I am sure you would agree that parenting comes along with a humongous and critical responsibility of helping our children live on the right path. And this path is chosen by nothing but the little choices that we make at every step. And guess what? These little choices are nothing but our habits! Habits are things we do without even thinking about. They can seem like little things, but habits possess great power to change our lives in either direction. This is why it’s crucial that parents are intentional about cultivating good habits in kids. These habits can be as basic as eating at the dining table or tidying up the room every day or brushing teeth twice a day. But the fact remains that our little choices become habits and they really matter! But what are those essentials habits that must be instilled in kids?
1. Love & respect your body
Well, the first life lesson I have always believed in and keep reinforcing to my kids is to love their own body. Accept it, take care of it and respect it. Hence a few essential habits to be imbibed in kids are:
- Eat mindfully
- Devote some time every day to fitness
- Maintain personal hygiene
2. Try new things
This is one habit we really want to help our kids establish. Change can be hard. Inviting new things into our ‘comfortable life’ is something many of us would prefer not to do. Encourage your kids to resist this kind of comfort. I tell my kids to try at least one new thing every single day. Maybe it’s a new food, a new activity, or possibly even striking up a conversation with a new friend. This one habit will help kids step outside of their comfort zone and do incredible things in life.
3. Have a healthy sleep schedule
Help your kids establish the habit of cherishing their sleep and making it a priority in life. A good bedtime routine and consistent bedtime go a long way in helping kids (and adults) have happy and effective days.
4. Connect with self & be grateful
Another key habit I want my kids to form is saying a ‘bedtime prayer’. Perhaps this is one habit I have carried forward from my childhood and believe in it to the core. Prayer is essential for life. It connects one to the force within and provides comfort. Start this habit very young by praying at meals or before bed and express gratitude for everything around you.
5. Work every day
Teach your children to do chores at an early age and to work hard at school. This habit is not only about life skills but in the long run, forms an essential 21st-century skill for this generation.
6. Adopting reading habits
Instil the habit of reading daily in children; it will help them become creative and imaginative. Help your kids find a time during the day when they can build the habit of reading. Then help them do it. Parents should also model this habit by having a family read-aloud time as often as possible. We try to do this every day at bedtime, but it can be after dinner, breakfast, or any other time that fits your family schedule. When choosing bedtime stories, make sure they are stories from your children’s favourite books. Soon your children will look forward to the reading sessions. Whatever method you choose, ensure your children read every day.
7. Tell the truth
We don’t often think of lying as a habit, but it certainly is. It’s a habit our kids can easily fall into. The best way to fight this bad habit is to teach our kids to always tell the truth. But you and I both know that takes training because telling the truth doesn’t come naturally and it’s not easy. There are lots of times in life where a lie seems so much easier. We have to help our kids understand what it looks like to tell the truth and how to do it with the right heart. In fact, as parents, the easiest way to help them develop this habit is by being supportive and empathetic in situations where kids go wrong and try to ‘cover up’. Instead of resorting to punishments, be mindful and express openness to listening. This will help children gain confidence in you and will not resort to covering up their mistakes or telling lies.
8. First things first
Have you ever thought about procrastination as a bad habit? Well, it is. Procrastination at its core is the habit of doing something else instead of the thing you need to do. Sometimes we lose sight of this truth and just laugh off our procrastinator tendencies, but if we are honest, this isn’t something we want our kids to emulate. Instead, a good habit for kids is to put first things first. I teach my kids that phrase and will often ask them to tell me what they should do first. This gives them the opportunity to verbally process what the first thing should be. And it compels them to act on it.
9. Finish the task
Remember back in our childhood how we were told to finish the examination paper even if the questions were out of the syllabus! Well, I’m so glad my mom worked hard on this with my sister and me. This foundational habit has been so helpful to me not just academically but in other aspects of life too: just finish the task. We want to teach kids to work at whatever they are doing until it’s done. Remember, it’s the little things that make all the difference. Kids who learn to finish building the tower and put all of the pieces away are kids who grow up to understand that real learning lies in the process and not just the end result.
We don’t want to raise kids who skip out on responsibilities or do things halfway, right?
10. Invest in downtime
I saved the best for last. There is NO HABIT more important to teach your kids than this one. Creativity is born out of boredom. Practice not over scheduling the day for your child and let them have some downtime every day. This works most effectively on their emotional development and is an essential habit to be cultivated from a younger age.
This goes unsaid that it takes time to acquire a habit. Plus, you might encounter resistance from your child. As a parent, the strategy to tackle such a scenario is by:
- being patient with children
- repeating a behaviour or action on a daily basis that will help the child inculcate it more promptly
- praising and expressing your happiness at every achievement of your child