Dealing with bad habits is part and parcel of being a parent. The human brain is hardwired to seek out comfort shortcuts in response to certain environmental factors such as anxiety or boredom, so it’s little wonder that children from toddlers to teens can soon fall into bad ways. Teaching our kids to be emotionally resilient is about giving them the right tools to cope with negative moods. If a habit starts to have a bad impact on their lives, then it’s a good idea to teach them how to break it – a skill they can carry forward into adulthood. In fact, you might even learn something along the way that you can use in your own life.
Understand Why They Are Forming A Habit
Learning to recognise the motivation behind your child’s behaviour – or your own – is the key to making a lasting change. Generally in children, habits are a self-soothing mechanism is response to environmental stressor, rather than a boredom response. The world is full of new and challenging experiences as you grow up, and feeling a little overwhelmed is very natural. As adults we sometimes forget that our children are coming across new experiences almost every day, from little challenges to huge lifestyle shifts, such as starting school. It’s little wonder that they get unsettled – even as adults when we find a situation difficult we may find ourselves wanting to know how to vape!
Emotions are something we can try to hide from, but understanding and talking about them – our own and our children’s – is a necessary part of our mental wellbeing. Problems occur when we don’t have any way of processing what we feel, so we turn to a crutch instead. By teaching our children how to talk about emotions, we give them a powerful example that can help them to stop bad habits in their tracks.
Offer A Positive Reward
Just as important as challenging negative behaviours is rewarding positive ones. It’s a good tactic to use praise as a tool for rewarding good behaviour in your children. Something as simple as a sticker chart to reward things like staying in bed until a certain time, brushing their teeth or asking for things nicely can work very well. Accompany this by telling your child how proud you are of what they have done, and explain why. For example: ‘I’m very proud that you helped your little sister today. It showed that you are kind to other people, and that makes everyone happy.’ Likewise, if your child is in a bad habit, don’t get angry. Explain why it is a bad idea and what the consequences are. Cause and effect is something all children need to learn. It may take a bit of repetition, but if you are consistent with it, then you will quite quickly see results.
Talk, reason and explain – quite often we assume children understand a lot less than they actually do. Shying away from having difficult discussions won’t help. Speak about behaviours in a way that children can understand, but don’t avoid talking about them all together.
** This is a contributed post **