Our violin teacher listened as my son played a piece at his lesson. He made an error on one passage and as he repeated the piece, he played the same mistake over again. She commented, “We all think practice makes perfect, but really, practice makes permanent.” To undo the mistake he had practiced 20 times, he had to re-learn the section and play it correctly about 50 times until the change started to become natural.
Children are so easy to teach and absorb lessons so willingly. What we do every day in our homes is what is becoming permanent for our children. How we speak to our family members, our reaction to stress, time spent in entertainment or at work, and time spent together or apart is all becoming permanent. The small, seemingly insignificant things that we unconsciously practice each day are becoming permanent for us and for our children.
And how much easier it is to learn it right the first time instead of spending time correcting and re-learning! The well-known quote reads:
“Sow an act and you reap a habit. Sow a habit and you reap a character. Sow a character and you reap a destiny.” Charles Reade
The scriptures teach the same principle:
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
Julie Beck, leader of the women’s organization in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, had a father that knew practice makes permanent.
“I was raised in a big family. My parents had a lot of children. And that means there were a lot of opinions and a lot of work to care for this family. But they used the tool of family home evening to really teach us. Every week we sang “Love at Home.” That was the opening hymn. And I remember as a teenager thinking it was really tiresome to sing that hymn every week.
It was more a belief than a practice. But every week, Dad would say, “Now we’ll sing our opening hymn, ‘Love at Home.’ ” And when I was about 14 or 15, in that age when you question everything, I asked my father, “Why do we have to sing this hymn every week? There are a lot of good hymns in the hymnbook we could sing.” And he looked at me very sternly, and he said, “When you have learned lesson 1, I will teach you lesson 2.”
And I don’t know what lesson 2 was; we didn’t ever get there, but I have to say that after the passage of many years, I look at my family, and we do love one another. We did, somehow, over the years, learn to love each other because that was lesson 1 my parents wanted to teach. They didn’t try to cover everything. They knew if they started with that, it would work.” Worldwide Leadership Conference, February 2008
If we are making things permanent, whether intentional or not, then what can and what should we make permanent?
Make Love a Permanent Part of Our Families
Julie’s parents wanted love to be permanent in their family. It was their Lesson One. Our children learn to love others mostly by watching how we love them. They watch how we speak and whether we listen. They watch the service and effort we put into caring for them (even though we may think it is completely missed!) They watch how we treat our spouse.
On some days, having love be a permanent part of our families may seem impossible, but it can be done! We can exchange family names for homemade gifts on holidays, attend a performance to show support, listen when someone has a bad day, plan weekly time together, pray together and read the scriptures together. Even simple tasks of service, like bringing someone a glass of water before bed, can make love permanent.
Make Self-Respect Permanent
Insisting on teeth brushing, bathing and basic levels of cleanliness is daily practice that becomes permanent. We can set the standard for modest dress. We can expect good language in our home for our children and their friends. We can require simple chores, all making self-respect more permanent.
Make Integrity Permanent
We can set the standard for honesty in our family, even if the truth means getting in trouble. We can set the example for integrity with fidelity in our marriages and honesty in our work. We can require that our children follow through on promises made, no matter how small. We can discourage gossip in our teenagers. We can have our children return borrowed toys and replace broken items for their rightful owners.
Of course, there are many more good things that parents want made permanent. It is no wonder that the home is the best place for the practice. The good daily choices our children make that seem dull or unimportant are the same simple practices that build permanent and enduring character.
It is best said in the scripture:
“Behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass.” Alma 37:6
Practice makes permanent, and permanent is powerful.