I love to learn from Moms who are ahead of me in the journey of motherhood. With 20+ years of child training experience, our guest, Linda Sears, shares her wisdom on what must be done in training good habits in our children.
One of the most common questions asked of me from young mothers is, “How do I train good habits into my children? How do I get them to do what they are supposed to do?” I started this adventure of motherhood almost 3 decades ago, and I still don’t have all the answers. I know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed. I’m still learning and growing myself, but here are some things you can do to help train good habits into your children.
Training Good Habits
Create routines into your days. There is comfort and security in knowing what is going to happen next in your busy, often chaotic lives. Knowing what comes next takes the stress out of decision-making. Let’s use the example of making beds. You want it to be an everyday occurrence. When it’s the normal thing you do after you wake up, it won’t take long for a child to go through the motions without asking ‘why?’ or ‘what?’ You wake up. You make your bed. Every day. You don’t think about it, You just do it. It’s what we do. Every day.
“Practice makes perfect.” How many times have we heard this? It’s true. When you go through the motions every day, making your bed first thing in the morning, you’ll create a path through those neurons which send a signal through brain that says, “ahh, a new day, I must first make the bed!” And you won’t even have to think about it. Young ones learn by repeating things over and over. How many times have you read the same story to your child? They learn the alphabet by singing the abc song over and over and over again. It’s the same things with developing new habits.
As you help your children establish good habits, let them ‘own’ those habits. Once they know what is expected and have the ability to take care of a task on their own, give them the responsibility of remembering and following through. Keeping with our example of making your bed, let your child know that there is a consequence for NOT making their bed first thing in the morning. They’ve learned that the routine is to make their bed immediately after waking up. They’ve been taught how to make their bed. They are capable of making their bed. And they’ve been told that there will be no breakfast if their bed is not made. It won’t take many mornings of eating a cold breakfast before they learn it is not such a big deal to get that bed made first thing!
You will reinforce the good habits if you are modeling the good habit yourself. Do you make your bed when you get up? Are you working alongside your child or standing over him pointing your finger and giving orders? Holding yourself up to the same standard you are holding your child to will help them adopt the good habits more easily.
Now, maybe you are sitting there, shouting, “But we have so many bad habits to work on!” I know, I’m right there with you. Take some time to sit down and make a list of all the habits you’d like your child to have. It will probably be a long list – that’s ok. Now do some prioritizing. What is it that is driving you crazy? What does Dad think they need to work on? What habits embarrass you most when you take your children out in public? Put those things at the top of your list. What habits are your children still a bit too young to master? Put those things at the bottom of the list. Commit to working on one habit. The one at the top of your list. Show them what you want them to do. Help them practice. Do it together everyday for a week. Let them do it by themselves everyday for a week, with you following up with a little help and instruction as needed. Some time in there, begin enforcing the consequence (no breakfast until bed is made) and remain consistent with it.
Then add the next habit on your list. If you add one new habit each month, that’s 12 new habits a year! Two per month means 24 a year. One per week, that’s 52 new habits a year. Some habits will come about easily. Some will take a lifetime of work. Investing in your child’s good behavior and habits might be work, but it is so worth it! Stay the course, Mom, your child will thank you.
Linda Sears is a stay-at-home wife, homeschooling mother and doting grandmother. She and her husband have 8 children, a daughter-in-law, 2 sons-in-law and 6 grandchildren, so far. They have been homeschooling for more than 20 years, graduating 4 of their 8 children, with 4 more to go. You’ll find her at Apron Strings & Other Things where she blogs about life as she knows it with children in various stages of cutting those apron strings. You can also find Linda on Facebook, Google +, and Pinterest.