Before I gave birth to my first child, I knew that I wanted to teach my children how to develop good habits.
Growing up, I had never done anything with consistency and as an adult, I spent years learning to develop habits that I should have had as a child.
Of course, helping kids develop good habits requires a lot of consistency for a mom, which means that in order to teach good habits, I also had to build good habits.
Fortunately, with the help of some SMART GOALS and our family command center, I’ve finally been able to get into a good flow for habit tracking.
So, I decided that this year would be the year that I started working on helping my kids develop good habits. But before I give you our process for teaching habits, I’d like to give you a quick background about why habits are so important.
What is a “Habit” and why are they so important for kids?
I think we probably all already know the basic concept behind a habit. Its an action or a routine that we do without conscious thought.
But what you may not know is that things that we do without conscious thought are things that even an undisciplined person can accomplish regularly without much effort.
Take driving for example. You likely don’t have to think very hard about turning on the wipers or using the brake. Those things are so built into you that they are almost instinctual. Why? Because you do them consistently without fail.
In our home, we’ve got both adults and children with ADHD so being disciplined isn’t really our easiest thing. That’s why it’s so incredibly important for us to teach and develop habits.
Plus, having good habits frees up our minds to focus on things that matter, like remembering that doctor’s appointment we scheduled today or that we’ve got a 5-page essay due tomorrow.
When is the right age to start building habits?
Here’s the thing, habits can be built as soon as we become capable of completing the tasks they require. For example, if your 2 year old can put her own cup in the sink after lunch, then you may want to begin teaching her to do that.
But the really good news is that it’s never too late to start either. I’ve spent a lot of my adult life developing habits that I should have had as a child.
Where to Start
When you are just getting started it’s a good idea to choose habits that are foundational and simple. It may also be a good idea to choose at least one thing that your child already does somewhat regularly. This will help build confidence and excitement.
Then choose a habit or two that you would like your child to start getting better about doing.
For a young child, you may want to do something as simple as putting their plate in the sink after dinner, for an older child who’s already built those simple habits, focus on more “chore-like” habits like putting away the dishes in the dishwasher.
Strategies to develop good habits in kids.
This post was sponsored by 1Thrive.
START SMALL: Starting with Small habits & goals can help build confidence
When you are first starting with habit building, it’ll be important for you to start really small. If your child is not even cleaning up after themselves on a regular basis, you won’t want to expect them to do full blown chores like “clean your room.”
Instead, focus on individual skills that they should develop that will help them to keep their room clean. For example, put away your toys.
SET GOALS TOGETHER: Teaching kids to set smart goals will build life-long achievers
If your child is old enough to understand the idea of a “goal” then they are old enough to help set them. This is a skill that will be invaluable in life.
When you are working on goal setting, focus on creating something measurable rather than focusing on the “result.”
For example, a good goal would be “I will make my bed every morning for 30 days.” A not great goal would be “I’ll learn to keep my room clean.”
Be their “inner voice” : Help them stay consistent by reminding and monitoring until the habit is built.
When kids first start forming habits, they won’t have the discipline and determination necessary to make sure they stay consistent. You’ll need you to monitor that they stick to their habits consistently.
Without intentional reminders and consistency on your part, habits aren’t very likely to be formed.
As your child grows, move from reminders and monitoring to just reminders and then eventually to allowing them to monitor on their own. Remember, this might be a long journey so don’t be too hard on yourself or your kids while you’re building up these skills.
Celebrate small victories
If you and your child are just starting out with habit building, congratulating them freely and frequently will encourage continued excitement.
Taking a moment to give a high five after they get one chore done takes very little effort on your part but can make a huge difference in how hard your kids will be willing to work.
Young kids especially need a lot of immediate praise and encouragement.
As your children get older, you may need to work a bit harder at this to make it meaningful.
Consider making it a point to check their progress and give heartfelt praise like “You really did a great job on the dishes today, thanks for all your help!”
Be Consistent and Patient
In the early stages of habit formation, kids need you to monitor that they carry out the behavior consistently.
Without this, enough practice doesn’t happen and habits are harder to establish. Just remember to ease out of monitoring as the habit takes hold.
Old habits die hard is a popular saying with a lot of truth in it. If you’re replacing a bad habit with a good one, be prepared for this to take more time.
Track Habits and Give Rewards
For some kids, intrinsic motivation (like giving praise or saying thank you) is all they’ll need to be motivated towards success.
But even if you’re one of the lucky parents whose child falls into that category, it’s still a great educational tool to teach them to track and reward themselves for achieving things.
Even as adults, most of us live on the tracking and reward system. (ie – hours works = money made).
At our house, we use apple cash on our children’s iphones/ipads as a reward system.
It’s a perfect system because it’s really cash, that they can’t lose, but that they are able to use for both digital and physical products!
We also use our 1Thrive Command Center to track the habits we are working on right now.
We call them “chores” in our house but in reality, we are working on teaching them things like brushing teeth without being asked and getting a shower each evening before bed.
How we Track Habits using our 1Thrive Command Center
Rather than purchasing a “chore chart” system. I wanted to use something that would fit well in our home long term, so I was specifically looking for the right command center to fit our needs.
Ultimately, we decided to go with a 1Thrive Command Center because we like the idea that the whole system can be customized and that the elements are interchangeable, and that we can continue to add on to our command center as our needs change.
Because we weren’t yet sure exactly what features we would want, we decided to start with a ready made system. We’ve now had an opportunity to try The Susan for about a month and it’s been working out fantastically for our habit tracking goals this year.
After trying it out, I believe we’ve decided to purchase a few of the Rachels so that the kids can each keep their own personal command center in their rooms.
For a family with young children, a family command center is probably best, but I think that my children are mature enough now and it would make them feel really “grown-up” to have their own.
For now, we’re using the white chalk board to list our children’s “chores” and each child gets a simple symbol that they can use to mark the calendar on days when they’ve accomplished each chore.
You could also use different colored markers, but keep in mind that you’ll want to purchase extras when you purchase your command center because the chalk markers they provide are much higher quality than those you’d find in a store.
Ultimately, once we receive our Rachels, we plan to create a chart on the weekly planner that allows them to check off each individual chore.
Set your kids up for success: Organization and having the right “tools” is key for habit development.
Even as adults, we get frustrated, overwhelmed and lazy when something feels consistently difficult. So having the right tools for kids to accomplish their goals will be one of the keys to making the habit stick.
The tools you’ll need will be different for each family depending on the habits you’re focused on building. Just make sure that you really think through all the tools that will be needed.
For example, if the habit you are building is brushing teeth, then having toothpaste and toothbrush in an easy to access location will be a key ingredient, but what you may not have considered is that having some face wipes nearby will be beneficial as wel..
The one common thread is having a way to track the habit and reward results. So If you’re planning to start working on habit development, I strongly suggest jumping over to the 1Thrive website and finding a command center that could work for your family!