How to Break Bad Habits in Your Kids (And Yourself!)

How to Break Bad Habits in Your Kids (And Yourself!)

Check out these five tips that can help you break bad habits in yourself and your family.


By: Helen Jane Hearn

This year, our family has taken a hard look at all our behaviours and made some changes. These changes included eating more whole foods, giving up the pacifiers, going to bed earlier and cheerfully brushing teeth. Thanks to findings from behaviourists, we used some helpful strategies breaking the underlying habits that lead to forming bad ones.

Here, you’ll find a list of the strategies we used to kick our family’s worst habits this year.

Find a Replacement Habit
Coming up with a replacement habit for my bad habit was by far the best strategy we put into place this year. My husband and I had a bad late night potato chip habit that found me putting on the pounds and looking puffy in the morning.

By making a straightforward swap, we were able to kick that bad habit. We simply traded potato chips for seasonal fruit. I was less puffy and the weight gain slowed. Win, win.

Ease Into It
We have two daughters using their pacifiers far beyond the publicly approved pacifier age. They were so used to their pacifiers that we knew a cold turkey approach would be too traumatic. So we took a step-by-step approach instead.

First, we stopped allowing pacifiers in the car. Then, we moved on to no pacifiers downstairs. Then we moved on to no pacifiers anywhere that wasn’t the bedroom. Then no pacifiers during naptime. Finally, no pacifiers anywhere that wasn’t their bed, right before bedtime.

We’re still working on the final stage of pacifier retirement, but we’re more than halfway there.

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We also “eased into it” when it came to too much screen time. We started with screen-free Tuesdays, where after 5:00 p.m., no screens are allowed. No mindless social media scrolling on the phone, no television and no computers. Just on Tuesdays. We’ve been able to extend to a screen-free Saturday and screen-free lunches and breakfasts.

Identify the Real Habit
Another bad habit that had led to my weight gain was lack of exercise. I hadn’t exercised in months, and I couldn’t seem to fit it into my schedule.

The only logical place I could fit exercise into my schedule was first thing in the morning. But I found that only way I could get up on time without feeling exhausted was by going to bed earlier. Boom! I found the real bad habit. I was going to bed too late.

By making a focused, conscious effort to go to bed earlier, I was able to find the energy to wake up on time. It was only then that I managed to add exercise into my day before the chaos of being a working parent with two young children kicked in.

Give Kids Autonomy
We had a hard time getting the kids to brush their teeth twice a day by themselves. The task of tooth cleaning was always filled with negotiating, bargaining and threatening. This year we gave the kids their own drawer with their own special toothpastes and toothbrushes. Now they can pick a flavour, and they get to squeeze their own toothpaste onto their brushes. By giving them autonomy over these decisions, the fighting ceases.

Now that we’ve beat some bad habits, we’re eager to use these strategies to tackle others. What bad habits have you beaten this year? Share them.

Helen has written about Internet culture and home entertaining at her eponymous site Helen Jane since 1998. Napa Valley-based, she is a certified specialist of wine and founder of Cheesewhizzes, a nationwide cheese-tasting club. She also captains her bocce team, Joanie Loves Bocce.

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