Childhood Development

Teaching Your Kids Better Habits

January 22, 2020

Hagerstown Parents,

Teaching kids good habits is not an easy task. Do they take pride in what they are doing? Are they completing a task just because you threatened to punish them? Is there some magic secret you are missing out on to get your kids to complete tasks?

First, as a parent with two children ages 13 & 15, and an avid reader, I can tell you there are no secrets although many would like you to think there is. This way they can sell you a course, book or who knows what.

However, here are a few tips I think will help. Before I explain, I highly recommend the book, Atomic Habits by James Clear. It has some great ideas that I will share in case you do not like to read or think you are too busy.

TASKS WITH A SPECIFIED TIME: This is not a new idea, but explaining why certain things work and how they become habits adds a lot of clarity to what works and what does not. When you tell your child something needs to be done, ask them when they will do it and make them be specific. How specific? Make them give you an actual time. If they are not old enough to do that, set a timer or make it after you finish a game or tv show.

Stay consistent and make them do this every time. One of the reasons people put things off…no deadlines! Remember, the word deadline means time is up and it needs to be done. If you really think about it, deadlines cannot be extended!

TASK STACKING: This is one of my favorites and it is very simple. Let us assume your child forgets to wash their hands before dinner and one of their responsibilities is setting the table. Teach them to ask themselves, “What am I supposed to do before I set the table, wash my hands.” Soon it will become a habit and they will stop forgetting. Later you can add to it. Another example of task stacking. Ask “When do I set the table, 5:00 pm”, “What do I do before I set the table, wash my hands.”

How many habits can you stack? I am not sure. It most likely depends on the person and the habit.

DON’T TRY TO DO IT, BECOME IT!: Often children and adults say things like “I am trying to be healthy” or “I was never good in math” and the list goes on. The word “try” basically tells your brain you will attempt something, but it might not work so you will quit or move on to something else. This leads to bad eating habits, kids who quit activity after activity and lower self-esteem.

Instead teach your child to become what they want to be or do. They start soccer for the first time, “you are now a soccer player!” You don’t try a musical instrument, you become a musician.

Think about it. Is it really that hard to maintain a proper diet when you see yourself as a healthy person? Are you challenged to keep your life in order when you see yourself as an organized person?

Teach your child to be whatever they want to be. They start playing a musical instrument and you go to the local music store to rent a clarinet. The first thing you should say is, “Now you are an official musician.” Another great example we see in our academy is when a student receives their uniform and belt.  “See, now you are a martial artist!”

At first, changing how you view things might feel a little weird and most likely your child’s brain will fight you on this. Don’t give up. Your are an amazing parent and know exactly how to teach your child good habits!

(see, I was using habit strategy #3, just in case you missed that! LOL)

Brad Fantle has been working with families for over 20 years, is an ADHD and Health Coach, has a BA in Sports and Fitness from the University of Alabama and is a 7th Degree Black Belt.