As a caring parent, you’ll do anything it takes to give your children the best possible start in life by making sure all their needs are being met. That means not only providing them with food, shelter, affection, security, and emotional support, but also focusing on their education, teaching them important life skills, and helping them adopt and build good habits so they can thrive and grow up to be healthy and happy adults.
If this sounds like a full-time job, and one that requires a lot of effort and dedication, it’s because it is. Every parent approaches these tasks differently as parenting styles vary from culture to culture and from family to family. So, there’s no magic formula out there that will tell you how to raise your kids the right way. You’ll make mistakes, you’ll learn from them and hopefully, you’ll be able to give your child the support and guidance they need from you.
However, if you’re looking for a bit of guidance yourself and want to know what you can do to instill lifelong healthy habits in your children, there are certain strategies and techniques that can help. Simply telling kids over and over again what to do and how to behave doesn’t always produce the results you’d expect, so here’s what you can do to promote good habits in your children
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The first five years of a child’s life are crucial for later development. It’s during this period that their brain experiences accelerate growth which allows them to absorb information like a sponge and develop critical skills and abilities that will set the foundation for the rest of their life. Many of the things that they learn at this stage will stay with them for years and even shape their future into adulthood.
Experts have found that the earlier children acquire certain skills, the easier it is for them to build on what they’ve learned and turn these abilities and behaviors into lifelong habits. Therefore, it’s never too early to start teaching your kids good habits. On the contrary, an early start will ensure better receptiveness as it’s easier to build proper habits than try to break bad ones.
Obviously, you should make sure that the skills you want to teach your child are age-appropriate – you can’t expect them to wash dishes or fold laundry when they’re three. Start with the simplest things such as teaching them basic hygiene rules, or shaping positive eating behaviors, and work your way up as they grow older.
Lead by example
Especially when they’re young, children learn best by watching and listening to others and then imitating their behavior. Keep in mind that everything you do can influence or serve as a lesson to your little ones. Parents are a child’s first role model and also the one with the greatest influence in their lives. That’s why it’s so important to pay attention to how you act around your children and try to set a good example for them.
Your kids might not pay much attention to you if you nag them about eating their veggies or lecture them on the benefits of ginger root extract, but they will embrace healthy eating unknowingly and unconsciously if they’re exposed to healthy foods constantly and see that you care about what you put on your plate. The same goes for every other aspect of their lives – if you promote a healthy family lifestyle by setting clear standards, they’ll simply try to emulate your behavior and that’s one of the easiest ways to get them to adopt healthy habits.
Reward and encourage good behavior
Another trick that works wonders for teaching young children healthy habits is rewarding them for good behavior. While you should strive to make your kids understand that certain attitudes and behaviors are inherently acceptable and desirable, sometimes a little incentive is required to motivate them and make it more likely for them to adopt these behaviors and repeat them until they turn into a habit.
Positive reinforcement can make your job a lot easier, but only if you approach it properly. Instead of giving them sweets or toys as a reward after they’ve done something right and turning it into a game that can possibly lead to negative consequences (e.g., poor eating habits), try to reward them by praising and encouraging them.
Build a solid routine
It’s a well-known fact that children thrive on routines. Creating a stable and predictable environment gives children a sense of safety and comfort, and routines play a very important part in it. Whether it’s time to play, have a snack, do their homework, or take a bath kids like to know what to expect, and that’s why you have to set some ground rules from the very beginning and make sure your children stick to them.
It’s also a lot easier for kids to adopt new habits if they already have a structure in place. That’s because they tend to make associations between different elements of their schedule, so you can easily sneak in another rule by attaching it to one of the existing habits.
Have realistic expectations
While you have to be perseverant and make continuous efforts to steer your kids in the right direction, it’s just as important to set realistic expectations and practice patience as you help your kids develop healthy habits. So don’t push your kids too hard or compare them to others. They need a relaxed and safe environment to develop, and a supportive parent figure to stand by their side.
Remember that not all children learn in the same way or at the same pace. You might want your kid to progress faster, but getting frustrated about it will only inhibit their evolution. Having realistic expectations and not pressuring your child as they’re learning new things will help them achieve far better results.