Monday, May 16, 2011

"Prophets in the home": habits and tendencies

This week's Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival is based partly on "Early Tendencies in the Child: How to Check Them or Develop," by Mrs. Edward Sieverking, Parents' Review, Volume 14, 1903, pgs. 495-505.

"It is the business of education to find some way of supplementing that weakness of will which is the bane of most of us as well as of the children.+--Charlotte Mason, Home Education
"The fallacy of equivocation occurs when somebody walks up to you...and punches you in the nose.  Now, this isn't normal behavior in civilized society, so you ask the offender about it: 'Ow! Why'd you do that?'  He responds: 'Today is Tuesday, and I can't stop myself from doing that on Tuesdays. I have a habit.'  You, not satisfied....say, 'So, what does that have to do with anything?'  'Well,' he says, 'everybody is in the habit of doing something.  You are probably in the habit of brushing your teeth in the morning....So, I see nothing wrong with my little habit.'"--"Lesson 15: Equivocation," in The Fallacy Detective, by Nathaniel Bluedorn and Hans Bluedorn
"...These prophets in the home—these tendencies in our children—speak—very plainly sometimes, so that outsiders hear them, though parents are often deaf to them—and we don't grasp the message until, having lived on the land for the requisite number of years as undisputed possessors, they can claim it incontrovertibly in the end, and we ourselves wake up some day to find ourselves evicted and powerless before them."--Mrs. Edward Sieverking

Reading through Mrs. Sieverking's two-part article on "Tendencies," I notice two things in particular--more, of course, but two that stand out.  One is her continual returning to the big picture; how our whole outlook comes out of our early experiences; how we may become, if you'll excuse the expression, nincompoops for life (or not), based on whether or not our formative years gave us sound habits and moral tendencies.  The other is the idea that positive parental action is not all about scoldings, discipline, and reining in the youngsters; it's also about the wholesome things that we provide.  A current word might be "healthy alternatives."

Mrs. Sieverking complains about jaded-looking schoolboys; children that have too much pocket money and so many toys that they abuse or do the Sid-thing on the ones they have; children that grow up into selfish, materialistic adults.  (Some things haven't changed much since 1903.) Her remedy? True parental involvement! Not materialistic spoiling, but paying real attention to a child's artistic efforts; taking him along on errands, particular those that offer the chance to spend some time outdoors together; encouraging interests and hobbies. Her contention is that when children are taken out of whatever environments actually encourage their bad tendencies--for instance, getting them outdoors, away from the computer/games/TV/whatever--that that offers a natural and non-patronizing way to work out some of their knots. Working outdoors together might be a more motivating way to combat lazy tendencies, for example, than by lecturing or forcing children to do extra chores indoors.

It all takes time. Time together. Time that most people don't have. Not time to chauffeur the kids to more structured activities, but to go out and look for things, or at things, together; to have occasional surprises and adventures; to find shared interests; to "make a memory," as Gloria Gaither and Shirley Dobson wrote.   Charlotte Mason wrote a bit disparagingly of our desire for excitement (in Ourselves), but Mrs. Sieverking points out that some of us, at least, will find life without any excitement rather stultifying, and it's then that we may start to look for it in unhealthy rather than healthy directions.  And that, I think, it where she puts the responsibility on the parent, to provide as many healthy interests and opportunities as possible.  Even if it's just taking a walk to look at the snow or the stars. I read recently about a parent who put all the "can you do this with me" requests in a jar, and set aside certain days a month to say "yes" instead of "later" or "maybe." But I'm not so sure that's the best way. Of course not all such requests can or should be answered "yes" right away, but not all of us will ever have that full day to catch up on such things...nobody's even guaranteed that we will ever have that day. So maybe today is the day we get to say "yes."

Just a thought.
"What we all need more in our households is a sense of direction: to check and divert certain tendencies, and to encourage and pilot others. Still there is, as Anthony Hope says, "such a lamentable gulf between feeling that something must be done, and discovering what it is"; and really to find out the truth in children's tendencies is a difficult matter indeed, and practically needs as much thinking out and exercise of right judgment as we are able to give."--Mrs. Edward Sieverking

8 comments:

Barb-Harmony Art Mom said...

"What we all need more in our households is a sense of direction: to check and divert certain tendencies, and to encourage and pilot others."

This is my favorite part of your post...I find it so incredibly on track with what I have experienced. When I have a direction and can communicate that direction in a productive way, the children have far less time to make bad habits or choices. It is easier to make a good habit than to break a bad one.

Thanks for sharing this with the carnival.

KayPelham said...

"True parental involvement! Not materialistic spoiling, but paying real attention to a child's artistic efforts; taking him along on errands, particular those that offer the chance to spend some time outdoors together;"

It's sometimes hard to help our child overcome bad habits when we're struggling with our own bad habits. The good news is that if I help them I'll probably end up helping myself. It takes a lot of effort to be involved and focused on your child and what they're doing and feeling. And then making the effort to include them in your activities or find activities for them to pull them away from the things that are making them struggle. Rather than scolding and telling them to find something useful to do, you go with them and find it together. Such a better and happier alternative to the yelling.

This is a little scary --- "how our whole outlook comes out of our early experiences; how we may become, if you'll excuse the expression, nincompoops for life (or not), based on whether or not our formative years gave us sound habits and moral tendencies." It's scary to think that I'm one of those nincompoops for life because of my formative years trying to help my son not have those bad formative years so he won't repeat the results. It's a bit of a daunting task for this nincompoop.

Mama Squirrel said...

And for the rest of us as well.

But, thankfully, there is grace.

Hi I'm Sarah said...

Beautifully said. And right on the spot. When our kids were younger and before there were school lessons in our lives my husband and I made a deal with each other that niether one of us would leave the house without at least one of the boys tagging along with us. This was a a time we would spend one-to-one with them, and also it helped me to keep in the hbait of including them in what I was doing during the day. I also slowed way down in the kitchen and allowed 'helpers', that is in quotes for a reason. It wasn't easy, but it has paid off in big returns. Thanks for your post, I so enjoyed reading it.

amy in peru said...

I love how this looks at the bigger picture of how habits/tendencies are an integral part of our lives (of both ours and those of our children) and not just a compartmentalized area of education...

yes. we are educating the whole person. or trying anyway :)

amy in peru said...

PS. Thanks for submitting this to the CM Blog Carnival!

Penney Douglas said...

I'm working now on overcoming my bad habit of staying on the computer too much. And in the process, I'm spending more time with each child and actually playing with them some. I played "the bird game" (I was mama bird and they were my baby birds) with my 2 youngest last night and a little bit today. And tonight I was the customer for my 7 year old daughter as she made food from play-doh for me. I ended up having fun taking pictures of her creations and getting some math in there, too. For some reason, things aren't fun for me unless something practical is accomplished or learned. But I'm still struggling with the pull to leave and go back to the computer. Some habits are so hard to break!
I appreciated what you quoted about "true parental involvement... paying real attention to a child's artistic efforts."
Getting outside just for a couple of minutes really does make a difference, too.
Making memories is so important.

Lots of good things in this post!

Traci's Teaching Times said...

I have to agree with some of the others. It's difficult to teach our children new habits when we have issues of our own that need to form new habits in. Great post!

Related Posts with Thumbnails