Our habits become unconscious over time.
What we do habitually becomes the foundation for our days. Those days stack up after awhile and become our months and those months roll into one big year. Whether we use the time in that year wisely is up to us more than we might be consciously aware. Whether our habits are leading us to less stress and more success is entirely up to us.
Consider our children in the light of habits.
What habits do we instill in our children? In what ways do our habits influence them?
While it is “easy” for us to consider keystone habits for ourselves- where does that put our children? Let us consider this further as parents and educators…
Realistically, children follow our models. If we have keystone habits in our day, then children will emulate these models (at least most of the time). If we display erratic behavior where we are reacting instead of planning and creating our world, then children will show those behaviors as well. Not to simplify the influence of parents, but it is crucial to consider how our models as parents and educators steer our children in different directions. Of course, every child is their own person- but they do look to adults for how to act at times.
How can we set up keystone habits in our children? While a meta-cognitive approach where we explain the value of these habits is useful, it is best to lay down an external model in which our children can begin to learn. Here are some habits that can be instilled in children that will both benefit them (and sometimes the adults too!)
Do your homework as soon as possible when getting home: Much easier said than done, I know. Between karate, soccer, yoga, religion classes, and PTA events, who has the time to get homework done as soon as possible. Heck, who has the time to do homework at all? It’s best to just scramble and do it in the morning before school, right?
This comes down to priorities and principles. While we all might be raising the next Dustin Johnson, Michael Phelps, or Bobby Fischer, the habit of clearing your “necessary” work before getting to your passions is a realistic goal to set up for children.
Overscheduling our children certainly makes this habit difficult as well. As a parent, you have to prioritize what you feel is important. If schoolwork goes by the wayside because you are going to MMA classes with your child, then so be it. But don’t expect that grades will always work out in your favor.
Complete a chore: My kids barely do chores. Feeding the pets has been something they have started doing recently, and even then it’s a struggle. I know that the reminders and patience on my part will pay off, however, the day to day routine right now is hard.
That being sad, some simple chores around the house can set up habits in your child that can lead to further success (and one less thing for you to do too!)
Make the bed: Chew and Duhigg talk about this respectively, so I don’t want to repeat what they say other than this: making your bed within a few minutes of getting up sets you up for a good day. I have been doing it for years and I can say confidently that it has done me well. Just now, after a few months into this school year, my Kindergartner will get up and start making her bed. My 2nd grader? Not so much- but it gives us a habit to work on!
Packing your own school bag: While Mom and Dad can certainly “sweep up” behind the kids and make sure that everything is ready for school, the habit of packing one’s own bag can be powerful for children. One, they accomplish the task of knowing what they need and setting it up. Two, if it is done at the right time (after homework or before the night is over) it can be a habit that sets up the next day. Just knowing that your stuff is together can reduce anxiety in the morning and leave you clear for other decisions.
Some of these ideas might be foreign to you or they might be part of your regular routine at home. As an parent and educator, I can say this without a doubt: people talk about the increase in stress in households as well as the increase in “things to do.” While working through some of these habits might temporarily increase stress, they will lay the foundation for more successes down the line. In many ways, the job of a parent is to “raise an adult.”
We want our children to stay little and cute for as long as they can, however, we need to consider what our children will be like when they get older. By establishing strong routines and habits, we are allowing them more freedom to pursue their interests instead of figuring out “how” to get through their day.
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