Inside: Teach these good habits for kids to have early in life to set them up for success later.
As a parent, it’s largely up to us to make sure our kids are well-equipped to succeed in life.
Sure, they’ll learn some skills at school, but to truly thrive in the world, they’ll need so much more than academic knowledge.
They need good habits.
That’s why helping your kids develop good habits when they’re young is so critical. By making good habits a part of their routine before they even realize it, you’re setting them up to have a much easier time when it comes to navigating day-to-day life.
If you aren’t quite sure why good habits for kids matter, or simply don’t know where to start when it comes to developing good habits at home for your little ones, you’ve come to the right place.
Keep reading to learn…
- Why are good habits so important?
- Why should we focus on good habits for kids at home?
- What are some good habits for kids to develop early in life?
Good Habits: Why Do They Matter?
Let’s start by looking at what habits actually are – and why they even matter in the first place.
Habits, by definition, are an acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary.
There are a couple of things that are important to call out here:
First, habits are an acquired mode of behavior. They aren’t something we’re born with. Breathing isn’t a habit, even though it’s something we do involuntarily all the time. Habits are things that we can learn, improve upon, and consciously incorporate into our lives.
Second, habits are behaviors that are nearly or completely involuntary. Habits don’t start out that way – instead, they take work and effort to develop. But once you’ve really embraced a habit, it becomes almost effortless.
Why Are Good Habits for Kids So Important?
By helping our kids develop good habits at home, we can set them up for a lifetime of success.
That might sound dramatic but think about it. A habit is something that’s so easy to do, we do it automatically. No whining, no debating, no hesitation – a reflex.
Building habits can be a great way to take something we don’t necessarily want to do and turn it into something we need to do.
As an example, let’s think about brushing our teeth. For most adults, it’s part of our routine. We don’t even question whether or not we should do it. It’s become such a regular part of our morning that we do it without thinking.
But it wasn’t always that way.
You weren’t born knowing how to brush your teeth. Instead, you can thank your parents for helping to instill that habit. They made you brush them every single morning – and every single night.
And eventually, brushing your teeth went from a hassle and a chore – something you didn’t really look forward to – to something you didn’t even think about.
There are so many reasons good habits for kids are critical. Good habits can promote good health and set your little one up for a lifetime of less stress when it comes to managing their diet, taking care of their oral hygiene, and more.
Good habits can make your kids happier and more resilient. Habits like practicing gratitude and positive affirmations are great ways to improve your little one’s overall well-being.
Good habits can also help your kids reach their goals more easily – now, and as they grow. As we get older, self-discipline becomes more and more important… and more and more difficult to develop if you’ve never been a particularly disciplined person.
By focusing on building good habits for kids early in life, you’ll equip them with the right mindset to take on those challenges and achieve their goals.
10 Good Habits for Kids to Have Early in Life
There are so many good habits you can help your kids develop at home – like the ones you’re about to read about!
But first, a quick disclaimer: while you might be excited and ready to help your kid work on all of these habits right away, it’s a good idea to take a slower approach. Pick one or two habits and keep your focus narrow until it’s truly become part of your routine.
Then, move on to the next habit. Trying to develop too many habits at once is overwhelming for anyone – especially kids. By focusing on smaller goals, achieving success will be much easier and less stressful for everyone.
Now… onto those good habits!
1. Washing your hands.
Many good habits for kids involve personal hygiene – and it’s easy to see why! Practicing good hygiene keeps you healthy and clean, and it’s important to instill those habits when your little ones are young.
A great place to start is helping your little ones develop a habit of handwashing after using the bathroom, or touching something dirty. With a little effort, your kids will stop viewing washing their hands as a chore, or something you’re forcing them to do, and instead, consider it something they need to do – without even realizing it!
This is just the first step in teaching kids healthy hygiene habits. Teaching them how to properly brush their teeth and care for their body starts when they’re young and become increasingly important as they grow up.
If you can instill a love of reading in your child when they’re young, you’ve done them a tremendous favor. Reading can be a lifelong hobby, and for many, it’s a well-loved activity – but it doesn’t happen spontaneously.
Instead, it’s up to you to lead by example as well as encourage your kids to read with the hope that they will fall in love with it too.
Your kids watch what you do, so if they see that you love reading that may help nudge them towards an interest in books. Reading to them on a daily basis is a great habit for both spending time together as well as developing a love for books.
Read a book a night, or a chapter a week, or however much works for you and your child. Children learn by repetition so the more that they are exposed to books, the more they’ll learn and the greater the likelihood that they’ll come to love them as well.
3. Practicing gratitude.
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In a world where entitlement has become very commonplace, it’s become more important than ever to teach kids gratitude. A great resource on this topic is Kristen Welch’s book, Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World.
It’s never too early to teach your little one how to be grateful, and to make practicing gratitude a regular part of their routine.
It can be as simple as asking your child to think about what they’re grateful for at the breakfast table. Or you might ask them to name something new that they’re grateful for at the dinner table as you’re enjoying a meal. Maybe it’s something you talk about right before bedtime.
However you choose to introduce the concept of gratitude to your child, one thing’s certain – it’s a habit that will benefit them for years to come. Noticing the simple joys in life is something kids tend to be naturally good at and something that we sometimes need to relearn as adults.
4. Cleaning up.
Teaching your kids to help tidy up can be a challenge – but it’s a great habit to help them develop when they’re little. Assign them age-appropriate tasks that they can do to contribute to the household.
By helping them get into the habit of picking up after themselves, putting things away when they’re done using them, and leaving spaces neater than they found them, you’re equipping them with a habit that will benefit them long after they’ve grown up.
