“Hey! Turn that back on!”
I heard it bounding from the hallway one day. It had happened again.
We have taught our children, from the time they were young, to turn off lights as they leave a room. Someone had turned out the light while there was someone still in that room.
It was a clear case of what I lovingly call “good habit — bad timing”.
How amazing that the brain, once trained, knows what to do on its own! Eventually we no longer have to think about what to do and how to do it. How unaware we are of how many habits scoot us along our way, every moment!
Imagine if you had to reinvent tying your shoe, each time you did it.
We can turn off a light without thinking, even without looking at the switch. We can be thinking about the next task in the next room while we finish the task in the current one.
The mind is wonderful.
During a gym class, as a teen, I heard a phrase worth remembering: “That which is used, develops; that which is not used atrophies.” At that time, I did not know the meaning of the word “atrophy”, so I guessed it meant the opposite of “develop”. Since our family has a motto of knowing, instead of guessing, it bothered me I didn’t know for sure, so when I got home that evening, I looked it up.
Think of all the habits working in this experience:
1. That phrase, repeated in every gym class so I could never forget it, reminded me of the good of learning, repetition, and training.
2. Habitual use of English caused me to guess correctly at the meaning of a word in context.
3. The habit of exercise, itself, gave me a lifelong urge to keep moving, partly spurred on by dread of atrophy.
4. Our habit of accumulating new words and facts inspired me to bother with a dictionary.
5. A family habit of returning a thing to its place enabled me to find the dictionary.
6. A habit of working alphabetically caused me to turn immediately to the front of that huge book for the word “atrophy”.
How difficult it would have been for me to benefit from the experience had I not had all those habits! It takes 21 days for a disciplined person to form a good habit. I was not a self-disciplined person by nature. Nope.
Oh, the drill, supplied by faithful adults who insisted upon good habits in me!
The sad thing is that some children who lack faithful training might be learning to hate exercise instead of fearing atrophy. We have many such children living among us, these days, lacking drill in good habits, and this loss causes many problems. They never reap normal benefits from life’s normal experiences.
They become abnormal.
Our children do not have to be among them, though. The home is the perfect environment for instilling good habits. With 180 days in an average school year, the potential for 9 good habits per child per year presents itself.
Let’s go for it!
Photo credit: Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums