Research suggests it takes 21-66 days to make a habit. I am going to agree more with the 21 days with kids. Kids do what we allow them to do. We are the masterminds behind their day to day habits to a certain extent. Guiding them to break those bad habits and construct healthy habits is not always easy to do, but for their best interest it is a must.
I remember the day I asked my barely one year old daughter to not eat until we said the blessing and hearing the lady in the other booth laugh. No literally… she laughed as she decided to enlighten me that there is NO WAY I could possibly expect a toddler to pray before she eats (even though my two year old son had his hands together waiting patiently to say his prayer, so he could finally eat).
In that moment, she was 100% right. Harper’s little fingers scooped up her mashed potatoes and crammed it in her mouth with no hesitance. She didn’t care that I wanted her to pray first. Her hearing was the last sense she was using in that moment (can’t really say I blame her honestly).
I expected it. I expected her to eat before we prayed. Why? Because it was her first week of being asked to pray before she ate. The word pray meant nothing to her in that moment. It took consistency to create the habit of praying before she ate. A couple of weeks of teaching her through modeling taught her prayer comes before food. Now it is a habit, and there is nothing better than seeing my two babies smash their little hands together to pray.
The thing with kids is they want to do what they want to do. They want to eat what they want to eat. They want to sleep when they want to sleep. Of course they do. Heck don’t we all? It is our job as parents to help our kids understand that the world just doesn’t work like that unfortunately.
Creating habits is much easier than breaking bad habits. As parents we do what is easier at the moment (for our sanity of course), but those temporary decisions for our children will do nothing but make it harder for us in the long run. For instance, our kid throws a hissy fit in Target. We immediately give them candy just to hush them up or save us from the embarrassment of pretty much everyone 5 aisles down. What does this do? Yes it saves us in that very small moment of life, but it also teaches our kid that crying is a total win for them. Will one time hurt them? Probably not. Will the same reaction to them crying in public hurt them? Yes along with our ears and sanity.
Healthy Eating Habits
Do I even need to get started on food and eating choices? Talk about a battle! Seriously if it was up to me… and macaroni and Cheetos were totally healthy…. I would literally give my kids nothing but bowls of both just to save the trouble. I swear kids have a radar that goes off when anything healthy is placed on their plates. My kids will push that plate to the very tip of the table because somehow that means it is nonexistent. Cool. That’s cool you don’t like healthy foods, but it doesn’t mean I am going to stop trying.
Their plates usually consist of at least 3 choices of foods. Something they like (macaroni….. cheese….bread), something healthy, and at times something new. Do you even need to ask what was eaten first? That’s fine with me. Can’t say I wouldn’t do the same. Eat it up sweet child. The thing is they ALWAYS want seconds. I tell them the same statement when that moment arrives,”Try what is on your plate, and I would love to get you more” or if I KNOW they also like the other foods on their plate I simply tell them it is gone, and they eat the other options. It is what happens. It is what is expected. It is now a habit. Don’t get me wrong…. my kids also have their fair share of desserts (especially at parties or special events). I quickly had to realize that giving them more at home was doing nothing but causing them to create unhealthy eating habits.
Since the kids were born, I knew I wanted my kids to be healthy sleepers. I wanted to create a routine that would be easy on both of us (Read Advice on Routines). If you’ve ever seen a overly tired kid, you would know why this is so important to me. For my kids to sleep through the night in the comfort of their own bed was on the list of habits I wanted to create. Does it take time and is it hard? HECK YES! Is it worth it in the end? MOST DEFINITELY. I learned quickly whatever you do as a parent early on is easier to manage with children on a daily basis down the road. Whether you read your child a book before bedtime or allow them to watch reruns of Paw Patrol every night until 10…. you are creating the habits they will expect in the near future. Our sleeping routine is the same every night unless something happens. We bath, brush our teeth, lay in our bed, read, pray, and they are in the bed by 7:30/8. They expect it. The more they expect… the less the fight.
Creating healthy habits from the beginning is much easier than breaking bad habits after months and years of consistency. Trust me, I have learned this the heard way…. I am STILL working on it each and every day. Ask yourself… what habits would GOD want you to help your children make….. what habits would He want broken? Start there.
Advice I would give myself pre-motherhood:
- Be mindful of the food and snacks you feed your children; once they try the good stuff…. that’s all they will want.
- NEVER act on emotion with your kids. Pray consistently for patience and always react to their behavior with their best interest in mind. Don’t act for the seconds but for the years. Their behavior will be on repeat depending on how you react to it.
- Make them do. Yes you heard me. DO NOT do it all. Make them talk when they want something. If you don’t, they will find no purpose in learning to talk.
- Consistency is the key. Your reactions to their behavior will either break it or make it.
- DO NOT give in when they throw tantrums. Giving them what they want to end the behavior is only giving them reinforcement to continue it.
- Remember the habits you start will be the habits you will get. It is harder to break a bad habit in the long run.
Romans 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.
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