Formation of Character – forming opinions, toxic environments

‘Parents sometimes forget that it is their duty to give their children grounds for sound opinions upon many questions which concern us as human beings and as citizens; and then they are scandalised when the young folk air audacious views picked up from some advanced light of their own age and standing. But they will have views; the right to have and to hold an opinion is one of those points on which the youth makes a stand.’
Formation of Character by Charlotte Mason, Pg 228


In Part III of the above book, Charlotte Mason is addressing the relationship between home and school life and aspects of discipline and training pertaining to both. The passage above was included under ‘Table-Talk,’ which she believed afforded parents ‘their best opportunity of influencing the opinions of the young.’
There is some very good advice regarding opportunities for parents navigating the years during which children are forming their opinions. Her view is that young people are trying to construct a chart to steer by. They want to know what to do and they also want to know what to think about everything.

But it’s not our duty to think for our children…

A few parents are unjust in this matter. It is not only the right, but the duty of the growing intelligence to consider the facts that come before it, and to form conclusions; and the assumption that parents have a right to think for their children, and pass on their own views unmodified upon literature and art, manners and morals, is exceedingly trying to the young; the headstrong resent it openly, the easy-going avoid discussion, and take their own way.

‘Table-Talk’ worked well when all our children were all still homeschooling and life was more regular. Now we have older ones often absent at mealtimes – occupied with evening classes, Bible studies, meetings or sport. It’s not always easy to have those conversations but I know they are still very important.

Many parents assume that once a young people reaches the age of 18 years, their work is done but the years from around this this age on need as much care (and prayer!) just in a different way, to previous years. I’ve heard enough sad stories of young people who seemed to be fine until they reached their late teens and even early twenties. There are so many important decisions to be made during these years and new spheres of influence are felt. A weak foundation with unformed opinions won’t stand the pressure.

We recently had a state election and my son who had just turned 20 was voting for the first time. On the way to the polling booth we were talking about an issue that on the surface didn’t seem important. I explained to him what I thought and what the consequences might be if the issue was pushed to its logical conclusion.

He hadn’t made that connection. His generation has grown up in an environment different to that of mine. He has been home educated all his life, loves the Lord, is active in Church and involved in leadership, and has some great friends. But the culture around him leaks its toxins into the atmosphere. We’re all affected by this toxicity to a certain extent, but there are things his generation have never questioned because they are ‘normal’ to them. Now that he is spending more time in that environment he unwittingly is affected by it.

I want to use every opportunity to help my young adults chart these waters. Mealtimes may not be practical but some of my best conversations with my young adults have occurred in the most unlikely places – when I’ve been sensitive enough to see the open door.

‘For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive very thought to make it obedient to Christ.’
2 Corinthians 10:3-5


8 thoughts on “Formation of Character – forming opinions, toxic environments

  1. I appreciate when wise moms like you who are further down the path share their thoughts and means of parenting. This is a struggle we are just engaging in, really as our oldest is 10. We do carefully discuss these types of issues at dinner and I'm so thankful for my husband's careful thinking and leadership in this arena.


  2. So interesting, Carol!!! 🙂 I've actually been having more conversations that are deeper and on deeper topics with my 11 yo and 10 yo…love the Scripture you ended with. Thanks for sharing!


  3. I love this post Carol! I do love \”Table Talk\” with our children. Mealtimes are when most of our deep conversations take place. But I also have wonderful conversations with them individually. I will miss these days when they are gone. I learned that with my older 2 children who are now 28 and 32. We need to redeem every moment.


  4. My daughter is graduating this month and getting married this summer. She dais the most influencial thing in high school was all the conversations we had about books, movies and a variety of topics. My sons have been wanting more of these talks and are starting to hang out with us to listen and join in more. The talking is so important.


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