Habits of the Heart in the Home
Written by DeeDee Feeney | 4.28.20
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. This is the last in a series on these habits.
Read the Introduction to this series, or other articles: Attention, Respect, and Obedience.
Responsibility: “Doing what I have been entrusted to do.”
“Habits are not tacked onto one’s life as another feat to be mastered in a performance culture, but they are used as valuable tools in the intellectual, spiritual, and physical development in relationships to oneself, God, and others. “
– Charlotte Mason
As we look at our last habit in this series, this quote by Charlotte Mason brings out an important point: we are not teaching our children these habits as another accomplishment for us or them, but so they may grow into the men and women with the ability to glorify God to the fullest. We are not just managing our children’s behavior. Rather, we are training in righteousness.
We are not teaching our children habits as another accomplishment for us or them, but so they may grow into the men and women with the ability to glorify God to the fullest.
Paul wrote to the Colossians, specifically to the “bondservants” among them, and charged them by saying, “Whatever you do, work heartily as to the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23). This applies to us all. We are not doing tasks to simply please men but to ultimately please God.
After God gave Adam and Eve the command to “be fruitful and multiply,” He then gave them dominion over all of His creation. That’s a great deal of responsibility on all of us. We need to teach our children that God has given us the job to take care of what He has given us.
As always, we will use Scripture as our plumb line: are we “working heartily as to the Lord and not for men?”
Encourage your children as you teach and train.
TIPS FOR THE HOME
♥︎ Start young.
Think toddler-age. Begin teaching your children about responsibility as soon as they can contribute, even in the smallest of ways. Let your little ones put their silverware into the dishwasher after a meal or help you carry some of the clothes from the dryer to their room. Little ones love to do chores. It is so easy to give a young child a dry cloth and ask them to dust.
♥︎ Let them help you.
Smile and invite your children to join you in whatever chore you are doing that day. Guard against complaining about housework. Don’t trick your children into doing the work, but if you smile and avoid complaining about the task at hand, they will imitate you. Remember, your children want to imitate you. You will need to show them how to do many tasks, and do not expect them to be done to your level. Encourage their efforts. Delight in your work and they will too. Show them how it feels to accomplish a task well.
♥︎ Model responsibility.
Just like in our training of respect, use “we” when teaching responsibility. “Now we all need to take our dishes to the dishwasher (or sink).” “We all need to help take our things out of the car.” It will surprise you how quickly your children will make these responsibilities a habit if “we” are all doing them daily.
♥︎ Manage your expectations.
When your little one is done making their bed and there is a lump in the middle, praise him and thank him for making the bed. When you make your bed the next time, ask him to come and watch. Show him how to smooth out the sheet first. Encourage them as you teach and train.
My husband was raised in a home where none of his efforts were encouraged or praised. As a child, he worked hard to meet his parent’s unattainable expectations but never succeeded. Sadly, this translated to him that he was not loved. He grew into a teenager that believed there was nothing he could do to earn his parent’s love. He can attest to the fact that a critical spirit or too high an expectation can create in your children a feeling of inadequacy and encourage a reluctance to comply.
Forming a habit takes encouraging what is appropriate and discouraging what is inappropriate.
♥︎ Let your praise be a reward.
While there may be a place for rewards, don’t attach it to responsibilities. Save rewards for going over and above their normal responsibilities. Use praise and encouragement for their daily responsibilities. Remember, forming a habit takes encouraging what is appropriate and discouraging what is inappropriate. Encourage whenever and as much as you can. You will be amazed at how far a simple hug and a “well done” will go.
♥︎ Provide routine and structure.
Some children will thrive with a chore chart. Simply having an order for your morning is very helpful – get up, make your bed, and then come down for breakfast. Our family had Saturday chores in which everyone was responsible for vacuuming and dusting their room and one other room in the house, and we rotated who was cleaning the bathrooms each week.
♥︎ Give them more responsibilities as they get older.
My five children began washing their own clothes when they got taller than me. For most of them, this was before they were twelve. I taught them how to properly wash their clothes. While at college, they each encountered friends that had not been taught to wash their clothes. They were thankful for the responsibilities they were given while younger.
♥︎ Teach the consequences.
Learning to take care of their things also helps children become responsible for their actions. If your child fails to put away a toy or clean up an art project after being instructed to do so, make sure that you have an appropriate consequence for this. Put the art supplies away for a day, or the toy that was left out can not be played with for a couple of days. Remind them that they are not only being irresponsible but disobedient if they do not follow through with the instructions given.
When you diligently practice the habits of the heart at home, your experience with your children outside the home will be transformed.
As we end this series, think of your children when they are eighteen. List the qualities and abilities you would hope your child would have by then. Now back up to the present. What can you begin teaching and training them now that will begin to form habits and passions by the time they are eighteen?
I pray you found this series helpful as you continue on with the most important but most rewarding job you will ever have. 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.
“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.” Philippians 6:1