6 Tricks For Cultivating Good Habits in your Child

Looking both ways when crossing the street, using the potty, putting toys away after playing with them — these are all great habit loops to cultivate in your child.

But HOW?

The inner workings of a small child’s brain can seem pretty darn mysterious sometimes. One day, they’ll make great progress. The next things look like they’re back to square one (usually complete with a temper tantrum and the word NO!). That back and forth dance can be frustrating to say the least! Happily, there are simple tricks you can start using today that will help your child adopt positive, new habits more quickly.

But first, let’s get clear on exactly what you’re doing when you cultivate new habits in your child.

A habit is nothing more than a shortcut for your brain. It’s a process loop (physical or emotional) that chunks down a complex task & runs it on a fraction of brainpower. Without habits, our brains would literally shut down, overloaded by the minute of life. Your adult brain runs hundreds of habit loops each day, from making your bed to packing lunches and driving to work. Those loops free it up to focus on really important things, like getting food on the table, learning new skills, and inventing new things.

The more good habits you can help your child develop, the smoother their sailing as they get older. Here are 6 tricks you can employ to improve (and speed up) the habit forming process.

Keep It Positive
The goal isn't to "punish" wrong behavior into oblivion, but rather to identify and reward positive behavior in such a way that the negative behavior gets crowded off the stage.

Focus on ONE Habit at a Time!
Think of how hard it is to change one of your habits - (i.e. going from couch potato to exercising regularly). If you try to change too many things at once, success is elusive. Your best bet is to identify one or two behaviors to focus on first. And then build on those once they are cemented in.

Give LOTS of Opportunities to Practice
Once you identify the specific behavior you want to reinforce, map out how to provide your child with ample opportunity to practice the desired behavior. The more opportunities to practice, the better.

Focus on Progress, Not Perfection
Black-or-white, all-or-nothing goals are not productive. As a rule of thumb, your child should have an 70-80% chance or better of succeeding at the desired behavior, so you may need to figure out the baby steps she should take on her way to a more global change.

Keep Track & Reward Progress
Tracking is essential to establish a highly visible tracking mechanism as it ensures consistency. Once your child has mastered a behavior, celebrate it.

Rinse & Repeat
Once something becomes second nature, it's time to repeat this same process with the next desired baby step change on the list.

What good habits have you instilled in your child? What tricks have you used that work? What habit do you WISH they’d learn more quickly?


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