Breaking a Child’s Bad Habits

The power of habit. It is a power. Have you ever tried to break a bad habit? It is HARD!

When I was younger, I had the worst habit of biting my nails. My parents tried everything from bribing me, to painting my nails with nasty tasting polish. Nothing worked because it was a HABIT.

And sadly, there are some habits I have left my kids get into because I either didn’t know the habit was forming, or sadly, was too lazy to nip it in the bud and just hoped it would go away or stop on its own.
untied shoe

So how do I help my kids break their bad habits? The following is just one of the many takeaways I got from the book The Power of Habit. I share in hopes it will help and encourage you, but for even more great stuff, I encourage you to read the book. I got a copy from our local library.

Have you ever been in a conversation and there was silence? We start to get uncomfortable. Things get awkward. So what do you do when then is that awkward silence? You fill it up with something comfortable to you – words.

The same is true of trying to break a habit. Many people make the mistake of just trying to stop a bad habit. Stopping leaves an empty or negative space.

Our brains LOVE habit. That is one reason it is so hard to break them! So when we try to just STOP a bad habit, our brains feel that something is empty or negative and try to fill that up with something comfortable – which is usually the very habit we are trying to break.

Here are some recent examples in our home:

Bad habit: Sneaking sweets/sugar
Replacement positive habit: when I am craving sugar, I have permission to make a special tea

Bad habit: wanting to “steal” time on an iDevice (playing longer than allowed time)
Replacement positive habit: place the device down, and go get a hairstyle book and work on a new hairstyle

Bad habit: biting my nails
Replacement positive habit: have a small tin of mints in my purse and put a mint in my mouth instead of my fingers (idea gotten from American Girl Library Skin and Nails Care Tips for Girls)

We have even discussed the bad habit of lying.

These are a few of the bad habits my kids have developed. We sat down and discussed and they chose their own replacement habit (even if they did get the idea from a book). It is very important for them to come up with the replacement habit themselves.

  1. Think through some bad habits YOU have that you want to change. “More is caught than taught” and your example will set the standard. Write out some replacement habits and then pick one to work on.
  2. Think through with your children, if they have any bad habits that you want to work on (or if they are old enough, talk through with them and have them pick one or two). Help guide them through the thought process of picking a replacement habit. Write it down and stick it on the ride or somewhere for them to see and be reminded.
  3. Don’t forget to celebrate the small things!! Every time you or your child do a replacement habit instead of a bad habit, that is one step closer to victory!

What are your thoughts? What habits do you notice in your children you would love to help them change? I would love to hear below or on our Facebook page! And let me know what you think of the new format! Do action points help?

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