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Habit Heroes: Empowering Kids with Positive Habits

Updated: Jun 16, 2023

“We are what we repeatedly do.” - Wil Durant


When we are born into the world, our biology and environment begins to shape who we are. The people, objects, and reinforcements around us help to create positive ᠆ and negative ᠆ habits. As a parent, you have the ability to help guide your child towards forming positive behaviors. Creating an awareness around habits at a young age is an invaluable tool your child will be grateful for when reaching adulthood. While embarking on this journey of raising a habit hero, you can be a habit hero too!

What are habits and how are they created?

I am sure you have heard of habits and are likely aware of some habits of your own. To be on the same page, according to Psychology Today, habits are formed when behavior becomes automatic. They can form unintentionally or can be deliberately created. Habits become problematic when they create more problems than solve. Since they are so deeply ingrained in our brains, it can be difficult to break.

For example, let's say you have had a particularly stressful day at work. You are not sure how to rid the stress, but you’ll do anything to take the stress away for even just an hour. You remember your friend talking about her e-cigarette and how it has helped her relieve stress after work. You turn to this method of stress relief and instantly feel better. Months down the line, you have continued to use this method, and now you have formed an e-cigarette smoking habit. You start to notice changes in your body and mind and are feeling dissatisfied with where this habit has taken you. You have tried to quit, but find it difficult to get through the work day without a smoke break.

Habits are a tricky game. They can either create more problems than they solve, or they can help you create routines that set you up for success. We want to help kids understand what habits are, how they are formed, and how to add positive habits in our day.

Habit formation and kids

As humans, we are creatures of habit. When kids are included in household routines, they learn and develop habits. By growing up in a household where habits are discussed, learning is encouraged, and routines are created, kids are able to carry these skills into adulthood. The Center for Responsive Schools says that children must be actively taught to form desired habits. It takes about 66 days for a new habit to form, so as the parent, it is critical to guide your child through the process. It is not going to form overnight, so modeling, encouragement, and patience, will help your child feel supported.

Tips on building positive habits with your kids

Be a role model

Kids love to mirror. Do you remember being a kid and looking up to the older girls and boys, and thinking, “I want to be like them some day!” or maybe copying everything your mom did because you thought she was so cool. Kids are constantly watching and taking in their surroundings. They look to identify right and wrong, danger and safety, and fun and boring. Understanding habits yourself, and recognizing the positive and negative habits you showcase, is a great step in leading your children towards habit success! If you want to learn more about habits and actionable steps to change, check out Atomic Habits by James Clear.

Focus on the important habits

You might click on an article titled, “Start These 5 Habits Today if You Want to be Successful!” While the article might have great suggestions, it might not be great for you and your family. Maybe that suggestion to read in the morning doesn’t fit into your routine. Does that mean you are going to fail? Absolutely not! Finding habits that stay true to your family’s values and align with your routine are the habits that will set you up for the greatest success. To help get you started, check out the My First Mood Journal from Habitized Publishing. This journal will help get ideas flowing and take the next step towards learning all about habits.

Have patience

It is important to remember that habits do not develop overnight. When wanting to start a new habit with your kids, give them plenty of grace and encouragement towards learning. Positively reinforcing good behavior helps to ensure the behavior will occur again. Positive reinforcement refers to adding a reward to encourage more of the desired behavior. Examples of positive reinforcements in this context could be a high five with praise, a hug or pat on the back, or letting your child play their favorite game for a few minutes!

Routines and habit stacking

Building a routine can help your kids remember to do the desired habit at the same time each day. Instead of having to consciously think about the habit, if it is ingrained into the routine, they are more likely to complete it. Habit stacking is a great way to build more habits into your child’s routine. For example, if you want to see them reading for a few minutes before bed, you could stack reading right after putting on pajamas. Every night after your child puts on their pajamas, they are reminded to read right after!

Creating new habits and working on new routines with your kids is a great way to bond. They look up to you to make positive life choices, so using these tips will help to ensure their habit formation is a success. Remember to have fun and show excitement towards habit formation. It can feel frustrating for children, and you, to learn something new or go through a change in routine!

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