Teaching your kids how to declutter when they’re young helps them to have more ownership over their stuff. Appropriately sized storage containers provide boundaries that help limit the number of items and keeps them organized.
Learning how to manage your stuff and maintain a clean environment are important life skills to teach kids early on so that they’re well prepared for life after they move out.
5. Taking personal responsibility.
An important good habit for kids to develop is learning to take personal responsibility. From my observations as a parent, this is not something that kids naturally do. They are quick to blame other people or things for why something went wrong.
As a parent, modeling personal responsibility is crucial. It’s important for kids to hear their parents apologize when they (inevitably) make mistakes.
Kids need to be held accountable for their choices and decisions. This is something that will be important for them to do in school and later in their work life. It’s also a crucial skill in relationships.
Have conversations with your kids about what it means to take personal responsibility. Let them receive natural consequences for their actions. If they forgot an assignment for school, the result is a lower grade.
Kids learn important life lessons through their experiences, so if you’re constantly saving them from the negative consequences of their choices it will prevent them from learning personal responsibility.
6. Communicating clearly.
Learning how to communicate well is truly a lifelong process and it’s a good habit for kids to start working on when they’re little. Young children get flooded with emotion and often have a difficult time clearly communicating what they want or need.
However, as they develop they can work toward creating better communication skills. Instead of simply reacting to everyone and everything, they can learn healthy coping mechanisms and how they can express themselves in a more productive way.
That is not to say that they will do it perfectly. Many adults, myself included, don’t always get this right either, but working to model healthy communication and teaching kids to practice it is an important habit and life skill.
Children should learn how to respectfully stand up for themselves and communicate their needs to others. Creating boundaries is healthy and children being able to express theirs is a good thing. While we can advocate for them, it’s also important that they learn to speak up for themselves too.
Learning clear communication early on will help them throughout their life as they relate to their spouse, friends, family members, and colleagues.
Boundaries with technology
The current generation of kids is growing up in a world that is increasingly saturated with technology. Kids are more used to communicating via text than they are in person.
This is why being intentional about working on how to communicate clearly is key. It’s easier to be misunderstood via text message. Encourage them to have serious conversations in person.
And when they’re spending time with people, teach them to have boundaries with devices by creating them in your home. Prioritize people above technology. Focus your full attention on interacting with the person you’re with. Don’t allow screens at the dinner table.
Limiting screen time in the home and deciding when it is and isn’t appropriate to use devices starts healthy habits early on in life. Lead by example and define boundaries in your home to protect your time and relationships.
7. Using good manners.
Another good habit to teach kids when they’re little is to have good manners. When children are very young they can be taught the importance of saying please and thank you.
Demonstrate good manners at the dinner table and teach your kids to do the same. You can turn it into a game to make it fun.
Look for ways to be polite to others including showing kindness to grocery store workers and others in the service industry as well as holding doors open for others. It’s worth the few extra minutes to go out of your way to demonstrate kindness.
Living in an instant gratification world makes patience and good manners harder to come by, but that shouldn’t be the case. It’s important to consider how we relate to others and to be mindful of how we treat other people.
8. Managing money.
If you didn’t grow up with a solid understanding and foundation for how to manage money, you likely wish that you did. It’s so important for kids to learn good habits with money starting at a young age.
They need to experience earning, saving and giving. Teach them how to stretch a dollar and ways to save more money. Kids can begin to learn this through doing chores and earning an allowance.
If you want your kids to have good spending habits, take the time to teach them how to live simply in our consumer-driven culture. Lead by example and have conversations about how advertisers are trying to get their attention (and money).
Before kids leave home, they should understand how bank accounts, loans, and credit cards work. It’s helpful if they’ve already gotten into the practice of budgeting and paying off their bills at the end of every month.
Having a solid foundation and understanding of how to manage finances can help set up your kids for success before they begin receiving numerous credit card offers in the mail.
9. Creating daily routines.
Teach your kids how to create their own daily routines. From getting ready in the morning to preparing to go to sleep at night, our routines throughout the day help us to develop healthy habits.
Starting the day with healthy foods that fuel their body will improve your kid’s ability to focus. A morning routine can also help teach good time management as they work to get everything done that they need to before they leave the house.
Taking regular breaks throughout the day and getting outside is another healthy habit to teach your kids. You may find these outdoor breaks to be imperative for your well-being too!
And don’t forget your evening routine. Getting into the practice of turning off technology a couple of hours before bed and following the same sequence of events to wind down each evening can be an easy way to get into the right mindset for sleep.
Bedtime habits might look a little different in every household, but for many families, it involves bathtime, teeth-brushing, a bedtime story, and lights-out by a certain time.
Need to work more on your own habits? Consider adding these daily habits to your life and then teaching them to your kids too!
10. Caring for others.
In our very me-centric culture, we need to teach kids the importance of caring for people and things outside of themselves.
Have a neighborhood cleanup coming up? Go together to help clean up your community and talk about ways you can care for the planet and your neighborhood.
Participate as a family in a community service project. Or have your kids help you make dinner for a neighbor or friend who needs a break. There are numerous ways you can serve and demonstrate care for others.
In Joshua Becker’s new book, Things That Matter, he talks about how to limit distractions in your life in order to live out your purpose. This is a fantastic message for adults and teens alike.
Teach your kids what matters most. Model the characteristics you want to see them develop. Have conversations about your family values and what it means to have an impact on the world.
We only get one life to live and no one wants to waste it. Make it count by focusing your time and attention on what’s most important to you and teach your kids to do the same.
Check out Things That Matter for more ideas on how to overcome distractions to pursue a more meaningful life.
What good habits have you helped your kids develop? Leave a comment and let me know!
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