The road to happiness goes through the will and, therefore, it is key in the education of our children. Willpower can lead us to master our feelings of sadness, envy, anger… and thus lead us to a happy life.
There are many times when we feel, for example, an irrational envy or an outburst of anger or resentment that can trigger real bitterness. The will makes us capable of redirecting our thoughts and forgetting at least for a moment those feelings of envy or anger, and when we return to those that have motivated them, we are more serene and do not give them so much importance. In this way, we remove the bitterness from our hearts.
We must help our children to achieve this mastery of the will, just as we strive to achieve it ourselves, because it is the key to a happy life. And it’s about something simple: changing your thoughts.
The recipe is simple, yes, but it requires an important effort of will, and has an enormous reward. In the medium term, it gives us a happy heart full of beautiful feelings and capable of banishing everything that hurts us. It is the only secret of the truly strong man, the one who is able to bend his will and dominate himself and forces himself to think about what he chooses.
And the next step may then be to force oneself to do what must be done.
It is the cornerstone of our children’s education: to teach them and help them to master their will and thus, to control themselves and choose the right path.
Charlotte Mason (a late 19th century British educator whose legacy remains the best educational system I could ever imagine) talks extensively about this conquest of will and how to help our children achieve it:
“(… ) invite him to cooperate, let him try and set out to do what he is commanded with enthusiasm, and then it will be his own will that compels him and not that of his parents. The greatest effort, the greatest achievement of human life has begun: forcing yourself to do what you have to do. Let him know what it’s all about, let him enjoy the feeling of triumph and your congratulations every time he finishes that task he started, every time he refocuses on his homework, or every time he shakes off a gloomy mood and exchanges a sour look for a smile.” (Charlotte Mason. Home schooling).
And so, a child from a very young age can gradually bend the will. This self-control and fortitude are more important than we think; the formation of the will, as Dr. Morell says, is more important for a person’s destiny than that of the intellect.