We recite mottos during our Morning Time.
I think the first place I encountered the idea was when listening to ACCS teacher training audio (back before there were CiRCE conferences or podcasts). The elementary classes of Logos School, at least back in the old days, had mottos they recited daily that then the teacher could call to mind when they were relevant.
As a family, we already had a few little sayings – ways to keep a frequent command familiar, memorable, and pithy.
Over the years I’ve collected mottos, adding to and subtracting from our repertoire, but finally settling down on a select few for this year.
This year, these mottos are behind the daily tab of our binder, and most days we go over them quickly. We alternate this selection with a selection of pithy Shakespearean proverbs each term.
These mottos are not only reminders for the kids. They are reminders for myself, as well.
Obey right away, all the way, with a good attitude every day.
Clearly, this is an important one particularly for the toddlers, and since they’re with us during Morning Time, they’ve all learned this family motto (that we originally learned from Matt Whitling, though Ted Tripp has a similar one) in happy times when they aren’t being reprimanded and required to do anything. I think that helps.
And, sometimes I’m tempted to wield this saying like a sword over the heads of my older children who think they are growing above the law, but usually when I want to slam them with it it’s because I want to shut down the argument which they need to work through in order to grow in understanding, to grow in maturity and independence, and to be heard. “Be careful what you command” is even more true for teens than for toddlers.
What would be more effective for them would be to see me applying this motto to myself – to show them the way.
Yes, this motto is for me as much as for the toddlers. If I can’t obey my Lord, how can I expect them to obey their mother? We’re all imperfect obeyers – trying, being held accountable, but always needing reminders, forgiveness, and grace.
….with a good attitude, everyday… reverberates in my head all day. And that’s exactly what I need and why we continue to recite the mottos: we get truth stuck in our heads so the Spirit can easily bring conviction when necessary.
Don’t pass it up; pick it up.
This saying revolutionized my thinking when I first encountered it as a young mom trying to stay above the chaos (and not succeeding). It taught me to pay attention and even notice that I was passing things up.
Now I can say it to the kids as I see them step on a magazine as they walk through a room. Instead of getting angry or exasperated (or, at least, masking my bad reactions), I have practice saying “Don’t pass it up; pick it up” in a chipper voice.
I don’t expect it to make a huge difference to the kids’ actual behavior now. But I do expect these words to haunt them when they have their own homes someday. It’s a little strategy for life success that I’m putting down in the back recesses of their minds.
And as I move through the house throughout the day, it’s primarily a reminder for myself. A strategy for sanity I must be the first to heed.
Business before pleasure.
We encountered this saying first when reading Hillyer’s A Child’s History of the World. The boys were amused by the repeated phrase in the chapter about the first Olympics, and so I seized upon it as a motto.
It is the basis and reminder phrase for our morning flow: Business before pleasure. No going off and doing your own thing while you have business left to finish. Period. If you do, more “business” (i.e. housework) will be added to your list or pleasure shall be removed (i.e. no computer that day).
Voices: Cheerful, Polite, Strong
No mumbling, watch your tone, look me in the eye – knowing how to hold yourself and speak confidently is a skill I want my children to have. It’s a skill I’d like to have, but I scorned and hid from all speaking practice until about two years ago, when I finally realized that it maybe I was wrong about not needing to know how to communicate with others out loud (ya think?).
This is not just a reminder for the kids. It is a reminder for me that – even with the kids – I use a cheerful, polite, yet firm tone. I have no problems with the strong and firm tone in my own house, but a convivial atmosphere requires cheerful and polite as well.
Leave it better than you found it.
A good principle to live by. It applies at the park, when you borrow something from a friend, when you leave a friend’s house. It’d be downright amazing if each member of the family (myself included) put this into practice every time we left a room – or the car (maybe that will be our next practical application!).
But I had another sudden pang of application the other day. What about deposits v. withdrawals on my children’s “bank accounts” of affection? What if, with each interaction we had, I made sure they were better for it, more sure of the fact that they belonged and were loved – which means holding them to a standard still, for sure, but tone matters.
The mottos just keep giving. With greater familiarity comes not contempt, but contemplation.
I highly recommend the practice.