Teaching Your Kids Habits

“The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.”

– Samuel Johnson

Something I am constantly thinking about around my daughter is the FACT that I am teaching her something at every moment. All of my small actions are teaching her what her small actions should like.

We are teaching subconsciously at all times, as our kids are learning subconsciously at all times. I feel like a lot of parents focus on “teaching moments.” There is nothing wrong with that. But when you think about yourself and how you’ve developed, and why you do the things you do, you usually think back to how someone was, and what they repeatedly did as why you do the same.

One of the most powerful things we can teach our kids is how to use habits. I like to look at it as having the ability to program your brain in order to accomplish what you want or need. In fact, you can’t accomplish much without them! Unfortunately, it is difficult to get the right habits started with your kids, because they have a hard time caring about that the “reward” for the habit of cleaning your room everyday is having a clean room. We first need to have these habits ourselves already OR decide that it will be something you do together. When your kids see you doing something consistently, they attribute that to how someone should normally do something, and that helps.

My daughter and I have been forming some habits together. Kids love doing things with their parents, and habit formation is no different. Even when the habits you’re forming are not normally things they like to do. One example for us, is we decided to make sure we take our shoes off at the door. Our “Cue” is walking through the door. Our “Routine” is putting the shoes where they go. My “Reward” is not having dirt tracked through the house and her “Reward” is doing the same thing as dad which is something she cares about.

It is a little habit for sure, but a habit nonetheless. As we begin to continuously develop good habits together, we are adding to the “routine” aspect of how to create habits in the first place. We talk about habits a lot, and it is important to me that as she gets older, she can look back and identify the habits she actually made and how she did it, and take that discipline forward to create more complicated and strung together ones. A big part of this is helping your kid understand the steps they are taking, and the steps they took, to get them their useful habits. I do this by talking about it a lot! Remember, you will work A LOT harder trying to teach your kids any sort of discipline if you are not disciplined yourself. I am not perfect in this obviously, but this is a powerful motivator that helps keep me in check!

Understanding habits is important both for you AND your kids. One of my favorite books on the subject is “Atomic Habits” by James Clear. The cue, routine, and reward aspects of habit creation are discussed in this book. I will provide a link for it!

- Matthew

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