Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Philosopher at Home

Charlotte Mason's Volume 5, Part I, 1

Although we do not know how old Guy is, it seems clear he is at least 5. The age is somewhat important, since what can be expected of a 5 year old is quite different than what one would expect from a 3 year old, and the
treatment will be somewhat different too.  He has been throwing tantrums since he was a baby, so this is a well entrenched habit.

Guy is obviously spirited.  Notice that his temperament was clear in infancy.  Also, this:
<<Guy, very sensitive to the moral atmosphere about him, got, in Nurse's phrase, out of sorts.>>
Spirited children are the "canary in the coal mine".  They react strongly to any emotional upheaval in the home.

The parents in this account do not exactly follow Charlotte Mason's prescription for forming new habits (beginning on p. 175).  Step six on the list does not come into play here until after step nine.  This may be because CM felt it was not necessary to always follow that exact order or because this is in fact a true account and she has not changed it to fit her own recommendations.

When the need for action became clear, the first phase of treatment consisted in careful monitoring of Guy so that he could be distracted *before* he had a chance to erupt.  This was done without his knowledge. If the parents had followed CM's guidelines, they would have spoken with Guy about the issue first.

When an eruption occurred, then the course was to make him feel an estrangement from everyone with a concern for him.  However, keep in mind that this was not meant to be blackmail: "I will not speak to you until you respond in a way that pleases me."  It was more of "I cannot but feel sadness as long as you are unwilling to be sorry for your fault."  Also, his father made this stipulation:
<<"I think so, in his small degree; but he must never doubt our love. He must see and feel that it is always there, though under a cloud of sorrow which he only can break through.">>

Only after this did his father take him aside and speak to him about it.  It is clear, though, that the boy knows his behavior is out of bounds and has known this for a long time.  We may say that it isn't fair to punish the boy without advance notice.  This estrangement, however, was a natural consequence from which the boy had for too long been shielded.

After all of this, the father takes the boy aside and together they agree to a plan for dealing with his tendency to lose his composure.

This chapter, like the others in the first part of Volume 5, is not meant to be a by-the-numbers guide to habit training.  I do not believe you can list off what these parents did and then go and apply it formulaically to your own situation.  But you can see how they applied CM's principles, and perhaps that will give you some ideas for how you can apply them.

Remember that this process must be used for only one habit at a time, and that one must be pursued consistently for weeks until it is well ingrained.

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