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Developing Good Habits

Aiming for good habits

by Laurence Chilcott (revised, originally published in 2011)

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)

Aims

To consider that habits, once acquired, can be difficult to break, but that some habits are worth acquiring.

Preparation and materials

  • None required, although you may like to show some illustrative pictures for the story in the ‘Assembly’, Step 2, in which case you will also need the means to do so.

Assembly

  1. Suggest that there will have been many occasions when the children have heard their parents telling them, ‘Stop doing that!’

    Often, it will be because they have been doing something that has become an annoying habit.

    Invite children to suggest some habits that can be annoying to others or harmful to ourselves. Suggestions may include biting our nails, picking our noses, sucking our thumbs, not closing doors, leaving lights on, rocking back on chairs, playing music too loudly and humming.

  2. Mention that some habits, however, are not annoying, but worth trying to develop. Ask the children to listen to the following story, which illustrates this point.

    Mr Hosey had worked on the railways for over 50 years, and had been a stationmaster at Middledean for 20 of those years. It was a fairly small, but busy station, and Mr Hosey took pride in keeping it attractive and welcoming. He kept the paintwork bright and varnished the benches every spring. Windows sparkled and the waiting rooms were warm and comfortable. No one ever dropped litter in Mr Hosey’s station; the place was so clean that no one wanted to spoil it. In the summer, he planted tubs and boxes with attractive flowers and shrubs, and passengers often told him how lovely the station looked.

    Now Mr Hosey was approaching his seventieth birthday and it was time for him to retire. He had enjoyed his working life, but he was looking forward to an extra hour in bed and time to do the jobs at home that he hadn’t got round to. The staff held a party for him on his last day, and he was presented with many gifts and cards. Before he caught the train home, he took a last look around the station, wiping the tears from his cheeks as he thought of all the happy times he’d known.

    For the first three months of his retirement, he hardly stopped working. He redesigned his front garden, repaired the fence at the back and redecorated every room in the house. After all the important jobs were done, he had more time for relaxing by reading and listening to music; he even enjoyed visiting the local supermarket for the weekly shop. He often talked fondly about his work as a stationmaster and one day, his wife suggested that he go back to the station to visit his old colleagues and see how things were going.

    The next day, that’s just what he did. The staff were thrilled to see him again and told him that retirement must be agreeing with him because he was looking so well. Mr Hosey was delighted to see that the station was still looking well cared for and noted that the benches had recently had a fresh coat of varnish. He met the new stationmaster, who was a little younger than he had expected, but Mr Hosey was assured that his successor was very eager to keep up the high standards of care that he had maintained.

    Mr Hosey spent an enjoyable day with his old friends, but it was soon time for him to catch the train home. He walked out onto the platform that he had walked along so many times before and watched the people coming and going. A train pulled in and he couldn’t help noticing a young woman struggling to board the train with a pushchair, a suitcase and two young children in tow. With a smile, Mr Hosey picked up the pushchair and the suitcase and carried them into the carriage so that the mother only had to think about her children. ‘Thank you,’ she said. ‘I was so worried about how I was going to manage.’

    Stepping off the train, Mr Hosey saw an old man loaded with parcels, so he took the largest one and carried it to the carriage for him. ‘So kind of you,’ said the old man. ‘I have to say, I was struggling a bit.’

    Back on the platform, Mr Hosey noticed a young man with his foot in a plaster cast. He was leaning heavily on his crutches and finding it hard to make the step up to the train. It wasn’t long before he felt the reassuring hand of Mr Hosey at his elbow, supporting him to ensure that he got on safely.

    It was only when Mr Hosey saw the mother and her two children giving him a friendly wave as the train pulled out that it struck him – they were on the train that he was supposed to catch! He had spent his life helping people on and off trains and, although he had retired, he could not drop the habit. He chuckled and said to himself, ‘An hour till the next train – ah well, I think I’ve got time for a cup of tea, and then I’ll check out the waiting room.’

Time for reflection

Ask the children if they can think of any positive habits that they might have.

Listen to a range of responses.

Discuss other positive habits that are worth cultivating, such as saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, doing our homework in good time and brushing our teeth twice a day.

Mr Hosey was habitually helpful and thoughtful throughout his working life. Think about what he might have done if he was a teacher, nurse or lunchtime supervisor.

Breaking some habits, such as nail-biting, thumb-sucking and nose-picking, is not easy. Ask the following questions, leaving time for the children to reflect on their answers.

- Do we have a bad habit that we may need help to overcome?
- Are there people or strategies that we could use to help us?
- Are there good habits that we could try to adopt?

Prayer
Dear God,
We pray today that we will try to develop good habits that make us kinder, more helpful people.
Just as Jesus helped people who were sick and lonely, may we be thoughtful in the way we treat others.
If we see someone who is sad today, help us to try to cheer them up.
If we see someone in need of a friend, help us to be friendly.
If we see someone who is hurt, help us to comfort them.
Amen.

Song/music

‘When I needed a neighbour’ (Come and Praise, 65)

Publication date: March 2019   (Vol.21 No.3)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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