“The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.” Samuel Johnson
Often when we speak of teaching our children good habits, we do so with physical actions in mind. We hear ourselves give tangible directives – “Pick up your toys when you’re finished playing with them,” “Clean your room so you can find your clothes,” “Don’t leave the keys in the car overnight so it will be there in the morning” – with the hope that these prescribed habits will soon become their own.
This is right, for considering external behaviors can be good measures of what our students internally understand. But if we only address actions without attitudes, we train children in one of two ways: 1) obey without learning to love to obey (which can lead to people-pleasing and/or legalism); or 2) only do what is comfortable or self-serving (which can lead to fearful and/or selfish living).
It’s not a question of whether our kids will form habits or not; the question is what will those habits – of action and attitude – be? Just as we do not want poor outward behavior to become ingrained in our kids, neither should we want poor patterns of thinking or feeling to take root. For just as God disciplines His children concerning means and motive, so are we called to care not just about what our children do, but also about how it gets done.
“Do all things without grumbling or disputing…” (Philippians 2:14). May this good habit (among many, many others) come to be evermore true of our students…and also of us as their primary teachers.