It didn't take long after I started teaching my children virtues that my daughter called me out:
"Mom, you need to work on your gentle virtue"
I stopped in my tracks. She was completely right. In all my excitement teaching my children their virtues I had forgotten (conveniently) that all my efforts would be in vain if I was not modeling virtuous behavior to my children.
I honestly thought that the virtue cards were really only for the kids but as my daughter so boldly pointed out...I needed to learn my virtues just as importantly as my children did.
Here is my step-by-step list for how I am currently training myself in virtues:
1. Make a list of who you would like to model There are certain people that I have met throughout the years that truly inspire me to be the mother I want to be. These are women that may not be perfect but each one exemplifies certain virtues that I would like to learn. At this point in my life, I look for mothers who love being with their children, who talk highly of their spouses and who speak gently (most of the time!) It's just like admiring an athlete. If you want to excel at your sport, you study the form of those who are performing at the top of their game.
2. Write down the virtues you see them demonstrating
It's not enough to say , for instance, that Jane Doe is such a good mother. Be specific. What is it about that person that you want to model?
3. Start working down the list one virtue at a time
Once I finished step #2, my list was so long. It felt overwhelming to me to try to work on all those virtues. I would fail daily by 9:30am most days! Instead, chose one virtue to really challenge yourself with. Work on it until it comes easier to you. Gradually add more virtues. No biggie if you have to go back and repeat one over and over again (speaking from experience!)
4. Challenge yourself to perform the virtue with CONSISTENCY
While it's easy to perform a virtue every once in a while, it is really something when you can do it during all conditions especially difficult ones. Virtues such as patience, diligence and obedience are easy when things are going your way, but take practice to demonstrate when kids are acting up and you haven't slept in 2 days!
5. Challenge yourself to perform the virtue with EASE
The ease in which the virtue is demonstrated will give you a pretty good idea of how you are doing with it. Aim for implementing the virtue without giving it much thought. I've mentioned in previous posts that my children are already implementing the virtues without me directing them every single time. I am aiming for this myself. Using the athlete analogy, the seasoned athlete performs their sport as if it were second nature. Movements are fluid and seem effortless. So should our virtuous behavior be.
6. Practice the virtues with JOY When training yourself in virtues, it is important to do so with joy! Practicing virtuous behavior should be delightful even if it is difficult or seemingly impossible. Avoid complaining and feeling sorry for yourself when you are using your virtues when others aren't or when you constantly have to bite your tongue to keep yourself from losing your temper. Being virtuous is reward enough. The more you practice joy, they more it will become second nature as well.
Recently, I got to put my virtue training to the test. My family with girls with long hair got....lice. Are you itchy yet? I wanted to cry (ok, I did cry) and the problem seemed insurmountable. Each child took 2 hours to comb out, not to mention all the laundry, the vacuuming, the husband out of town and no family in the area to help me out. The girls almost saw their mom lose it.
But I remembered that throughout the difficult moments, my children are WATCHING ME. My behavior during this trial is the behavior my children will learn to model. Working on my own virtue training magnifies what my children are learning with their own virtue lessons. While I hope we never have to go through another lice fiasco, I can see why the trial was given to me only weeks before my series on teaching virtue. Funny how those things work out huh?
Don't forget to visit the 20 other bloggers in the 5 days of Mothering and Homemaking Series! The posts are filled with words of encouragement and wonderful ideas, work on your virtue of prudence and head over right now! ;)
Wife to an amazing husband and mom to three beautiful girls. We are a Catholic family raising our children in the faith. We will be beginning our homeschool adventure and look forward to sharing our journey on this blog!