The Will Part III

“Children should be taught to distinguish between ‘I want’ and ‘I
will’ ” (Vol. 6, p. 128).

Want and need are two different things, but often confused, especially by children or dieters. Think about the last time you decided to diet. Maybe you decided to give up sugar for a week and as soon as you made the decision you suddenly wanted/needed a piece of chocolate cake. Which was it? Want or need? Of course any rational adult knows is a want not a need. But let’s say, you weren’t thinking rationally and you decided to give up protein. As soon as you made the decision, you began to crave a beef and bean burrito or a hamburger. Is that a want or a need? At that moment it may have been a want, but after a day, it would be a need. Bodies need protein.

Hurt children often confuse want and need even more so than healthy children, but both do so. A hurt child will neglect his needs and ignore the signals in his body crying out for rest, healthy foods and water. Instead, he switches to survival mode, stealing treats, overdosing on candy, running on empty, and walking around slightly dehydrated. Parents must be aware and make sure these kids are eating and drinking healthy food on regular intervals.

I had a problem with my youngest sugaring up at church and coming home not hungry. A friend of mine told me to get some protein in him to balance out the sugar. It helped, but did not change his church habit. His Sunday school teacher was not his main sugar supplier. He went on the hunt for it, prowling around the adult classroom until he hit the donut mother load and ate until fully wired. Needless to say, his will is weak when it comes to sweets. He does not distinguish want and need.

My solution? Keep lots of fruits, yogurt, and healthy snacks at home. We eat healthy meals including salads, brown rice, veggies and good fats. We have been label reading, talking about nutrition and I say, “you want that, but your body doesn’t need it.” Saying those words are not a magic pill. Studying and talking about nutrition may eventually sink in, but for now I have to monitor what he is eating while he is at home and give him sweets on my turf. I must be his candy-conscience, his protein-provider until his will can distinguish between ‘I want’ and ‘I will’.

The Will Part II

“Here is the line which divides the effective from the noneffective people, the great from the small, the good from the
well-intentioned and respectable; it is in proportion as a man has
self-controlling, self-compelling power that he is able to do, even
of his own pleasure; that he can depend upon himself, and be
sure of his own action in emergencies” (Vol. 1, p. 323).- Charlotte Mason

In my last post, I made reference to what the Guire family calls freeze framing. This occurs when mom asks a child to do a chore. While Mom is present- child works. Mom absent – child NO work. When Mom re-enters the room the child suddenly appears busy. This is normal behavior when a child is first expected to do a chore independently. This bent shows a weak will. In order to overcome this habit and replace it with a better, a child must be trained, not punished.

Sometimes natural consequences train well. The impending arrival of a friend can motivate a child into finishing whatever chore assigned. Children who lack cause and effect thinking (hurt children) think they can control the outward environment and will not be affected by natural consequences. I have had many children do a chore after company arrived. It is imperative that strong fixed habits are coached in these children.

Today Ania had an afternoon babysitting job. It was Rafal’s job to vacuum the kitchen today and I reminded him once after lunch that he needed to vacuum the crumb-dust-bunnies before the little ones came. He assured me he would. Guess when he vacuumed? After the little guys came because mom was upstairs working on a mountain of laundry.

This is not a Rafal bash post. The information given is to make a point to help others who find themselves ripping their hair out in frustration or giving up on training. Do not be embarrassed if a child does a chore after company comes in the door. Don’t make a big deal out of it either. Just pull the child aside quietly and say, “you are welcome to go play when you finish _____.” If he falls down on the floor and has a fit, join your company and gawk with them. (Ask my kids about this, they have some funny stories).

Little Davy-guy threw up as soon as he got here. Guess who willingly helped me clean the rug? Rafal. Who cleaned out the vacuum? Rafal. Ran to get an old towel when Davy-guy upchucked his water later? Rafal. Guess who helped Davy-guy find some fun toys to play with in his room? Rafal. So proud of that boy.

I know if I would have let him off the hook every time he didn’t harness his will, he wouldn’t develop the habits he needs. He “can be sure of his actions in emergencies” with the proper coaching.

The Will

The will is a powerful force. It leads the way, commands behavior, it makes kingdoms rise and fall.

A strong willed child is disobedient, hard to get along with, tries to take the reigns at every turn. At least that is the philosophy I learned in my early parenting, until I was introduced to Charlotte Mason’s writing. From her I learned that the child I just described is weak willed. He has difficulty directing his will. His flesh is in control. This is the child that cannot sit and stay on task, does not do what you ask immediately but instead argues and fusses at any request. His will is weak.

“The will is the controller of the passions and emotions, the
director of the desires, the ruler of the appetites” (Vol. 1, p. 319).- Charlotte Mason

Earlier today, I overheard one of my children instructing his father on how to discipline him.

“Dad, don’t do that! You can’t do that! So, what did I do? I don’t get it! What’s the big deal?” He did get it. He knew the what the problem was. He knew he had name called, been disrespectful and disobedient. He didn’t want to pay the piper. His will was weak. He challenged authority because he struggles with having authority over himself.

A child with a weak will is undisciplined. Outer discipline trains for inner discipline. An undisciplined child lives by the “pleasure principle”. He may be willing to do something if it is fun or immediately rewarding. This is exhausting and achieves no character or significant learning in the child. (Ruth Beechik)

A weak willed child only does a task if he feels like doing it. He is likely to freeze frame when the parent leaves the room because he has no inner resolution to complete the task. This a fifteen minute bedroom cleaning session can turn into hours of agony for the parent. This same child will give into his appetites- eating an entire bag of cookies, stealing sugary sweets from his siblings and lying about it, chowing down on a whole box of granola bars, etc…

“The passions, the desires, the appetites, are there
already, and the will gathers force and vigour only as it is
exercised in the repression and direction of these” (Vol. 1,
p. 319).- Charlotte Mason

So, what is to be done to strengthen resolve and point the will in the right direction?

Watch for Part II of The Will!