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An Honest Look at Habit Change

I’ll admit it, I have plenty of unhelpful habits that I work on reducing. I tend to rely too much on coffee, I leave dirty mugs all over my house (probably because of all the coffee I drink), and I find it hard to not sneak goldfish crackers when no one is looking. Those are all fairly benign, but as a parent, sometimes my bad habits impact my children in negative ways. For example, I get frustrated if one of my sons loses an assignment or remembers a test at the last minute. And I have a bad habit of expressing this frustration right at the moment my child needs me to be calm and nonjudgmental. Not helpful!

Some parents’ habits are linked to undesirable behavior in children. For example, habits of yelling, threatening, or spanking tend to be linked with problem behaviors and stressful states for children. When working with families I am often not only teaching children how to adopt new and healthier habits but I am also similarly teaching parents to do the same. This is not to imply that parents are responsible for their children’s interfering behaviors, it’s clearly more complicated than that. Yet, families will experience more rapid and long lasting results if everyone takes a good look at the roles that their habits are playing in frustrating situations around the house. Attached here is a wonderful little video about habit change. One of the things I like about it is that it explains how habits form. Also the narrator offers some simple and sensible ideas to break bad habits. If you are a parent looking to change some of your own unhealthy habits in order to improve interactions in your family, check it out. I’d encourage you, as I do with the families I work with, to try to suspend your emotions a bit when starting this process. Try to be an objective “scientist” when observing yourself and let logic guide you. That’s not always easy to do as a parent, but it’s a great first step to make some changes.


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