".... we do not let children alone enough in their work. We prod them continually and do not let them stand or fall by their own efforts. One of the...disastrous features of modern society, is that in our laziness we depend upon prodders and encourage a vast system of prodding...If we pay a subscription to a charity, we expect the secretary to prod us when it becomes due. If we attend a meeting, do we often do so of our own spontaneous will, or because somebody asks us to go and reminds us half a dozen times of the day and the hour?...What we must guard against in the training of children is the danger of their getting into the habit of being prodded to every duty and every effort. Our whole system of school policy is largely a system of prods. Marks, prizes, exhibitions, are all prods; and a system of prodding is apt to obscure the meaning of must and ought for the boy and girls who gets into the habit of mental and moral lolling up against his prods." SCHOOL EDUCATION:Charlotte Mason p. 38.
This is the second post in this series.
The language of the quote above shows that it was written over 100 years ago, but the content is as contemporary as tomorrow.
* I like that from the start the writer directs the responsibility for the pathetic condition of "lolling" children, back to parents.
"Lolling" - what a word!
Its popular use today as an acronym "Laugh Out Loud Literally" or "I'm laughing with you", may seem completely removed from its use in this quote. But its traditional meaning from the dictionary, of hanging, dangling, leaning in a loose idle and relaxed manner against something, with an end result of becoming like a spoilt child, is a relevant description of today's lolling child.
* A second point the author makes that I like, is that this habit of lolling, "obscures the meaning of must and ought' for children. When things are automatically dealt with and done by others, a child looses any idea of self responsibility. There is no development of an intuition of what they ought to be or do. It is killed off or obscured.
We see this point played out on a regular basis in our house. We have lots of people for meals but even though everyone eats the food and sees the dirty dishes, still some people have no sense of what Charlotte Mason calls ought, no awareness of the idea to lend a hand in tidying up.
* The third point is a powerful one, the danger in "getting (children) into the habit of being prodded to every duty and every effort." This alarming practice is the norm in many households. It is an explanation of why we have so many bored, ambition-less children who lack any volition. Life is taken care of for these children, they don't experience the consequences of a choice they make. It is all tidily dealt with and they move on unaware of the natural, real impact life decisions have on a person. How will such lolling children ever work well or live well in a world which cushions no one?
Some answers and solutions ~
# It must start with parents "letting children alone", as Charlotte Mason says, letting the natural course run so they find out the consequences for themselves.
~ After telling the toddler a number of times not to open and close the sliding door or kitchen drawers, let them discover for themselves that there is pain when their tiny finger is squashed.
~ Let the child who never puts their dirty clothes in the washing machine, discover for themselves that clean clothes soon run out.
~ Let the child who won't get out of bed on time, discover that they will miss the school bus, and inherit the job to explain themselves to the teacher at school.
They must learn this for themselves, with no prods. They must "stand or fall by their own efforts."
# Parents must simultaneously work on growing an honourable "dutiful impulse" in their children. This is NOT done by prodding, but rather through a parent's example of a happy and generous work ethic. It is also developed by parents genuinely loving their kids by listening to them, spending time being with them, sharing life with them and trusting them to know what they ought to do. All of this creates a love and respect from children for their parents and generates a healthy and mature attitude of what they "must and ought" to be and do in life.
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ As you read this post, especially the last point, you may think it far fetched and not possible for your children to ever learn to grow up to know what to do without you prodding them. Can I appeal to you to think again. I have 7 children, the 5 eldest in their twenties now, and they have been brought up with these principles to become exactly what I have described above. They honour and respect their parents, they have a clear sense of what they ought and must do and are extremely responsible adults and all enjoy the benefits of being sort after in their various work situations because of these qualities.
So this week start on this new method in your family.