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Habits of the Heart in the Home


Written by DeeDee Feeney | 4.23.20

At Coram Deo Academy, we help our students practice habits that will benefit them for life, not just for school. Rather than using behavior modification, we focus on character by helping our students practice Attention, Obedience, Respect, and Responsibility. Over the next few weeks, I will share with you ways you can continue to use these habits in your home.

Read the last post in the series on Responsibility.

Respect: “Valuing others more than self.”

“The point of training children to have good habits is so that they’ll do things without being nagged, or scolded. Then the mother (or father) isn’t constantly chasing them down with a barrage of commands and reminders. The parents can leave them alone to thrive in their own ways once a habit has secured a boundary for them to grow in.”  – Charlotte Mason

This quote by Charlotte Mason is a great place to begin talking about the habit of Respect. We all desire for our children to act respectfully, especially when we are out in public. How many times have we expected our children to act a certain way in front of strangers, but we have not necessarily taught them the correct way to behave? 

When Sarah, our fourth child, was young, she constantly reminded me of what I had not taught her. She was not afraid to talk to anyone, and she usually said exactly what she thought. “You look just like Cruella de Vil,” she once said to a woman wearing a fur coat at church. “Let me show you my scar,” she said to her Sunday school teacher as she pulled her dress over her head for all to see. These were times I realized I had not been clear and preparatory in training her about when and where to say things. This all falls under the habit of respect.

Are we thinking of others before ourselves? Are our words helpful or hurtful?

Paul wrote about respect from prison to the church at Philippi and charged them with this: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). 

And to the church in Ephesus, he wrote, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29).

These two scriptures can be our plumb line while teaching the habit of respect to our children. Are we thinking of others before ourselves? Are our words helpful or hurtful?

Model respect for your children in the way you treat others – and your children themselves.


♥︎ Do this as a family.

Teach your children, “Our family treats people with respect.” Using the “we” language when teaching this helps your children see that you are all on the same page. Let them know that the way we treat people is a non-negotiable standard. Model this for them in the way you treat others – and your children themselves. Do not let your children cause you to lose your cool. I know this is difficult, but remember, we are modeling respect in our homes. Be firm but respectful with your children when necessary.

♥︎ Teach your children to be purposefully polite.

Saying “please,” “thank you,” “excuse me,” or “I’m sorry” is not just a formality. Training our children to say these things is teaching them to be a part of the world around them. It’s training them that everything is not always all about them.

If they are given something, they need to be thankful. When wanting something, they need to say “please.” When they hurt someone, even if it was an accident, they need to say “I’m sorry.” Require your child to greet others by looking them in the eyes and giving the correct greeting or response. Do not allow them to hide behind you or look to the ground when being greeted. This may take some time with the younger ones, but if you begin this at a very young age, it will become natural.

Going through the motions of being purposefully polite will eventually form a habit of respect in our children.

♥︎ Teach your children the interrupt rule.

We taught this to our children when they were young, but I am the first to admit we did not stay consistent with this rule. We too often let our children interrupt a conversation we were having with another child or an adult. This is rude to the person that you are speaking with. It sends the message that they are not as important as your child at this moment.

If you are speaking to someone, adult or child, and another one of your children wants to tell you something, have them place their hand on your arm. You will then place your hand on their hand to acknowledge you know they are waiting. When there is a break in the conversation, acknowledge your child, and praise them for waiting so patiently. Of course, if there is an emergency that your child is trying to tell you about, they may interrupt.

Remind your children,“Our family treats people with respect.”

♥︎ Remind your children of proper manners at the table.

Family dinner is one of my favorite memories from when our children were all home. We still have family dinners with everyone every other Sunday evening. When the kids were younger, we had to teach them what was appropriate at the table and what was not. We had to teach them to listen to the one that was speaking and not interrupt. This is an area that we did not do very well. We all enjoy bantering back and forth which sometimes leads to interrupting. By teaching proper manners at the table at home, you will be able to enjoy meals out with your children and at home.

♥︎ Teach your children to have self control in words and actions.

I believe we all struggle with self-control in one way or another. For children, learning how to express what they are feeling in a respectful way is hard. Yelling “You jerk!” is easier than saying, “You made me angry when you did that.” The latter requires the child to stop and think about why they want to call their sister a jerk.

Teaching your children to do just that is crucial in forming the habit of respect. You may want to immediately punish the child that called the name. But I would suggest to you to first stop and see if they can put into words why they felt it necessary to call the name. Teach them the appropriate response. That child might have to go cool off before they are ready to talk it through, but do not skip this step.

The same thing applies when one of your children hits or kicks because they are angry. Stop and teach them the appropriate response and then give the consequences. Remind them,“Our family treats people with respect, including your siblings.”

Remember, your home is the laboratory or testing grounds that your children need to use to push the limits. When you diligently practice the habits of the heart at home, your experience with your children outside the home will be transformed into a more pleasurable experience for you and for them.

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