Friday, February 5, 2010

New Habits

A week or so ago Money Saving Mom advertised on her site about a free e-book, Smooth and Easy Days by Sonja Shafer. I was intrigued so I clicked on the link and downloaded the book. It's 47 pages and it is FULL of wonderful encouragement and information on cultivating good habits in your child. I was so inspired by it I went ahead and ordered Laying Down the Rails by the same author. I'm only a few pages into it but I'm already beginning to apply the lessons I have learned so far. The concept it simple. Pick one habit that you'd like to see instilled in your child and work on that one thing for six to eight weeks and then move on to the next, while keeping an eye on the habit just formed. Instead of getting upset that our children just don't pick up after themselves or leave the bed messy or leave their coat/shoes scattered all over the floor, work on cultivating the good habit one at a time. It also addresses why nagging doesn't work, which I found very insightful. The author points out that nagging just teaches children to do a task only when mom asks. She uses this example :
"Let’s say that you’re trying to teach your child to hang up her coat when she takes it off. In order to make that action a habit, she
needs to repeatedly and consciously think through the hang-upmy-
coat-when-I-take-it-off neuron route.
Now, let’s say you come into the room and trip over her coat.
The easiest thing to do is to call her into the room and say, “I’ve
told you before, hang up your coat when you take it off!” She
obediently picks it up and hangs it in the closet, but . . . and here’s
the key . . . her brain didn’t initiate the idea, so you just reinforced
the wrong neuron route.
You just reinforced the do-what-mom-says-to-do neuron
route. That’s a completely different route from the one you want
her to mentally travel. And that explains why once we start
nagging, we find that we’re always having to nag in order to make
something happen. We are reinforcing the do-what-mom-says-todo
route, which means the child will constantly wait until mom
says what to do!
So, let’s say you just came into the room and tripped over
your daughter’s coat . . . again. You call your child into the room,
and you say something like this: “I promised I would help you
remember.” That’s all. If she still doesn’t understand, you can
pointedly look at the coat on the floor. Little hints might be needed
at first. But you wait until the mental lightbulb goes off in her head
and that will start those neurons traveling the hang-up-my-coatwhen-
I-take-it-off route. Do you see the difference? She thought
of it. She made the mental effort."
I had never thought of it that way before. That nagging is actually hindering the habit from forming. Wow! All this time I thought that by nagging (although I would rather call it 'helpfully reminding') I was helping and it turns out I've just made more work for myself.
And of course another point brought up in this book was that children learn by example as well so mom needs to be on top of these habits too. SO, taking from this book what I have been learning instead of making a new years goal list (I'm a month behind for that anyway) we're going to be tackling new habits little by little.
For the month of February:
Habits for the kids
~Putting shoes away in the shoe bench upon returning home and hanging up their coats on the coat rack
~Returning an object to it's original location as soon as you are done using it
Habits for mommy
~No more nail bitting (this is the year, I can feel it!)
~Morning prayer before the children wake up, every day
~Morning exercise completed by 730

1 comment:

In Light of the Truth... said...

Wow, thanks for this post! That helps a lot as I'm still trying to have the kids do a "responsibility chart" for things like coats/shoes, dishes, laundry, etc--teaching them to do things WITHOUT me telling them to!