How do we get our children to develop healthy habits?
Healthy habits in kids lead to healthy habits in adults and we want to help them develop those habits or routines, so that it becomes a part of them from childhood to carry into adulthood.
What habits are we referring to?
I asked a seven year old what their morning jobs are. Her response was, “We have to wake up, wash up/ brush teeth, get dressed, make bed, pick up laundry, eat breakfast, clear the table, pack a lunch, pack school bag, and get out the door on time.”
A ten year old’s after school routine was, “Grab a snack, play, eat dinner, do homework, sports practice, shower, pajamas, bed.”
A thirteen year old shared that while in the morning she just did what she had to do to get out, at night her mother nagged her all night long and she hated it. The mother shared that she wished she had a better way to keep her daughter on track without all the nagging.
One way to form habits is to link them to something else. The best example of this would be your alarm clock ringing. The alarm clock dings, you get out of bed (hopefully)!
Another sound that we are conditioned to respond to is the phone ringing or the pinging of a text message. We hear the sound, we respond. A visual cue that people tend to respond to is the school bus pulling up, if you are not at the stop, you will race out the door to make the bus. Another visual cue that many people use is the sun setting. As it gets dark, you automatically think, it is getting late, I better head inside. At a theater, the lights dimming signal you to settle into your seat and quiet down because the show is about to begin. There are cues that rely on smell. You smell the food cooking, and you come in for dinner. The opposite is true as well. If you smell the food burning, you jump up!
What ways can we cue our children, so that we are not nagging them all day?
I would like to share an example with you from Stacey. She is a working mom who gets her rowdy bunch, ages 7-14, out of the house on her way to work each morning. She has set the expectations in her home with what works for her. She ensures that each child’s clothes are laid out the night before and lunches are prepared. She wakes each child up in the morning. She lets them know the current time, when they will be leaving, and how much time will pass between the two times. So if wakeup is 7:30 and she is out the door at 8, she will tell them both times and that they have 30 minutes. She follows up at 7:40 by telling them the time and 20 minutes to go. She does it again at 7:50, and 7:55. At 8 AM she goes to the car.
Stacey has a reinforcement system in place with rewards and consequences set up to ensure that her expectations are met. These include verbal praise on a regular basis and long term rewards. She will thank her children daily for helping her to get to work on time. She shows them how being timely is helpful for all of them. Stacey shares the bounty with her children through trips or outings that they can afford because she is able to get to work and not get salary docked for lateness.
What does your morning routine look like? How can you tweak it to use cues for yourself or your family?