The Habit of Attention

There are several things I admire and have gleaned from Charlotte Mason's writings, and one of those is her concept of forming good habits. She writes, "One of the great functions of the educator is to secure that actions will be so regularly, purposefully, and methodically sown that the child will reap the habits of the good life, in thinking and doing, with a minimum of conscious effort."

When we began school this year, I introduced a habit to the kids that we were going to purpose to work on together: The Habit of Attention.

We learned this verse:
My son, pay attention to my wisdom,
listen well to my words of insight
~Proverbs 5:1
and discussed the ways in which each child could show that they were paying attention. Things like:

* looking at me when I speak to them
* answering with "Yes, mama" (so that I know that I've been heard)
* obeying right away

A few things we did to practice this habit:

*I wrote the habit and the verse on our school board so they would see it every day.
*We memorized the verse and recited it a few times each week. [We even made up motions, too, to go along with it.]
*I had a weekly conversation with them about how we were doing in learning our habit. We reviewed the ways they should be showing me that they were indeed paying attention.
*We had training sessions. We'd sit together on the living room floor and I'd give an instruction, one at a time, to each of the kids, and then they would take turns following my instruction while "practicing" the habit of paying attention. The rest of us would encourage that person. [For example, I would say, "Isaias. Please go into the girls' room and bring me a diaper for Adelia." And then Ella, Isaac and I would watch him: Did he look at me as I spoke to him? Did he answer me? Did he run off cheerfully to obey? When he did, we would praise him for a job well done.]

Note: I can't speak highly enough of this kind of training: having children walk through something the right way- while being observed- but outside of the context of everyday life. (What I mean by that is that these are simply practice sessions, and practice instructions. I didn't actually need that diaper. We were pretending. And yet, they are walking through the right responses and the right behavior.) They love this kind of thing: it is a game to them, and they happily oblige. It's a good reminder for me, too- to be more diligent in following up our correction times- where we've just discussed what was done wrong, why that was wrong, what will you do differently next time?- with an actual task for them: "Now show mommy how you should have asked for that toy. Do it the right way this time."

*On days where I felt like we weren't doing well at all, we played a game where I had the kids looking for good habits of attention in one another. (For example, I would say: "We're all going to watch each other today, and if we see someone paying attention well, we're going to encourage them by saying, 'Great job doing Proverbs 5:1!'" On those days it was great to see the kids noticing the good in one another and praising each other.

I was really pleased with how well all the kids took to this idea of learning a habit, and I think we made huge strides in this area of attention.

As we started up school again this week, I introduced a new habit, which we'll add to the other one and hopefully see some good progress there, too!

A few other habits I have written down that we may work on in the future:
-The Habit of Obedience (I tucked that one onto our "Habit of Attention", but this could really be one all by itself.)
-The Habit of Manners
-The Habit of Gratitude
-The Habit of Cheerfulness
-The Habit of Thoroughness
-The Habit of Responsibility

Would you like to help me add to my (ever-growing) list? What are some habits you have noticed that your own children might need to work on? Chances are, we need to work on it here at our house, too!

[Another post on Habits, here.]


  1. Oh, this is SOOOOO good. I was just thinking that even though our children are in private school, we need to work on character training here at home more intentionally. I am going to sit down and come up with something more substantial and get back with you for help!

  2. I love the reminder to catch them doing GOOD things and verbally encourage them. We (the kids AND I) tend to notice all the bad in each other for correction, but encouragement is so powerful!

  3. "Caught ya bein' good!" That is heard around our house daily, but not as often as we would like, of course! Habits will be a never-ending lesson for your children- and you! I love how much I learn about fine-tuning my own actions and reactions in the midst of teaching them.
    Manners are really important, and I see you have that on your list. Manners kind of overflow into all the other habits, so I kind of think it's core.
    Good work, Mama! Missin' you- sorry I've been so out of touch!

  4. Such a great post. I love having times where we catch each other doing well. What a great idea. I am going to try that.
    You pretty much covered all the habits I could think of. We are always working on kind speech with one particular child....trying to make it a habit for him. :o)
    Have you read Laying Down Rails by Sonya Shafer? I hear this is a good book about habits. I am looking for a new homeschool book to add to my reading list this year.
    Loved the Christmas post and all the pictures.
    Shhhh...don't tell anyone but I love playmobile as much as my kids do!

  5. Stacy you do so good at this. At taking your role as a momma seriously! At evaluating things and re-evaluating them. At being purposeful.
    Good job and thanks for sharing!
    You will see and enjoy amazing fruit as the one day rise up and call you blessed!

  6. Oh, I so need to do this with my kids. I feel like I get so off track myself, oftentimes, that I could use it too.
    Blessings to you friend!

  7. Stacy, I came back to this very helpful post today to look up the verse you used. I was due to start a new memory verse with my littles, and the Habit of Attention is something that we REALLY need to work on with our oldest. Thanks for the inspiration and wise words! I love how Proverbs 5:1 instructs my heart about being attentive to the Lord, even as it instructs my children about how to relate to me. God's Word is so good!


  8. Hey there! Wanted to let you know that I am going to write a post about this today. I actually just did this very lesson today with the kids - that of training them to be attentive. Hope you don't mind, but I will link to your original blog post about it.

    Thanks again for the inspiration!


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