We’re Teaching Children Habits, Not How-To

My kids don’t bathe every day. They bathe two to three times a week if I’m lucky. And I’m not in the bathroom with them, showing them how to wash their bodies or their hair. I did that when they were younger so they already know HOW to do it.

I’m teaching them the habit.

I’m teaching them that, at the very least they need to take a bath on Sunday nights before school on Monday morning. I’m training them to get clean the night before their week starts.

The how to will come later in life. My son will discover that if he actually washes his body with soap instead of just submerging his skinny frame in water, he’ll smell better. My daughter will ask if I know how to have less tangles in her hair and I’ll show her (again) that conditioner is something worth using.

They already KNOW these things. Whether they choose to do them or not is something they’ll pick up on later in life. For now, I’m just getting them in the habit of taking a bath.

Same goes for eating dinner at the table. Right now I’m more interested in getting them into the habit of eating dinner at the table than I am with their table manners.

I’ll remind them to use a fork to eat enchiladas and that we don’t lick the remaining sour cream off of our plates. But, more than that, I want them to be in the habit that we sit down at the table together as a family and eat dinner so we can discuss our days and check in with one another.

Right now as a mom, I’m more interested in teaching them habits than how tos. And the same goes for us moms, too, right?

For instance, while my kids are eating breakfast, I’m trying to get into the habit of washing my face while they’re occupied. I’ll probably learn over time how to best wash my face, the best products to use, etc. But for right now, I’m just trying to embed a new habit into my brain and my routine.

I’d like to get into the habit of reading before I go to sleep so, at this point, it doesn’t matter what I’m reading. Over time, once the habit is established, I’ll learn that fiction is better for me than non-fiction because when I’m reading one of my personal development books, I tend to get excited which makes sleeping harder.

But, for now, it’s all about training myself to get into the habit.

Dear friends, don’t stress if your kid just plays in the bath and gets their hair wet. They’ll learn. Don’t worry too much if dip their fingers into the pancake syrup. Focus on establishing the habits that will make them loving and responsible human beings. The how to will come in time.

Toni Hammer