Have you ever spent time thinking about your habits? I confess the only habit I ever really gave thought to before getting married and having kids was ‘exercise’. I worked hard to have good exercise habits, because I knew it was important for my health to stay fit. And, I knew the commonly held belief that it takes twenty-eight days for something to become a habit in our lives. However, I never really considered habits beyond this, and I only considered this habit, because I wanted to be fit and look good.
That all changed once we began homeschooling. Why did these little people yell to get their siblings attention? Why did they love chocolate so much? Why did they always want takeout? It was a sad realization to know it was because of poor habits I was instilling in them. I grew up in a family of seven and when we wanted the attention of a family member, we would yell. I have a sweet tooth and would buy bits of chocolate to munch on at different times of the day. When we get busy running errands around town, I stop for takeout. My poor habits were becoming my children’s poor habits. But it’s not just about poor habits. What about good habits? Brushing teeth, eating healthy food, exercise…these are all good habits I was instilling in my kids. So, I started to think more about habits. And my first question was ‘what is a habit?’. Well, by definition a habit is “a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.” So, they are learned behaviors, and we can intentionally develop good habits or intentionally work to get rid of bad habits. My children were learning my habits by watching and participating as I went about my day. I was unintentionally teaching them. But that’s not the kind of parent I want to be. I want my children to think and to make good decisions, but I have to think and teach them to do this.
Then I had to ask, well, what are the good habits I want my kids to intentionally develop? I knew I wanted them to be truthful, attentive and obedient and I was teaching them these skills practically but not intentionally. ‘Practically’ to me means ‘by the wayside’ as we go through the motions of our day. For example: (a) if they disobeyed me, I would point them towards obedience and tell them they should obey me because I am their mother (b) if they lied to me, I would point them towards truthfulness and tell them it’s not good to lie (c) if they weren’t concentrating on their school work, I would ask them to be more attentive so they would learn their work. But I realized my reasons weren’t good enough, because they didn’t go deep enough. What about when they left home and were no longer required to obey me? Would they obey God? What if they had friends that told them lying was okay? What if they decided they didn’t think my reasons were good enough? I never really gave thought to making a diligent effort to make a list of good habits and intentionally work towards training my kids in them with biblical based reasoning, which would outlast my authority over them. Were the habits I was teaching them strong enough to last into their adulthood? How could they be if I never thought about them as ‘habits’, made an intentional effort to teach them and provided solid biblical reasoning for adhering to them?
So, my goal is to be more intentional in teaching my children habits and to help them think more about the habits they are developing. To teach them to ask good questions about their habits: Is this a good habit? Is this a bad habit? Is there a habit I want to work toward attaining?
What about you? Do you have good habits you want to develop? Or bad habits you want to stop?