The Power of Habits for Parents

Last month when I was here I talked about How to Get Everything Done. Or, rather, how to reframe your ideas of “everything.” 

 

I didn’t talk much about habits. Probably because I’m much better at the philosophical assent part of habit (I think it’s important!) than the actual practice thereof (but I don’t wanna!). Habit, though, is the secret sauce to actually getting a lot of things done. 

 

As parents, habit is incredibly valuable.

It does two things – one it gets things done and two it supports the atmosphere of the home, and by extension, homeschool. 

 

When we truly follow through habitually, we get important things done. I’ve made my bed every day (except Sundays – that’s my reward) for a month now. My room does look nicer with the bed made. It also makes it so I don’t eventually steal all the covers from my husband’s side because I reset them daily. I think he appreciates that. 

 

If we have the habit of running and emptying the dishwasher twice a day, the kitchen stays more functional for the cook at the next meal. I run it at bedtime and empty it first thing in the morning while my coffee brews and the kids empty it in the afternoon. I timed it once, it takes significantly less time for me to empty the dishwasher than my coffee to brew, so I might as well get the job done. Also, the dinner cooking implement and tableware is more difficult to put away than the breakfast/lunch dishes, so this is a fair trade of labor. 

 

If I have the habit, however, of setting up the coffee the night before, I can still empty the dishwasher before drinking coffee. Better still, if I prep breakfast and can put it in the oven as it preheats, empty the dishwasher, and then drink coffee – I can face anything in the day. 

 

The most important habit is being in God’s Word daily. There are so many ways to make this happen! Read it with any of a myriad reading plans. Recently, I’ve been listening via podcast each morning as I’m slowly convincing my eyes to open. If I require of myself that I listen to the Word before anything else, this is a great way to go! 

 

Some habits are best done from time to time. We have the habit of Baking Day on our PREP week. We do school for six weeks, and then take a week off formal academics for rest, planning, and preparation of the coming term. We plan and bake all the snacks for second breakfast during that PREP Week. That habit is so helpful throughout the school term! 

 

What habits can you establish to get things done? 

 

The other way habits are important is that they are a part of the scaffolding of your home and homeschool. 

 

The idea of scaffolding is a little tricky because it can apply to little things and to big ones. You scaffold an individual lesson, yes, but you also scaffold your whole homeschool. The idea of scaffolding is to build supports so your children can learn without fear. They know what to expect, when, and how. Scaffolding in this context, is less about the physical, but emotional and intellectual supports. 

 

Kids note our emotions. How we’re feeling affects how we interact with them and respond to them. They know when we’re happy or sad, confident or worried. They respond to those emotions in many different ways, whether by imitation or sometimes by lashing out.  If we are habitually glum or habitually joyful matters in our homes. It can be sensed by all who enter. Sometimes it can be observed by all who enter because we don’t get done what we expect. 

 

Beyond that, though, our lifestyle habits and learning habits affect our homeschool. By establishing routines throughout the day of a set apart learning time or even that we “do school” day in and day out help our students to succeed. If there is no question whether it’s a school day, one battle is fought. If children are assigned a written narration daily, then there’s no argument whether there’s a narration today or later in the week. Standards of what lessons happen when passing confidence on to our kids that pay off in really important ways. 

 

Your habit of self-education, of listening to narrations, of being engaged in their schooling is just as important. 

 

What habits of learning are you working on, personally? 

 

  • If it’s your habit to read challenging books or to keep a commonplace book or book of centuries; 

  • or if it’s your habit to write letters to the editor and be active in the community; 

  • if it’s your habit to learn a new handicraft or artistic skill, kids see that. 

 

They see that learning and participating is what adults do and it helps them be excited about and want to learn themselves. Their feet follow the paths we lay down. Lifelong learning helps moms have sympathy with how much hard work the children are doing, too. 

 

Perhaps when you read the title, you thought this would be about habits for your kids, but I think it’s really important to consider how your habits as a parent, teacher, friend affect your students and their learning. Establishing your own habits will eventually trickle down — the trickling isn’t necessarily immediately apparent — but consistency on your part will breed consistency, feet will follow in your pathways, and that will be felt by all. 

Contributor

Dawn Garrett blog contributor

Dawn Garrett

Dawn Garrett lives in Central Ohio with her husband Jason and their three always-homeschooled children, ages 13, 12, and 11. In her homeschool, she and her children learn about God and His cosmos by studying the seven liberal arts in order to know Him better, imitate Him and His ways, and share about Him with others. She follows the AmblesideOnline curriculum. Her home blog – about books school and life – has been at ladydusk for more than 15 years.

She is the author of the free ebook: I Am, I Can, I Ought, I Will: Charlotte Mason’s Motto Explained for Upper Elementary Students.

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