her to pick up, put away, clean up, etc.,to which she always answers “I know”. It is affecting our relationship. My children earn a dollar a day if they have met my expectations for that day ( attitude, school work completion, music practice) so my plan is to stop “nagging” and take a tour of the house before bed. If she has left things unattended, she gives up the dollar. She really does use the money to buy various things (wants) so I’m hoping this will motivate her. But maybe I should just start her habit training over one habit at a time. Thoughts, please.

    • Sometimes people (even adults, even me if we’re talking housekeeping!) need a refresher now and then of previous habits. I would highly recommend the book, Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes … in You and Your Kids. The focus of the book is on attitudes and it actually provides a meaningful way to deal with attitudes in general so you don’t have to fixate on each and every little possible habit. I used to teach parenting classes at a former church based on the premise of the book (honoring others). You can view the book here: http://www.amazon.com/Goodbye-Whining-Complaining-Attitudes-Your/dp/0877883548/simplepleasuresp/

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