How to help children create good habits
We all have the image of the ideal child in our head; the one that doesn’t make a fuss to go to sleep, eats everything that is offered to him and responds without shouting or screaming.
But children aren’t born with the knowledge of what’s good and bad; they do not know the impact junk food will have on their health if that’s the main food they eat, nor do they know the impact of lack of sleep on their development.
So how can we teach them so they can make good decisions later on?
Children learn through observation, experiences and repetitions.
This means that the first step in helping children create good habits is for you, parents, and carers to be role models.
You are the person your child looks up to, imitates and learns from. Your every move is being watched 24/7. As soon as you recover from the newborn phase, you should start implementing good habits into your routine in order to make them a permanent part of your lifestyle.
When you feel frustrated, overwhelmed, exhausted, take a minute to pause and breathe before answering. This can be with your baby or partner or anyone else. Raising a child is not easy and takes all the energy we have. It becomes easy to snap or show our frustration with our actions. But by taking this precious minute (or more) to focus on our breath and calm ourselves first, we are working on and improving our emotions’ regulation. You will then be able to demonstrate this precious skill to your child, which they will be able to copy and associate as a “normal” way to react. Let’s face it; you cannot expect your child not to shout or say swear words if that’s what you are doing.
The main part of creating healthy food habits is done by involving your child in the process. From infant age, start taking your baby out to the market with you. The different smells and colors they will be able to see are great for their development. Store-bought ready meals contain added sugar and conservator that are not great for our health, and baby food ready meals have been so processed that they actually don’t contain a lot of nutrients inside (even when there is a big “organic” or “veggie” sign on it). So focus on fresh food and home cook it. There are plenty of 15’ or less easy recipes you can do; you don’t have to spend half your day in the kitchen.
When your child becomes a toddler, you can involve him in cooking the meals. For example, they can start by washing the ingredients or placing them into a pot. They usually like to use this time to taste each ingredient individually, which is great.
As soon as your child is eating solid food, plan for family meals. You should sit together and eat the same food. Meal times are a great moment to exchange and spend quality time. Don’t force your child to eat or finish his/her plate. Let them pick what they want to eat from their plate and how much of it. This will teach them to listen to their own body needs as well as portion control. This is essential to develop a healthy relationship with food.
Children need their hours of sleep for their brain to develop properly. “Go to bed” should never be used as a threat or a punishment; otherwise, children will associate going to bed with a bad consequence. To help children create a healthy relationship with their sleep, you should create a sleep routine where your child can feel safe. You can start at a very young age to implement a relaxing quiet time before bed. This can include storytimes and songs. This is a great moment to spend quality time with your child as well as teaching them how important it is to pause, relax and rest before more adventures the next day.
Children are natural explorers. They are not built to sit and watch screens (unless that’s what you are teaching them to do). Plan daily outings, let them run, climb, jump, do your workout in their presence and let them join in. You will have lots of fun and laughs and will also be creating positive memories that will enable your child to take this good habit to his/her adult life.
Raising your child gives you the opportunity to teach them the best good habits there are. It also gives you the chance to correct the bad ones you have yourself. The earlier you start, the easier!