Children’s Moral and Intellectual Growth

Charlotte Mason’s 20 Principles (Paraphrased by L. N. Laurio)

The Way of the Will and The Way of Reason

16. Children have two guides to help them in their moral and intellectual growth – “the way of the will,” and “the way of reason.”

17. Children must learn the difference between “I want” and “I will.” They must learn to distract their thoughts when tempted to do what they may want but know is not right, and think of something else, or do something else, interesting enough to occupy their mind. After a short diversion, their mind will be refreshed and able to will with renewed strength.

18. Children must learn not to lean too heavily on their own reasoning. Reasoning is good for logically demonstrating mathematical truth, but unreliable when judging ideas because our reasoning will justify all kinds of erroneous ideas if we really want to believe them.

These principles developed by Charlotte Mason remind me of several scriptures.

“Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” 2 Corinthians 10:5

“There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. Proverbs 14:12

“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

We have been dealing with issues of destructive behavior with our 5-year-old lately. They come from curiosity and a desire to try new things. They have usually involved water. She has an accomplice in these crimes – Abby, her 4 year old sister. They have been sneaking off when everyone was preoccupied with other things and played in water in the bathroom. Two days ago they got themselves all wet and the floor and our closet floor which is covered by carpet. We have had to put a fan on it to try to dry it before it mildews. Some of our clothes got wet, too. It was a mess.

“Little Angels!”

We had already been teaching Emma that the Bible says that children are to obey their parents. I told her that she makes Jesus happy when she obeys her parents. On the other hand, she makes the devil happy when she disobeys her parents. She has told me that she wants to make Jesus happy because she knows that Jesus is wonderful and loves her and that the devil is evil and hates her.

Her “will” has been to do what is right. Unfortunately, her “want” has been to try things that she knows she is not supposed to do. She has gone so far as to lock the door while she does them.

She was curious to try to put make-up on, too. Now her doll has a black face, painted with mascara. Her face and Abby’s face had a strange look, which I found out was caused by my eye shadow being applied to their cheeks. When I got into my room after one of the big kids got the door unlocked, I found that my eye shadow container was empty and my sink was brown.

I was too tired to even get really upset that night, so I didn’t talk to her about it that night. The next day I told her that I didn’t have any eye shadow to wear to church Sunday. I only wear it on Sundays, and not always then. She was sorry and said she won’t do it again.

Last night, Abby told me that she and Emma had been bad girls all day. I found out that they had poured honey all over Patrick’s leather jacket – almost the whole jar.

They did it in the same room where other people were occupied with video games and movies on Netflix. Nobody noticed what they were doing. Why don’t we notice what they’re doing? I don’t know. We get busy with our own activity and don’t pay enough attention to them.

Gary dealt with them about the honey. He was very upset about the honey and the jacket.

They cried and said they were sorry.

Next thing we knew, we heard them laughing hilariously in the kitchen which is open to the living room where we were sitting but separated by our table and chairs. They had let water pour out of the refrigerator water dispenser, and the kitchen floor was flooded.

So we keep talking to them about who they are pleasing when they do these things. They got spanked, and everybody expressed disapproval of that kind of behavior. But they continued to do one thing after another.

Today they haven’t made any messes like that. Gary took the doorknob off of our door so that they can’t lock themselves in anymore.

I hope that the trouble they got in yesterday will help them to decide that they like being obedient better than being disobedient.

When I saw them starting to get wild, often times I would offer them something to divert their attention to something else. I would offer them something to eat or offer to read to them or put a movie on for them or set them up on a computer game.

I guess I was trying to teach them to divert their thoughts from the thing that they wanted to do so that the “wild ideas” would dissipate and the house would be saved from one more disaster.

Those times that they made the messes, I missed the signs that they were starting to lose control of their “will” to do what is right.

We have talked to them about doing what is right instead of doing what seems like fun.

It seems like some kids take longer to learn these lessons. And if they have a buddy that’s close to their age, they will often be more brave to try things than if they are alone.

Since Emma was about 2 years old, she has been trying things that she is way too young to be able to do. I have been telling her that she will be able to do these things when she gets older, but she can’t do them yet. She sees her older brothers and sisters do things and she wants to do them, too. She usually tries to get me to tell her what age she will be able to do them.

Sometimes I have an idea, sometimes I don’t.

We threatened to take away their Christmas presents if they kept making the messes. That seems to have helped them to behave today.

With them, we are still at the stage of training them to choose the “will” instead of the “want”. We haven’t even gotten to the place where we can teach them not to rely too heavily on reason. We will get to that phase someday, but meanwhile, we need to keep teaching and training them to choose the good thing, not the bad thing and to divert their own thoughts from the thing that is bad until the wrong desire passes.

We have already taught our older kids that they can’t trust their own understanding because they need to make sure it lines up with the Word of God before they decide what’s true. They are learning that more and more as they grow and mature. We are giving them a foundation in the Bible so that they know what it says about things and then they will hopefully choose the things that are pleasing to God.

I’ve linked this post to the Charlotte Mason Carnival.

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