More and more I’m convinced that instilling good daily habits for kids is the key to a good life – for the child in the future, and their parents right now. As Annie Dillard is famous for saying, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” Fostering good daily habits for kids means we teach them how to spend their days wisely and well.
So, what are some of the daily habits for kids that I’m talking about? What makes a habit ‘good’ in the first place?
Luckily there are quite a lot of expert habit explorers floating around to ask. I particularly like Gretchen Rubin and James Clear, both of whom seem to agree that the following everyday habits are important:
• Eat wholesome, real food
• Resolve conflicts
• Be mindful
• Take action
• Practise gratitude
• Take care of yourself
“What you repeatedly do ultimately forms the person you are, the things you believe, and the personality that you portray.” – James Clear
The things we do everyday are basically the way we achieve our big goals. Actually, talking to kids about little habits is much less daunting than asking them to set long or short term goals. Instead, we can talk about the ‘kind of person’ they want to be or the ‘kinds of things’ they want to do, and work out a daily habit that will slowly, but surely get them there.
So what do these daily habits look like for kids? Here are some ideas to integrate everyday routines that will steer them towards developing lifelong beneficial daily habits.
RELATED: A quick guide to raising tidy kids
A quick guide to developing daily habits for kids
1 x GAME-CHANGER
Take it from this Navy Seal Commander: making your bed is an incredibly important daily habit.
2 x THINGS THAT MATTER
1. The morning and evening routines. Have a set routine to begin and end the day. Both the morning routine and evening routine should include self-care aspects like timed brushing and flossing teeth (it should take no less than 3 minutes to properly do both), drinking plenty of water (have a glass as soon as you wake up), quiet contemplation (this might take the form of mindfulness, meditation or just sitting quietly); and exercise.
• In the morning you might make time for a quick run-around outside before eating breakfast.
• In the evening, a quiet yoga or stretching session after dinner and before bathtime works well.
+ Read this one too: Why mindfulness for kids is more than just a buzzword +
Set the boundaries tight around these routines. Instilling the idea that ‘this is just the way we do things around here’, without compromise or changes, is a good habit for kids to learn.
2. Prioritise healthy eating. It often feels like there are more theories on eating well than actual people to do the eating. So, I’ll leave what ‘healthy eating’ actually is up to you. Whatever your version is, however, the daily habit that matters the most is to make time for healthy eating. That means teaching our kids the habit of giving food our full attention.
So, sit down for meals, discourage snacking (unless snacking is your thing, in which case, sit down for snacks), and make time for educating kids about healthy food and healthy choices. Involve them in meal planning, shopping, preparing and even growing if you can.
3 x IMPORTANT RULES
1. Daily habits should be just that: daily.
2. Reminders are critical when you’re learning something new.
3. Forgive yourself on the day you slip up (and you will), but have a plan to stop it happening again tomorrow.
4 x THINGS TO DO RIGHT NOW
1. Work on your own daily habits. Like many things we try to teach our kids, most of us aren’t really up to scratch ourselves (or maybe that’s just me?!). What do you want to change and what’s one small thing you can do about it today, and every day hereafter?
2. Turn dreams into goals. What is your kid dreaming about lately? What do they want to have happen in their life? Show them that they can create daily habits that will take them bit-by-bit towards their goals. The power incremental change to achieve big goals is something we can demonstrate to our kids. Big goals are daunting, small changes are not.
3. Work on reminders. To get a daily habit started, we need a daily reminder. A good way to do this is to piggy-back on the things you already do. So, the bell ringing for recess is a good reminder to have a drink of water. Finishing breakfast is a good reminder to make your bed. Listening to a favourite song is a good reminder to brush your teeth for longer, etc.
4. Reward good habits. It’s hard to make changes in our lives, no matter how small. Remember to reward changes with credit, praise and possibly something tangible. Little kids are satisfied with a sticker, big kids often require cash 😊. A dollar a day for sticking to what may ultimately be life-changing daily habits seems a very fair price indeed.
5 x RESOURCES
2. Zen Habits: The four habits that form habits
3. Zdravko Cvijetic: 10 daily habits that will change your life
4. The Healthy Family Podcast: Tiny Habits with BJ Fogg [podcast]
What daily habits do you think are most beneficial?