By Karen Lerfald, Director of Special Services
What habits would you like to see in your children? Being kind, being positive, being tidy, money management, eating healthy or being active? Summer brings a lot of downtime for kids, but also provides opportunities to build healthy habits. I wanted to take a closer look at how healthy habits are formed, why it is important to help our children develop healthy habits, and some ideas to help form these habits in your children.
The overall key to forming habits is very simple, to repeat the action daily. However, this is easier said than done. In the book, Atomic Habits by James Clear, the author states that there is a science behind habit formation. This includes cues, which spark our habits; craving, the motivating force behind every habit; response or the actual habit you perform; and the reward or reinforcement. No matter your age, these pieces need to be in place to develop a habit. Willpower and good intentions are not enough to develop or maintain a healthy habit.
Surroundings also shape behavior, so it is important to be aware of the forces in your surroundings that support healthy habits as well as forces that can get in the way of good intentions. When developing healthy habits, the individual, child or adult, should have someone who will hold them accountable as well as be aware of forces that could interfere with forming a healthy habit like friends, social media, or gaming.
When developing a healthy habit, preparation is essential. Preparation allows the individual to see patterns, anticipate failures, and address weaknesses. Also, it can be helpful to pair a habit that you like with a habit that is more difficult to follow.
It is important that adults help children develop positive habits, so they can become their best possible selves. Parents want their children to fulfill their potential, and developing healthy habits is one way to do this. Having a conversation with your child about what type of person they want to be can start the process of developing healthy habits.
As kids are home for the summer, developing the habit of tidiness in your child may be essential to prevent a mess from building up at home. As stated previously, it is essential to develop a plan for the habit you want to develop. If you have a young child, reading the book, The Berenstain Bears and the Messy Room, may be a great place to start. From a young age, children can help sort socks, dust low surfaces, and pick up toys when done playing.
Explaining why cleaning is important is also a step that cannot be forgotten. You can enforce the pick-up rule before bed and tie chores to an allowance. Giving bonuses or charging fees if a job is not complete may also motivate children. Visual charts and rewards are important to reinforce the habit. Kids do not always see the benefit, so they need a reward to keep them going.
As a parent, you can help your child understand the importance of sticking with and developing healthy habits. Even though the changes seem small and unimportant at first, after time they will develop into remarkable results.