Important habits for kids to cultivate

How many times do you hear your children complain about having to eat their lettuce or dread completing their homework? I hear these complaints in class all the time.  

Still, good habits are important to acquire. Perhaps, we have shared them too insistently? As parents or guardians, it is important to set good examples for our children to learn good habits. This includes brushing their teeth twice a day, washing their hands with soap before eating, reading more frequently or consuming more vegetables and fruits since young. This is unlike “force-feeding” our children but instead, recognising that it takes patience and conscious effort to expose them to the start of a good habit.

As we model good behaviour, it is very likely that the child takes after these habits and affects how they may turn out eventually. Social Learning Theory via the Bobo doll experiment shows how children mimic adult behaviour after witnessing how adults treat the doll. Children who watched adults exhibit aggressive behaviour on the dolls also became aggressive when it was their turn to interact. 

Ever wonder why our children like to imitate us when we mop the floor? Children pretend to do the same upon observation. Similarly, when parents quarrel before their children, it leaves an indelible imprint on their children’s minds. This can cause their children to think that arguments are the best way to resolve problems.

6 good habits to be introduced at a young age

Listed are 6 good habits to foster in the early stages of their lives. However, achieving 1 or 2 goals initially would be ideal before advancing to bigger goals. By establishing “baby steps”, this puts less pressure on the parent and child, making the process more enriching and purposeful.

1)      Maintaining good hygiene

By washing our hands before and after meals especially so during the recent pandemic, it keeps children healthy and clean. This can also mean teaching children basic grooming habits such as combing their hair or how to be independent when it comes to wearing their own clothing. Doing this on a daily basis becomes habitual. Eventually, children stop viewing these actions as a chore and would take initiative when it comes to brushing their own teeth. (Imagine the amount of nagging you can save on…what an exciting day to anticipate!)

2)      Start reading

Instilling a reading habit can be an activity your child looks forward to. More often than not, reading takes endless prompting and nagging especially if the child is hooked onto other technological distractions like RoBlox or Minecraft. “Five more minutes and I will be done!” How often do you hear a child begging for more time on electronic devices? As parents, being firm and assertive by limiting play time is important for the child to understand boundaries and the respect for authority.  Parents must step up and be clear with the instructions. Afterall, parents have the best interest for their children and spending time together while reading books can also be considered good quality time. It is killing two birds with one stone!

3)      Practising gratitude

Teaching kids to be contented and showing gratitude to others around them goes a long way in their lives. Ask them to share something they are grateful for in school with you. Teaching them how to count their blessings can benefit them by acknowledging the simple joys in life. The truth is, not everything we are grateful for has to be extravagant. Not every child has food to eat or a roof over their head. Children need to know how fortunate they are.

4)      Teaching the importance of communication

Having proper communication techniques allow students to express themselves better in a more constructive manner. When it comes to future group projects, they will take pleasure in sharing ideas and can communicate in a concise manner. This is a crucial lifetime skillset. Learning how to convey thoughts in a socially acceptable manner exposes children to healthy boundaries as they learn how to listen and bring their point across too. Communication also builds empathy between individuals as a common ground of understanding is established.

5)      Fostering good etiquette

Good manners must be taught during early stages of children’s lives. Greeting people is a form of showing respect. Saying “please” and “thank you” is also another example parents should set when interacting with others around them. By walking the talk, children will learn that it is important to treat others considerately and with compassion. As the saying goes, “treat others the way you want to be treated.”

6)      Accepting personal accountability

Let them learn from their mistakes! It is important for children to learn how to admit to their mistakes and not put the blame on others. As parents, this means apologising when you are in the wrong while putting your pride away. We also should not protect or defend their child when they make mistakes. In fact, allowing them to undergo the consequences of their actions is necessary for the child to reflect on the wrong they have done. Having conversations about having self-responsibility is needed for children to become better versions of themselves.  

Definition of Habit

An acquired behaviour becomes a habit when it is almost or completely involuntary. Learning and improving takes time and work to develop but upon constant reinforcement, it becomes facile. 

Implementing good habits at a young age can promote better lifestyle choices and reduce lifelong stress when it comes to managing their own cleanliness or encouraging healthy food choices. By practicing appreciation and positive affirmations, it also helps young ones feel happier and be more diligent. Equipping the next generation with the proper mindset can help them face challenges more constructively and strive for accomplishments.

Teacher Serena Ng is a graduate of psychology with a first class honours degree. She is currently hoping to pursue her Masters in Occupational Therapy. She shares her passion for teaching and voices her opinions on how important it is for females to light up the world of education for generations to come.

- Carean Oh

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