Habit and Children Part 1

EVERY person who has had even a slight opportunity to observe children and adults will have noticed the one great fact about the economy of habit. Most of the habits that have to do with everyday things are fixed in childhood. When children get to the high school age, they acquire new sets of habits as a result of their thinking about life and character. That is, they develop ideals and try to live up to them.

The thousand things that you do during a single day, from the time you dress yourself to the time you brush your teeth at night, are mostly acts of habit. If each act were not habitual, it would require so much thought and attention, that you could hardly do much more than get past your breakfast before bedtime. Habits enable us to do the necessary everyday things without conscious effort, thus leaving the mind free to do the new things, to attend to the really interesting things, to solve the new problems that constantly arise.

A great thinker has said that habit is nine-tenths of life. Whatever the exact proportion may be, the importance of habit is so great that we cannot afford to neglect the habits that our children are acquiring. And it is well for us to appreciate how far the habits of our children depend upon ourselves.  It is therefore the first duty of the mother to see that her child acquires the fundamental habits that are necessary for his welfare and for his happy association with others. And it is her next duty to see to it that as the child approaches adolescence, he has the opportunity and stimulus to acquire lofty ideals.

A child forms new habits much more easily than an older person, and there is therefore the greater danger of the formation of undesirable habits. On the other hand, the young child is for the same reason all the more teachable, and can more easily learn good habits.

A mother complained of her inconsiderate son, who was shrewd enough to make his campaign for air-rifles or tickets for the circus, or whatever else he wanted, just when the mother had a head-ache and was unable to resist his importunate demands. The boy had probably learned from experience that certain conditions were more favorable for his suit than others, and he naturally took advantage of this knowledge. There was no calculation in the matter, and the boy was no more inconsiderate than other boys of his age. His mother had simply allowed him to acquire the habit of recognizing certain “signs” as “lucky” for his purpose.

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