Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Creating Habits

Read Smooth and Easy Days last night. It was so inspiring to read Charlotte Mason's words about creating habits in our children. She struck a cord when she talked about how sometimes we don't teach our children habits because we ourselves may not be the best at orderliness, punctuality, cleanliness, etc... I thought to myself, "Bingo!" I have put off giving my children responsibilities and holding them accountable for keeping their rooms clean because my room/house is in shambles.

So after reading into the wee hours of the morning, I was inspired to take that first step of picking one, just one of the habits to work on in our family. That was the other point I took to heart, I don't need to work on every fault we have, just take it one at a time.
We chose orderliness to work on for the next 12 weeks. They were very amused at the fact that mommy would also be working on these habits. I think it's good for them to see me working at it too, we're doing it together, a sense of camaraderie, 'we're in this together' type of thing. I can use my failures as teachable moment.
Our first habit is, drum roll please, putting shoes away when we take them off at the door. Sounds simple enough, but how many times to do I come flying in the door with my 101 things to do mental check list? I may shout a, "Take your shoes off" over my shoulder as I run through the mudroom. And they do. They remove their shoes and proceed to fling them to all four corners (and beyond.) After a few days it's a sea of shoes in the mudroom that we must stumble and navigate ourselves through praying not to twist an ankle. I have visions of myself doing the cartoon style of slip-on-a-banana-peel kind of fall. Of course no two pairs of shoes can be worn twice. It's at this point I wonder how many shoes do my children actually own? So for me, this journey is the habit of taking two seconds to stop and encourage them (in my gentle, you-can-do-this voice) to remove their shoes and place them under the bench. And when they forget, it's so much easier to do the whole, "How many times do I have to tell you..." instead of kindly asking, "Did you forget something?" I feel as though for every one habit I am teaching them, I'm having to learn five. For one, I have to remember to actually put my shoes away, then I have to remember to watch them to see that they are establishing their habit, and of course the whole habit of remembering how to respond to them when they forget. There is also breaking the bad habit of just picking the shoes up myself because it's so much faster to just haphazardly kick them under the bench myself, rather than going through the trauma of calling them to the mudroom (sometimes several times) and then listen to the whimpering and wailing of child labor.
This is going to be interesting to say the least, but I know if I stick with it, it will pay off in the end.

I also incorporated, or should I say re-incorporated our morning and bedtime routines. Only I made them into an easier system than what I had tried before. I took pictures of them each doing their own parts of the routine, i.e. brushing their teeth, washing their face, etc... plus one chore. I then labeled them, printed them out on card stock and laminated them with Contact paper. Here is a sample of my son's.

Today was obviously the first day to use them and they were a huge hit. They really liked taking responsibility for their own actions and getting to choose what order to do them. I liked not having to remember who had done what. I always find myself wondering, did H and B brushed their teeth, or was it B and C? Now I just look to see what cards have not been placed back in the pile.
Here is how it works, it's pretty simple. Depending on if it's morning or evening, I place the cards that need to be completed in the place where they sit at the table. Unused cards are put in the middle of the table. When they finish their task, they place their card in the "discard" pile in the middle. All cards must be off their place setting before breakfast (or bed.)

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