For whatever reason, it’s common for children to pick up bad habits, whether they use them for a way to cope with nervousness or just as something to do when they’re bored. These bad habits may be nail biting, hand wringing, thumb sucking, or something more drastic, but regardless, it is important to help teach your kids how to break out of bad habits. This is crucial not just for the habits they have now, but to serve as a roadmap for changing problematic behavior in their future. Here are some tips to follow for breaking bad habits in your kids…
Learn About Why They Do It
A lot of times, bad habits in children seem random and unprovoked. However, the key to undoing some of this behavior is to understand why it is happening. Make sure to talk to your kids about their habits and ask them why they do what they do. They may not necessarily know, but could also provide insights that help you make appropriate steps. For example, there are several researched reasons behind why children will grind their teeth, whether it is a reaction to stress or a misalignment of the jaw. Figuring out the underlying reason behind these habits is an important first step to knowing how to break those habits.
Find an Alternative Behavior
If your child is using a bad habit as a way to deal with stress or nervousness, which is very common for behaviors like thumb sucking and the like, then it’s important to provide them with an alternative behavior. For example, give your child a stress bell to squeeze when they are concerned, rather than have them bite their nails. Likewise, it’s helpful to teach some simple breathing tips to your children to help them deal with stress in a way that genuinely calms their nerves.
Keep on Them About It
If you let a bad habit go unchecked for an extended period of time, then it will become harder to break. Because of this, make sure that you consistently communicate with them that this is a behavior that they need to change. An important thing to note about this is that you shouldn’t be getting angry about their habits, as this could be counterproductive and is an overreaction. Instead, be sure to remind them that they are doing it, and tell them to use the alternative behavior that you have taught them.
Have Confidence in Them
When you talk to your kids about their bad habits, don’t make them feel dumb because they are still doing them. It can be a far more powerful motivator to have confidence in them that they will break it soon. In addition, this helps build their self esteem, which gives them the confidence to have control over their behavior, later in life. This is especially important to do when they are young, as the power of peer pressure holds more sway as they enter adolescence. Empower your child with confidence so that they can evaluate for themselves what’s good or not.
Let Them Stumble
One of the cardinal rules to understand about parenting is that kids don’t always listen. That’s fine. Sometimes, when it comes to changing their habits and behavior, the best course of action is to simply let them stumble and figure it out on their own. For example, if your child has a hard time putting on sunscreen when they will be out in the sun during the day, and tries to get out of doing it when you ask them to, then they aren’t going to understand why it’s important to wear sunscreen until they go out into the sun and feel the negative effects of a sunburn. Obviously, there are caveats to this, as you don’t want to put your child in any real danger. However, learning to let your kids make mistakes and learn of them is an important parenting skill.
by Alek Sabin