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Encouraging Heroes. You can be one too.

(Editor’s note: please welcome Ellen with some solid suggestions we can all follow to create better habits in our families. Thanks, Ellen!)

For parents with young children, one of the most challenging tasks is to inculcate good habits in them. By nature, children are quick learners, but given their adventurousness and impetuosity, creating and nurturing good habits become difficult. Habits are acquired the best during the early years. Here are ten easy tips that will help create good habits in your family.

1. Lead by example
It is said that parenthood brings out the best in people. Part of it has to do with the need to lead by example. Children learn from what they see. If they see good habits in their elders, they will automatically learn them through mimicking. Be sure they are seeing what you want them to learn.

2. Use rewards, not punishment
Punishment has been proven not to work in the creation of new habits. Instead find ways to motivate them to practice and stick to the new behaviors that you want them to acquire. Promise a pay off and then deliver on it.

3. Help them stay focused
The biggest obstacle to building good habits is the tendency to lose focus after the initial period. Children are especially challenged in this area as their brains are learning machines on steroids. They quickly move on to the next new thing to explore and forget about persisting with their new habits. Help them with gentle reminders and visual cues.

4. Make a poster
All human beings, children included, take comfort from knowing what is expected of them. Give them a structured outline of the good habits you want them to develop by putting up a poster that reminds them of what is expected from them.

5. Be consistent
The most important rule for habit building is consistency. Children learn about the rules that govern their world by noticing patterns of consistency. If you have embarked on inculcating a good habit like picking up the toys after playing with them, make sure that you insist on it on a consistent basis. If you let up on it, the process of habit building will fall through.

6. Set a target
Researchers have found that it takes 21 days of consistent practice for a new behavior to become ingrained in a person. Set yourself and your family a target of one month when you will consistently practice a good habit. At the end of it, reward yourself and the kids for having met the target. Unconsciously, this period of consistent practice would have embedded itself into the normal behavior for the children.

7. Start small
Trying to make great behavioral changes in your family can set you up for failure. Instead target one or two small areas at a time. As your family successfully acquires small good habits, they will also be reinforcing the learning pattern for new habits, making it easier to address larger changes going forward.

8. Turn it into a game
Children love games. Use your imagination to convert the task of habit building into a game. You can spin a story around their favorite cartoon characters and the good habits they display and ask the kids to pretend to be that character.

9. Remove temptations
If the habit you are trying to inculcate has to do with refraining from some activity, remove all things from your environment that may tempt the family to slip back into that behavior.

10. Be gentle
New habits are simple but not necessarily easy to acquire. There may be times when your family slips up and falls back into the old habit. Don’t be harsh on them, since that will ruin the prospects of making a fresh start. Instead, acknowledge the effort that has been put out by the child and encourage him to start over again.

Helping children acquire good habits is an essential aspect of parenting. Often, the experience leads to personal growth for the whole family, and not just the child. Failing to understand the process of learning new habits can be disastrous for the emerging personality of the child and lead to serious psychological difficulties as an adult. With the help of these simple tips to create good habits in your family, you can achieve your goal while ensuring a happy and healthy time for everyone.

About the author: Ellen Spencer is a blogger and writer. She loves reading and travelling. These days she is reading a book on child development. Beside this she is very conscious about her health and fitness. She recently shared an article on water borne diseases.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want to establish good habits.

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