As an adult, it takes a lot of effort and self-consciousness to change our ways and develop a good habit, especially if it’s not something ingrained in us early on. But we can all agree that it’s easier to pick up good habits as a child.
Parents can always help children develop good and healthy habits early in life that will bring lifelong benefits. As a parent, it’s your responsibility to start them on a path to well-being, but it might seem like a tough job.
But don’t worry – with little guidance and effort from you, you can teach your little ones good habits that they can take part in their daily routines. Here are some tips to get you started:
1. Start them young.
It’s never too early for your child to develop good manners and begin learning good habits and behaviors. Remember that as kids grow older, they can show resistance to changes that disrupt the routine they are used to. Introduce them to good habits early on while they are still babies and toddlers.
We tend to focus on children’s developmental stages, like learning how to crawl, stand and walk, potty training, teaching how to talk, and learning the alphabet and numbers. These concepts are essential and exciting when our kids show interest in learning them, but it’s also essential to expose them to good habits as soon as possible. According to research on brain studies, the ages from birth to age three are the most critical years in a child’s development. The good news is children are like sponges as their brain develops.
2. Keep a positive environment.
You can help a child learn, grown, and flourish in a safe, secure, and positive environment. Help them develop a positive attitude and happy disposition at home, and try always to have an optimistic frame of mind around your kid. Tell them what they can do and cannot do, and celebrate their milestones and successes.
3. Be a good role model.
Before you start teaching your child to develop habits and good manners, you must be a good example yourself. Your child is learning most things by just observing you – how you talk, how you respond, how you deal with people, how you eat, how you take care of yourself, etc. If your child sees you engage in good habits each day, they will be more likely to do the same.
4. Set strong ground rules.
As a parent, it’s important for your kids to feel safe and happy around you, but it’s also essential that you set down rules for them. While they are young, make sure they have routine timetables that allocate fixed hours for playtime, homework, nap time, and screen time. Doing this will help create discipline in your child’s life and help them learn good manners and healthy habits. Try to make it flexible and don’t be too strict so your kids can still enjoy it and not feel restricted. However, you need to find that sweet balance where you’re not overly strict or too flexible with your child’s routine.
5. Read with your child every day.
Reading out stories to your child from a book makes a lot of difference. Stories are a powerful medium to help inspire them to behave in a correct manner, keep a positive outlook in life, and follow a code of discipline. Books can also help connections form in their young brains, building language, literacy, and social-emotional skills important for their development. Establishing a habit of reading will also be great in the long run for your child’s intellect and schooling.
6. Teach them good manners.
Encourage your child to use phrases like “thank you,” “excuse me,” and “please.” These phrases are great to practice at the dining table, like when asking someone to give them water and passing something at the table. Teaching them to be polite when they are young can make you sure that they will be polite as they grow up. Have your child say these polite words with you and with others, too. For example, when you bring your child to the bakery, teach them to say “thank you” to the salesman giving you the bread.
Also, teach them proper behavior and conduct in public, like not inconveniencing people in public transport, not picking up things that do not belong to them, or respectfully speaking to shopkeepers or waiters. They must learn how to behave in public from you.
Along with good manners come good traits like honesty, gratefulness, and respect. The best way to teach these to your kids is to be their role models.
7. Let them enjoy physical activities.
Expose your kids to a wide range of physical activities, from biking to swimming, and it’s best if you enjoy them together as a family. It means getting a lot of sun, and it exposes their bodies to bacteria that can help their immune systems develop. Children who are not active enough are at higher risk of developing chronic diseases.
Physical activities are more than sports. It can include everyday activities like walking the dog, playing tag, running around in the backyard, watering plants, building a snowman, and even chores like sweeping or shoveling the driveway. Here are some ideas for physical activities for children.
As parents, it’s your responsibility to ensure that children don’t spend too much time in front of the screens watching TV or playing video games. This can make kids lethargic, and it can damage their eyesight, too.
8. Help them obey safety rules.
There’s no such thing as being old-fashioned when it comes to obeying safety rules. Explain to your child that rules are important to keep them safe and so they won’t get hurt. Teach them to cross the streets only at the zebra crossing, get off a car only to the pavement, wear seatbelts while in the car, and not meddle with dangerous things like gas stoves, firecrackers, cleaning solutions, to name a few.
9. Let them be aware of stranger danger.
Children at a young age act on impulse. They are not old enough to differentiate between the good and bad, and they are ready to make friends and trust other people easily. Teach them the concept of a stranger, and tell them to join only family or people they know. Discuss to them the dangers they may encounter when they talk to a stranger Whenever you are out, ask them to stay close.
Make sure your little child knows your full name, and give examples of adults your child can safely go to for help, like grandparents, uncles and aunts, teachers, and school administrators. Point out safety point persons like security guards and apartment caretakers, so your child can identify strangers who might be able to help.
10. Encourage a healthy diet.
If you grew up eating junk foods, it’s hard to change the habit once you get more conscious of your health. It’s best to instill a good, healthy diet in kids when they are young to not grow old with health problems. Your child will adopt good habits if they start early.
Encourage your kids to eat more fresh, whole foods like fruits and vegetables and let them know about their importance. When grocery shopping, avoid buying too many fatty and sugary snacks. Be conscious of what you eat, too – children pick up what they eat from you.
