Bad habits are everywhere; in fact, they are the bane of our existence. Bad habits usually develop when we’re young which is why they’re so hard to break as adults. If you see your child adopting a bad habit, address it immediately so that it doesn’t become a lifelong. Here are some ways to help your kid break their bad habits.
Help Them Recognize Their Behavior
Since habits are behaviors that we repeat automatically without thinking about our actions, one of the best ways to break a bad habit is to have your child think about what they’re doing when they’re doing it. First, teach them to figure out, when they do whatever it is that is becoming a bad habit, how and why? Bad habits generally occur in certain circumstances or specific situations. For example, some children may develop a bad thumb sucking habit every time they have to leave mom and dad. Another example is nail biting in nervous situations. First, bring it to their attention when they do it then help them discover why they’re doing it. Once they’re made conscious of it and they figure out what triggers they behavior, help them find a distraction to help them break the habit. So instead of biting their fingernails when they get nervous, maybe have them count on their fingers, recite their ABCs or some other age-appropriate saying or something else that would work for them. Just make sure that the distraction that takes the place of the bad habit is a healthy distraction as you don’t want to create another bad habit.
Offer an Incentive to Quit
If your children are really young and are beginning to develop undesirable habits you may be able to persuade them to stop by rewarding them with a favorite treat, snack or toy or privilege. Young children are much more willing to compromise if they know that they get something in exchange for something for else. Remember that younger children need the praise and reward much quicker than older children as their memories and ability to connect behaviors is less developed. In order to reinforce it, most small children need an immediate response to their good behavior if you want it to continue. Then, as they continue to grow and mature you can take the instant gratification away slowly.
With older children it might be harder to rid them of the habit as it’s something they’re mimicking, they’ve picked up from a friend or classmate or it’s learned in some other manner. When older children develop habits, they are typically not of the thumb-sucking variety. Typically, you’ll be dealing with something like lying, cheating or something dangerous like alcohol and drug use. These are serious issues and addictions which will very likely require outside, professional help to break or fix.
Write It Down
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that “a goal isn’t a goal until you put it in writing”. Well, the same rule applies when it comes to breaking a bad habit. For adults, it’s as easy as writing it down and keeping it somewhere you can always see to help judge your progress. For children, however, it’s not that simple. Since many bad habits develop when they are young you will need to do more than just write the words. Try creating a chart to help them break the habit. Every time you see them doing something else when they would have normally bitten their nails or sucked their thumb, let them put a sticker or check mark or something under the picture to remind them of their progress. Most children are visual and it helps for them to see what they’re working towards. Every child is different however so you will need to custom design your chart or whatever it is you choose to use to record their progress.
Breaking a bad habit is never easy, but it can be done with some hard work. Hopefully these suggestions will help you help your child break their bad habits before they’re completely out of control.