This post was originally posted in June. I am pretty passionate about this subject and I have some new readers since then so I thought I would repost.
One thing I am striving to do with my young children is to instill within them good habits. I want them to be independent in their grown-up years, and that has to start now. When children are young, they learn things very quickly. That is good news in the habit-training realm! To this day Queen Elizabeth II, who is celebrating her Diamond Jubilee this week, keeps a daily journal that she says is as natural to her as “scrubbing her teeth,” because her mother started her on that habit when she was a young girl.
I remember observing my son when he was just two years old. We had done something two or three times, and the next day he started walking down the hall to do it. We did not tell him to, he just did it. This was not something we were trying to teach, and in fact, it had happened rather unintentionally. I immediately realized that this was something I could capitalize on. Kids learn good, and bad, habits very quickly. My job is to make sure they have a lot of good ones for later in life.
I started doing some research about habit-training children. This concept is probably what Charlotte Mason is best known for. Many others have shared similar results to training children in good habits.
This comes very naturally in some things. For instance, we brush our kid’s teeth before bed. It does not take long for a child to walk to the bathroom right before bed knowing that brushing teeth comes before sleeping. Anything that we do consistently will become a habit. The way we eat, the way we do our work, the way we pick up after ourselves, the way we talk, and just about every other area of life are habits. Many of these were formed when we were young. If we learned bad habits, it takes much more time and effort in our older years to change them. So let’s set our kids up on a different path. A path of good, useful habits!
“Good habits formed at youth make all the difference.”
3 reasons to teach your kids good habits:
1. They learn valuable life skills.
Whether it is practical skills or character traits, certain habits are simply good for a child to have. Start them off early on a path of knowing how to do things for themselves, and how to do it well.
- Make it a habit to put their clothes away when they change.
- Make it a habit to pick up their toys.
- Make it a habit to wash dishes after dinner.
- Make it a habit to be kind and courteous to strangers.
- Make it a habit to respect others.
- Make it a habit to say “Thank you.”
- Make it a habit to know when to stop eating sweets.
- Make it a habit to eat a well-balanced dinner.
- Make it a habit to think before spending money.
- Make it a habit to save money.
- Make it a habit to give generously.
- Make it a habit to pray.
Send your children into life with a valuable set of life skills and good character habits. You will never regret that.
“Parents, if you love your children, do all that lies within your power to train them to have a habit of prayer.”
~J.C. Ryle in The Duties of Parents (1826-1900)
2. It will make their adult lives easier.
This is probably the biggest motivation I have for instilling habits. It is possible that when my kids are a little older it might actually help me that they know how to do things for themselves, but that is not why I do it. The most motivating factor behind why I do this is because I truly believe that my children’s adult lives will be easier if they have been instilled with good habits.
Just last week I received a message from a reader who shared that her life was more difficult because she had not been taught independence and good habits as a child. She said: “I have to spend a lot of time asking people how to do things, and really it is just embarrassing.”
I don’t think anyone should be embarrassed to ask people things, but I do understand what she is saying. She is not the only one, though. I have heard this from many people.
Instilling good habits now, is having a long view on our child’s life. Our children will have a much less complicated adult life if we help them along with good habit-training when they are young.
3. It is liberating.
Once a child has learned a habit, the need to give multiple commands in a day begins to decrease. You no longer have to tell them each time they walk in the house to put their jacket away. They just do it. You no longer have to give them a command to make their bed. They get up and do it. It is no longer a rule to follow, but a way to live.
“Habits are safer than rules; you don’t have to watch them. And you don’t have to keep them either. They keep you.”
~Frank Crane (1861-1928)
Has your life been made easier because of good habits? Do you intentionally train your children in good habits?