May 19, 2010

The Way of the Will

I read often from Laying down the Rails by Sonya Shafer, a handbook of the sayings of Charlotte Mason on habit training. I was reading recently about the habit of self control and was encouraged by many of the ideas Charlotte Mason had about how to develope this in children. This quote is great,

"Every effort of obedience which does not give him a sense of conquest over his own inclinations, helps to enslave him, and he will resent the loss of his liberty by running license when he can. That is the secret of the miscarrying of many strictly brought up children."

Sonya is writing about the way of the will which has alot to do with habit training and self control on the Simply Charlotte Mason Blog. Here is a portion of her three part discussion on this topic if you want to check it out. She posts once a week.

"If you have ever been on a diet, you are intimately acquainted with what Charlotte Mason called "the way of the will."Let's say your friend invites you out to lunch. As you open the menu, you dutifully look for the salad section and make your selection. But as you set down the menu to wait for the server, your gaze falls on a gorgeous picture of chocolate cake. Moist, three-layer chocolate cake. With raspberry sauce.
All through the meal that image flits into your mind. And when the server comes back to offer dessert, she brings a tray with a slice just for you to see again.
Here is the defining moment. You know you want that cake. What will you do?
If you give in and eat the cake, do you later explain, "I just couldn't help it; my will was so strong, I had to eat it"? No. We usually say things like, "I was weak" or "I really need more will power."

You see, the will is what governs our passions and appetites. If our will is strong, it governs well and helps us choose to do what is right even when we don't feel like it. If our will is weak, it takes the easiest route of "I want" instead of making the right choice.
Now, apply the principle of the way of the will to our children. Charlotte explained it this way: "The baby screams himself into fits for a forbidden plaything, and the mother says, 'He has such a strong will.' The little fellow of three stands roaring in the street, and will neither go hither nor thither with his nurse, because 'he has such a strong will.' He will rule the sports of the nursery, will monopolise his sisters' playthings, all because of this 'strong will.' Now we come to a divergence of opinion: on the one hand, the parents decide that, whatever the consequence, the child's will is not to be broken, so all his vagaries must go unchecked; on the other, the decision is, that the child's will must be broken at all hazards, and the poor little being is subjected to a dreary round of punishment and repression.

"But, all the time, nobody perceives that it is the mere want of will that is the matter with the child" (Vol. 1, p. 320).

When I learned this principle, it changed the way I looked at my child. I had been thinking that my child had a strong will, and it was my job to dig in my heels and butt heads with her to show that my will was stronger. I was my child's opponent in the battle of the wills.
But once I understood this principle, I suddenly realized that she did not have a strong will--one that had enough power to choose what was right even when she wanted what was wrong. She had a weak will that constantly chose the easy path of "I want." It was my job to help her strengthen her will to be able to choose what was right, even when she didn't want what was right. I was not her opponent; I needed to be her coach.

Ways to begin Coaching:
From Laying Down the Rails Pg 97-99
1.Teach your child by ways and example that self-control brings JOY!
2. View your child as weak willed and begin your job of helpling him strengthen his will to do what is right even when he doesn't feel like doing it.
3.Help your child understand that obedience is a steping stone to slef control.
4.Encourage your child to feel a sense of conquest over his weak will whenever he exercises self-control.
5.Invite your child's cooperation in developing this habit within himself.
6.Watch for and applaud any efforts your child puts forth to control himself.
7. Teach your child to think hard on good thoughts and actions will follow.
8.Introduce and reinforce these principles little by little as oppertunies arise.

Back to our little life:
This morning it was Zak's turn to take out the compost to the the chicken pen. The compost dumper gets to hand out vitamins, and ride the bike for that day. We have only one bike for the three boys and everyone loves handing out the vitamins. To say that Zak was not into doing it this morning would be an understatement. He asked both brothers if they wanted to trade. No one did. He asked if one of his brothers wanted to share the job and help him. No one did. So he was stuck with his duty and he did not want to do it. I reminded him of the two benefits of riding the bike and doing the vitamins but that did not get him over the hump of "I don't want to." We also insist this job be done before breakfast is eaten so I reminded him of that consequence and left him to himself to decide. Before I knew it he was picking up the bucket and heading to the door...then he faltered. He looked up at me and I said, "It's almost done.....breakfast is waiting for you." Out he went in a torrent of whines and complaints, but he went. Upon finishing he skipped back into the house cheerfully and joyfully put back the bucket and washed for breakfast. He was a delight to be around his attitude was so positive. He overcame himself and won a great victory today!!! As he learns what is right and what is wrong, he will already have the habit of being in control of which way he goes. The rail will keep him on track to be an active participant in choosing the life he will lead one day on his own. God is already romancng his heart to make it His own, But Zak will be free to choose it, because he owns himself and is not enslaved to passions or lusts. 

"Most powerful is he who has himself in his own power." Seneca

Seneca was the tutor and couselor to Nero. I just finished reading about Nero and Seneca and others in a very insightful novel called The Flames of Rome by Paul L. Maier. In this story one can see the devastaing results of a man governed not by his will but by his passions, and how the absolute power he had as a Ceasar led him to ruin.

"The happiness of a man in this life does not consist in the absence but in the mastery of his passions." -Alfred, Lord Tennyson

And we have this great hope that in Christ this is all not only possible but a way of life for us who believe that we have died with Him and are raised with Him. The body of sin has been rendered powerless.....sin has lost it's grip on us. It is no longer I who lives but Christ who lives within me. The fruits of His life in us are...Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and SELF CONTROL. We can do nothing apart from him but IN HIM all things are possible.

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