Ups and Downs of Teaching Kids Good Habits
About a month ago, I told you about a competition my husband started with our girls keeping their rooms clean. I’ve learned a few interesting things from this process and I’ll share my most important observation. Kids learn new habits with their own unique challenges and motivation issues. Now, I’ll go over some of the important details that helped me understand how my kids are learning.
My oldest has various issues with focus. She can have incredible focus in some areas and a near complete lack of it in others. For example, she could read a good book for at least an hour straight or more. She might go to the bathroom, but I’m not sure she’d stop to eat. On the other hand, doing tasks of responsibility and self care are harder for her to string together. She may be able to keep up her enthusiasm of a clean room for a short while. But eventually, she runs up against her natural tendancies to wander off on a string of tasks.
My middle daughter seems to have taken to this habit and routine thing like a fish to water. She’s the only one getting any rewards now, even though we don’t reward all the time anymore. When she’s given a task, most of the time she will get right to it and stay on it until it is done, or at least a reasonably large chunk is done. She tends to leave a trail of stuff behind her as she goes through the house, but her habits and routines seem to be strengthening. While she doesn’t always get rewarded for her work, she seems to do well most of the time with her room.
My youngest also has focus issues. I can give her a little more leeway right now because she is just five (my oldest is ten). However, I often have to keep right on her from task to task or she’ll get involved in something else. Another added problem is a stubborn attitude she throws in about half the time. She gets stuck in some inflexibility, wants to be in control, gets caught up in bickering and debating with another sister, etc. Being in the routine of Kindergarten all week has helped her a lot over the last year. But she still has barriers that get in the way of smooth routines.
Here’s some of the good news I learned. Both my oldest and youngest seem to respond well to breaking tasks down into smaller parts. My youngest has a lot of enthusiasm, but needs different support when her emotions aren’t leading her. She seems to be motivated by a sense of accomplishment. My oldest can understand other values of having a clean room like finding things easily and having a clear space to play. When she can get some focus for just a short while, she can quickly see the positive difference. I know she is motivated by things that make her look responsible and like my husband and I would be proud of her. My middle one simply has an easier time picking up habits and routines, and she seems to be motivated by recognition.
I’m not saying I’ve completely figured this out, but just writing this blog post has fleshed out some of my insight on the situation. The way it has evolved has exposed the difference between my kids, their challenges, and their methods for success. I encourage you to consider the different ways your kids have learned (or maybe NOT learned) various habits and routines in their daily lives. Can you see their different motivations and personality traits that either hinder or help them?
Krull, E. (2010). Ups and Downs of Teaching Kids Good Habits. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 7, 2016, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/family/2010/02/ups-and-downs-of-teaching-kids-good-habits/