FORMING GOOD HABITS IN CHILDHOOD

Photo by Jupiterimages/Stockbyte / Getty Images
Photo by Jupiterimages/Stockbyte / Getty Images

FORMING GOOD HABITS IN CHILDHOOD

Often, as harried parents trying to keep up in a frenzied world (at least I was!) the last thing we seem to have time for is reminding our young children to put their shoes away, to hang up their coats, to make their beds, to clear their dishes, to say, "please" and "thank you" yet, this is precisely the time to teach our children these things. We are instilling good habits in our children, and if we don't teach them good habits now, we will inadvertently teach them bad habits that they will struggle with as they grow older.

I had a friend once, who told me that from a very young age his mother taught him, over and over again, to fold his bath towel after using it until he folded it without even thinking about it. As an adult, he told me that his wife loved how he always left his towel neatly folded and hanging on the towel rack! Though this may seem like a trivial example, the same principles also apply to forming good character which is an essential component to living a happy life. 

Good habits are established by repetition until the habit becomes second nature and one doesn't have to think about it. Arguably, one of the most difficult but important aspects of parenting is consistency. Reminding a child each time they enter the home to neatly put their shoes away will ultimately become a habit for them. Expecting courteous responses when they are young will lead to a courteous character when the children are grown. 

Now is the time to pay attention to your children and to learn to recognize their character strengths such as courage, humility, and generosity and to recognize their weaknesses such as cowardice, arrogance, or greed while encouraging their strengths (without excessive praise) and discouraging their weaknesses (without being punitive). If we work with our children to establish good habits when they are young, whether trivial or significant, we may spare them some difficulty later.