Habit Is Ten Natures

Aug 30, 2011

Habit is stronger than nature.

Habit formation is important.

99% of everything we think and do is habit. It's our responsibility to make that 99% good!

Charlotte Mason told us habit is ten natures, but what does that even mean?

Let's define nature.

To answer that question, we must first ask "what is nature?"

Nature is a combination of things all humans have in common: Love, a desire for society, a desire to be esteemed, to live free of lives, injustice and wrong-doing.

This is our nature as members of the human race.
"...joy and grief, love and resentment, benevolence, sympathy, fear, and much else, are common to all of us." ( vol 1 pg 100)
Add to our nature heredity - our traits and inclinations which are inherited through our family genes.

Whether temperament, talents, a person's style of handwriting, disposition, we have inherited much from our family. The sum of these attributes of nature and heredity make up our natural inclinations.

We must consider physical conditions as well. Is a child small? Large? Strong or weak?  All of these together add up to our human nature.
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Our nature is strong. 
We are driven by it. It is in our DNA - our very being!

Unfortunately, many parents these days either dismiss poor behavior, believing the child will simply outgrow his nature, or they mistakenly believe that poor behavior equals being strong-willed.
"...they let a child grow free as the wild bramble, putting forth unchecked whatever is in him––thorn, coarse flower, insipid fruit,––trusting, they will tell you, that the grace of God will prune and dig and prop the wayward branches lying prone. .... but the poor man endures anguish, is torn asunder in the process of recovery which his parents might have spared him had they trained the early shoots which should develop by-and-by into the character of their child. " (vol 1 pg 104)

Habit is as strong as ten natures.

So what does the phrase "habit is ten natures" mean? Simply that habit is stronger than nature itself.
'Habit is ten natures.' If that be true, strong as nature is, habit is not only as strong, but tenfold as strong. (vol 1 pg 105)
Habit runs on the Lines of Nature.––But habit runs on the lines of nature: the cowardly child habitually lies that he may escape blame; the loving child has a hundred endearing habits; the good-natured child has a habit of giving; the selfish child, a habit of keeping. Habit, working thus according to nature, is simply nature in action, growing strong by exercise. (vol 1 pg 105)
Habit is strong because it runs along the lines of our nature.

Our natural inclination to do something is simply because we were born that way, or has become a habit trained into us. Either way, the more we exercise the inclination or habit, the stronger it becomes - good or bad.

We can use good habits to correct bad habits.

But Habit may be a Lever.––But habit, to be the lever to lift the child, must work contrary to nature, or at any rate, independently of her. (vol 1 pg 105)
Our habits may be running along the lines of nature, but we can overcome bad habits with good ones. It's likened to using a lever to lift a train off of one track to set it on another.
"Direction of Lines of Habit.––This relation of habit to human life––as the rails on which it runs to a locomotive––is perhaps the most suggestive and helpful to the educator; for just as it is on the whole easier for the locomotive to pursue its way on the rails than to take a disastrous run off them, so it is easier for the child to follow lines of habit carefully laid down than to run off these lines at his peril. It follows that this business of laying down lines towards the unexplored country of the child's future is a very serious and responsible one for the parent. It rests with him to consider well the tracks over which the child should travel with profit and pleasure; and, along these tracks, to lay down lines so invitingly smooth and easy that the little traveller is going upon them at full speed without stopping to consider whether or no he chooses to go that way." vol 1 pg 109
We must lay down new tracks and send our children off on them.

The more the train runs along those new lines, the more the old lines will rust away into nothing over time. The key is to get the child running on the new line!

Habit training as a part of parenting. 

I bring all of this up because I am working at this with everyone in our household, myself included.

Basically, we choose one habit we need to correct, then work on it for about 8 weeks. Afterwards, we move to the next one.

We humans are so fraught with imperfections, we could do this for the rest of our lives. But it's so worth it.

Happy Parenting!


  1. Tina Jenkins8/30/2011

    Hi Michelle, I look forward to this.  I think a lot of us struggle with this.  We have the information available, but the hard part is presenting it on a child's level.  The Great Teacher and Young People Ask books are good, but it takes work on our part to make it hands-on for them.  I love the updated YPA vol 1, don't you?  I was wondering when they were going to do that.

  2. Right..those books help immensely. But it's hard to convert it to
    "lessons" from which we can instill specific behaviors/habits. So I've
    decided to just write my own lesson plan :-P

  3. I wrote a post about my thoughts on this earlier this summer and still I struggle with changing habits.  Implementing new ones I can do, but correcting them...hmm, I'm working on that.  Looking forward to reading what else CM said about this in later Volumes. Thanks for your thoughts.

  4. Changing habits can be difficult. We must target one habit and replace it with the opposite habit. But it's never easy, is it?


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