Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Charlotte Mason: Discipline

Our first discussion in the Charlotte Mason series. The aspect we're focusing on here is DISCIPLINE. According to the official Charlotte Mason webpage:

By “Discipline,” Charlotte meant the discipline of good habits — and specifically habits of character. Cultivating good habits in your child’s life make up another third of his education.

If I had to say, I would argue this is probably the hardest of the 3 to be consistent about. It's probably because as a sanguine I struggle with completing tasks. My husband, who is a melancholy, does not. He and Mary Poppins would be good friends saying, "Well begun is half done". As much as I struggle with completion, I admire the quality and see the need for follow-through and self-control in everyday life with the kids. 

My house would be a HUGE mess if I didn't start training my girls right now in ways appropriate for their ages. Even with routines in place it still can get away from us pretty quickly if I'm not careful. Our 3 year old puts her shoes on the stairs so they can be taken upstairs at bed time. She asks for a wipe before she gets up from the table and knows she has to have a bib on when she eats. She knows to put her dinnerware and cups in the sink and throw away her trash after breakfast and lunch. She tells people thank you when they give her a compliment. Of course she doesn't always do these things without whining or needing a gentle reminder (I realize she's only 3!), but because we generally do the same routine EVERY DAY I see her slowly understanding the importance of disciplining her mind, so that one day I will not have to be the one prodding her along. Granted, as parents we need to have discernment about what battles to fight, but I feel like as a general rule our society is too quick writing too many things off by saying "they're just a kid".  

One Australian mom of 9 children (who struggles with consistency too) said this in a blog post reflecting on Charlotte Mason's philosophy of discipline:  
Once I became aware of the impact we have on the lifetime habits of our children,  I became conscious that as I strove to; maintain a regular routine, to introduce healthy hygiene habits, to aid a child in forming a solid interior disposition and to led a faithful prayer life, our parenting was not a series of  isolated incidences of; "make your bed", "brush your teeth," "time for lessons to begin" and "Have you prayed today?," 
I don't want life to be a set of isolated incidents for my children or myself. My biggest struggle is knowing I can easily make everything an isolated incident  -- compartmentalize  if you will -- when I have the sense to create better order.  I don't want the general unstructured nature of schooling for our kids be to our detriment instead of our advantage. 

A blog post called Discipline Brings Freedom, outlines some practical ways that forming good habits can lead to less general stress. 
Discipline: Plug in your cell phone every night to charge it. 
Freedom: You don’t have to worry about whether your battery will run out in the middle of a call. Your family members don’t have to wonder whether they will be able to reach you. 
Discipline: Put things away as you finish using them. 
Freedom: You don’t waste time and energy searching for the items you need. The discipline of taking two minutes to tidy up each time saves you from spending half a day (or more) sorting through the numerous piles that have accumulated.  
However, let me be clear -- discipline is not just remembering to put your shoes back where they belong every single time. It's about developing character. When we teach children habits it helps direct them toward the BIG PICTURE. Education is a Discipline helped clarify this point:   
"It is more important to be honest, than to be smart.  It is more important to be kind, compassionate, loyal, generous, and loving than it is to learn anything a school can teach you.  If your habits enable you to learn, AND shape your very character, that makes habits a cornerstone and of great importance.  Based on the amount of time it takes most adults to break bad habits, we should realize that it is even more important to shape good habits and character in youth."
For instance, when I play games with my 3 year old I don't always "let her win". Some of you may think I'm heartless, but I really think it's part of training on general sportsmanship and humility. When she wins (like last night with Chutes and Ladders) I sincerely tell her congratulations, she played a good game, and cheer a good bit. On the times I win she has learned over time to say and do similar things back. That doesn't mean that when she gets older and can really "compete" in sports or games that I want her to be a pushover. I just want her to be prepared with proper self-restraint when she needs it and that winning or being "right" isn't the be all end all. That kind of discipline helps in being a team player, being a faithful student of school work and the Word, being an understanding friend, being a gracious spouse, etc. That kind of discipline helps form Godly character for the long-haul. 
I hope you all reading don't think I run my house like a drill sergeant or that I don't have an ounce of grace within me. I mentioned first that I am a sanguine/choleric, an ENFP in the Myers-Briggs world, which means I have a tendency to play before I do work and get easily sidetracked by things. A lot of days I can easily thrive on a lack of discipline. If you have a conversation with me, you know that I don't always craft my thoughts as well as I do my blog (I can edit this constantly so I appear focused, my mouth not as much...). My thoughts fly in a thousand different directions! Though I try mightily to trust the Lord in this area, I am sometimes haunted and daunted by the fact that as a stay at home mom I have to model discipline in the big and small things for my girls. Training my girls is as much as exercise for me as it is them which is why I am committed to doing it however imperfectly that may be.