Along with a healthy diet, encourage your kids also to drink plenty of water. Hydration is very important to children as their water requirement in relation to their body weight is higher than that of an adult. If your child finds drinking water boring, you can add some fruits to the water or buy them a fun tumbler that will encourage them to keep drinking.
11. Practice good hygiene.
Young kids tend to play for long hours. As a result, they get sweaty and probably get stains on their clothes. As a parent, you must ensure that they get used to the habit of taking a bath or a shower at least once a day and putting on clean clothes. They must learn to change their clothes after school, after play, and before bed.
Along with proper hygiene comes good dental health. It’s never too early to start brushing their teeth. When they are babies, you can wipe their gums or their emerging teeth with a wet, soft washcloth. Then, when their first teeth come in, you can use a soft toothbrush. And when they grow up to be preschoolers, they would learn to enjoy brushing if you make it fun for them. Make it a habit to see the dentist regularly as well.
Washing hands is another important habit they need to practice when they are little. The simple act of washing your hands can spare your child from germs that can cause infections and illnesses. Enforce all the occasions where your child should wash up, like after going to the bathroom, after returning home from playing outside, before eating a meal, and after blowing his nose. Teach them handwashing techniques to make sure they are not just wetting their hands.
12. Teach them to clean up after themselves.
Ever since your kids were babies, it’s your responsibility as a parent to clean up their messes. When they spit up milk or saliva, you wipe it off with a washcloth. When you are introducing solids to them on a high chair, you put bibs on them and wipe out their hands and mouths after each meal.
But once your little one becomes a toddler, it’s time to teach them how to clean up after themselves. It takes a lot of patience, and it’s often a slow process at first, but it can pay off in the long run. You can start by instructing them to put their dirty tissues and trash in the garbage can. Teach them to clean their room by putting away dirty clothes in the laundry bin and keeping away their books and supplies after use. Teaching your older child to clean up after their mess will be more challenging if they have already got used to having you clean up their messes.
13. Get them involved in household chores.
Kids are never too young to help around the house. You can get little kids to do very small chores like picking up their toys and keeping them away after playing, keeping the dining table, helping you put clothes on the clothesline, arranging the magazine shelf, etc. There are lots of age-appropriate chores you can give to your kids to involve them in housekeeping. This will teach them how to be independent, so as they grow older and move out, they can fend for themselves. If you have older kids, you can get them to help clean the house and make them responsible for some chores.
14. Teach them to share.
Young children are naturally self-centered. When other kids are playing with their toy, they would say, “Give me that, I want that toy.” When they are playing, nothing else matters until they get the toy and find it hard to control their impulse.
Sharing can be taught at home and at school. At the dinner table, you can set an example by sharing your favorite dish with other members of the family. Encourage the child to share, too.
15. Teach them responsibility.
Teaching your child to be responsible is a good habit to ensure that they’ll grow up to be caring adults. You can instill this trait in your child by having them take responsibility for something. For example, once your child learns how to walk, he can begin putting his dirty laundry away to the basket where it belongs. It might take longer than if you do it yourself, but don’t worry, your child will get more experienced each time he practices. You can also teach your kids tasks like sweeping the floor when they make messes and putting away toys. Make these mundane tasks fun by singing together.
If you have an older child, you can gift them a pet and ask them to take care of it. This will help instill a sense of responsibility in your children to teach them good habits that can benefit them in life.
16. Set some time for family bonding.
Setting some family time is essential for a growing child. Plan some bonding time for everyone in the family to do something together. You can set some time for family vacations, short trips, road trips, walks, visits to the zoo or museums, going swimming at the pool or beach, or simply playing games in your backyard.
Family dinners are an excellent way to bond as a family and to inculcate the habit of healthy eating for your kids. If the family sits together for dinner, they are less likely to consume unhealthy foods and will be more in touch with the family.
Whatever works for your family, make it a goal to make good memories for your kids while they are still young. A happy childhood will have a lasting effect on your kids’ lives and make them more well-rounded people. It even has positive effects on health! People who have fond memories of their childhood and a good relationship with their parents tend to be less depressed, have better health, and have fewer chronic illnesses as older adults.
17. Reward their good behavior.
A positive way to develop your children’s good habits and manners is to reward their good behavior. This will keep them motivated and maintain their best behavior at all times.
Rewarding doesn’t mean giving them material things every time they do good. Find ways to celebrate good behavior in intangible things, like a hug, a compliment, an extra playtime, or a trip to the nearby zoo or playground.
18. Stay involved.
Parents can be too busy with work and other home responsibilities, but always make it to a point to carve out some quality time to spend with your little one. Make sure you are updated about their activities, especially when they start schooling. Know who and what kind of friends they have, and how they are doing. Always make it a goal to have a chat with them during the day. Being involved in their life will make them feel loved and more receptive to your decisions.
19. Set realistic expectations.
Even if you’re doing your best to instill good habits in your kids, don’t expect them to be perfect. Remember that your child is still young and is bound to make mistakes. Instead of berating them, encourage them to learn from their mistakes. Setting realistic expectations is key to adopting new behavior. Small steps and gradual changes can make a big difference to build a habit over time, so start small. As a parent, you have to know that all kids learn at their own pace.
20. Let your child speak.
Allow your child to speak their mind and voice their opinions around you. Suppressing them can make them feel unimportant and unheard, which may cause self-damaging habits in the future. You can take their opinion on small matters around the house, like which cereal they want to buy or what color of paint they want to decorate their room with. This way, your child will be more likely to listen to you and obey you.