Tuesday, March 3, 2009

On Teaching Truthfulness

"If punishment were necessarily reformative, and able to cure us all of those 'sins we have a mind to,' why, the world would be a very good world; for no manner of sin escapes its present punishment. The fact is, not that punishment is unnecessary or that it is useless, but that it is inadequate and barely touches our aim; which is, not visitation for the offences, but the correction of that fault of character of which the offences is the outcome. Jemmy tells lies and we punish him; and by so doing we mark our sense of the offence; but, probably, no punishment could be invented drastic enough to cure Jemmy of telling lies in the future; and this is the thing to be aimed at. No, we must look deeper; we must find out what weak place in character, what false habit of thinking, leads Jemmy to tell lies, and we must deal with this false habit in the only possible way, by forming the contrary habit of true thinking, which will make Jemmy grow up a true man. 'I think I have never told a lie since,' said a lady, describing the single conversation in which her father cured her, when she was a child, of lying by setting up an altogether new train of thought" (Vol. 2, pp. 172,173) - Charlotte Mason

Charlotte Mason approaches the teaching of habits as a favor, a blessing to give to a child. I love the idea that it's not me against my kids, or even me against my kids' faults, but me and my kids working together to win over the natural tendencies that lead us into all kinds of bad places. I find this a difficult approach to execute, however, especially in Peanut Butter's case. He's two. I can communicate with him only on a very basic level. The idea of heroism and courage isn't something he seems to understand at all yet, though he does love to do something right and get recognized for it. Another book about training children I've read, though, talks about the importance of beginning with corporal punishment, the most basic form of training. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." And the fear of punishment is the beginning of obedience. To neglect training in the earliest years and to wait until they are old enough to understand and reason is to permit them to form lots of bad habits that will be difficult to break later. I have noticed that the most effective form of breaking his bad behavior patterns at this point is to administer a sting to his posterior, and I think that's okay. I just need to remember that much more effective, as my kids get older and more able to understand, is to rally them together with me, all of us on the same team, working to be the kind of people Jesus is proud to call his children.

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