The Google definition for the word “habit” is a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up. A habit often reminds me of something that is negative like nail biting or nose picking. It wasn’t until the past few years that this word has taken on new meaning for me and my family. A habit is something that is hard to break, takes time to develop and is formed because of a repetitive action. Healthy habits take work, and it’s up to us to instill and encourage them in our children.
When we turn this word into a positive one, we end up with habits that form our lives in a good way. We all have habits similar to these: reading, tooth brushing, exercising, or morning routines. In order for our children to display healthy habits, we must first model them and then implement them. Now parents, these steps are so hard! Modeling healthy habits is tough when we don’t feel like working out or reading a good book or even relaxing (because honestly, relaxing is a habit too!) And then implementing these amazing habits with our children can be exhausting because they need consistent reminders to stay focused. Because of this, I want to share what has worked for us. The goal is to teach our children good habits so that they not only grow up to be fully functioning adults, but these habits can help them feel accomplished and may even give us a little peace along the way.
Keep it Simple
If I could give you parenting advice that was summed up into one phrase, it would be this one! Sometimes we have so many things we want to work on with our children, but the best way to begin is with just one. Think about the one that makes the day more difficult for you. It could be brushing their teeth at night, remembering their water bottle for school, putting away their clothes after a shower, or making their lunch for the next day. One of the first habits we worked on with our daughter was brushing and flossing her teeth every night, and years later, we now see the benefit of teaching her how to make that a daily habit.
After you choose the habit to work on, devote your life to reminding your child to do it. This is why we only choose one! When we worked on teeth brushing and flossing, we did our best to remember every night. We didn’t let her miss a single one. After a while, when we said, “It’s time to get ready for bed,” she would brush and floss without needing a reminder. Keep in mind, the length of time it takes for a habit to be formed will be different for every child, situation and age.
Watch Out! They are Smart Little Boogers
These kids of ours are very, very smart. They know when we mean business and when they can slip under our radar. They will use our forgetfulness to get out of doing the work we want them to do. I have seen this happen in my own house. And sometimes it may feel like we are task-masters, driving them nuts. And yes, that is exactly what we are. We cannot miss a single prompt to help them develop healthy habits. When we do, there is a good chance they will try to find an “out.”
Habits for Life
Here is a list of healthy habits that you might want to instill in your own children. If I missed any that are important in your family, share those with me below! I would love to know what you are working on! And just to be clear, we do some of these really well, others kinda well and a few not at all! Choose the ones that bring the most peace to your home.
Bedtime: brushing teeth, flossing, bath/shower, setting out clothes for the next day
Habits to earn a reward: cleaning their bedroom or bathroom before watching tv,
After school: take lunch box out of backpack & put in the kitchen, put backpack away
Laundry day: put hamper in the hallway (or laundry room) after waking up, have a basket for each child’s clean clothes so they can take their basket to their room at the end of the day (or days because let’s be honest. . .laundry ain’t ever done in a day!)
Book reading: choose a time of day or a day of the week where everyone sits down to read on their own. If this is new to your family, you may experience some resistance at first.