Some Thoughts on Maintaining the Right Home Atmosphere

Dear Reader,

These are Charlotte Mason’s thoughts, not mine. All are from her fifth book, Formation of Character. To jump right in, here is the first quote:

“So of the parent; if he forego the respectful demeanour of his children, he
might as well have disgraced himself before their eyes; for in the one case as
in the other, he loses that power to instruct them in the art and science of
living, which is his very raison d’être in the Divine economy.” (p.131)

I overheard a conversation at my children’s dance class last night that was just on this topic. A mother was complaining that her daughter has turned 14 and all of a sudden become very sassy and talks back a lot. She seemed to be implicitly admitting that she puts up with this attitude while saying that her own mother would have knocked her upside the head if she had behaved that way at all. Now I am not advocating knocking one’s children upside the head, but this has become pretty typical hasn’t it? Children begin to show disrespectful attitudes and parents complain to one another but seem helpless to do anything about it.

But in the above quote Charlotte tells us that when we lose our children’s respect, we lose the ability to do our God-given task of instructing them. It becomes a much bigger issue when one thinks that we fall short of what God has called us to, that we are failing in our duties. This is clearly not something we can just complain about but ultimately ignore.

So how does one break this sort of pattern? I wish I knew. My oldest is twelve and we do not seem to have developed this sort of disrespectfulness yet (though I have heard parents of 7-year-olds complain that their kids are “fresh” so I don’t think this phenomenon is confined to the teen years by any means), so I can only give some generic advice. Like that one should nip any bad attitude in the bud. And that as far as one is able, one should steer kids clear of bad companions, because this sort of thing seems to be highly contagious. And prayer is always good. But if anyone has specific advice,. particularly if this is a problem you have had to deal with, I would love to hear it.

Another common problem, which I have addressed in other posts, is that the school takes the place of the family. Since I have talked about this before, I will just quote Charlotte here:

“But there are times when ‘the relations are strained’; and of these, the moment when the child feels himself consciously a member of the school republic is one of the most trying. Now, all the tact of the parents is called into play. Now, more than ever, is it necessary that the child should be aware of the home authority, just that he may know how he stands, and how much he is free to give to the school.” (p.132)

Finally, the last thought I wanted to share today is about attitudes in the home. If your family is like ours, you have experienced the phenomenon in which one family member’s attitude seems to poison the whole atmosphere and ruin everyone’s mood. This too Charlotte addresses:

“What is it that makes the happiness of every day — great treats, great successes, great delights? No, but constant friendly looks and tones in those about us, their interest and help in our pursuits, their service and pity when we are in difficulty and trouble. No home can be happy  if a single member of it allow himself in ugly tempers and bad behaviour.  Be degrees, great sensitiveness to the moral atmosphere of the home will be acquired; the happiness of a single day will come to be regarded as a costly  vase which any clumsy touch may overthrow. Now, the attention is taken off self and its claims, and fixed upon brother and sister, father and mother, servants and neighbours; so slight a thing as a friendly look can add to the happiness of every one of these.” (p.136)

Again, I am no expert in nipping these things in the bud. It is easy to see the need and certainly easy to see how the bad humors spread, but much harder to get a handle on them.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Wonderful truths here! Parents need to be in absolute unity and have a firm, gracious approach to set boundaries for attitudes and behavior. It takes courage to step in and remind or correct a moody teen. It is even more challenging to find the right ‘way’ to encourage them to change their attitude. I find that I need to be prayerful,mindful and careful. Some of my interventions have not always been fruitful! Love CM’s words!


  2. “No home can be happy if a single member of it allow himself in ugly tempers and bad behaviour. Be degrees, great sensitiveness to the moral atmosphere of the home will be acquired; the happiness of a single day will come to be regarded as a costly vase which any clumsy touch may overthrow.” — I’ll be thinking a lot about this quote. Thanks for sharing!


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