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Helping Children Build Habits

NW 39

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Will Durant

Habits are important in building strong foundations for success in our lives. Our daily habits and choices, across all areas of our lives, inform who we are as people and the quality of our lives. Forming healthy habits in children is important to set them up for success later in life. Positive habits such as getting up early, helping with the dishes, tidying up after play, studying each afternoon, making healthy eating choices, daily reading, and more, are ingrained by repetition. These habits stick when children are conscious of the purpose, and can see the wider picture or motivation for making healthy choices that support their goals. Teaching and modelling healthy habits is an important factor in setting children up for success. This blog outlines 4 ways to help your children build healthy habits.

1. Set goals and understand the purpose of good habits

Good habits empower children to succeed and achieve their goals. Before introducing a new habit for your child, help them to understand the benefits. Start by thinking through your child’s goals and aspirations. This could be an academic goal, like receiving the Top in Class award at the end of the school year, or leveling up at after school tutoring. Perhaps they want to play in the orchestra and need to finesse their playing skills before auditioning. Whatever their goal is, get this clear in their mind so they understand what they are working towards. This will help them to build habits and sustain motivation to study or practice towards their goals.

2. Habit stacks

Habit stacks are a great way to introduce a string of habits to a child. An example of a habit stack for a school student might be:
Before bed:
• Pack my book bag
• Prepare my uniform and school shoes
• Bath/shower & clean my teeth
• 10 pages of reading
• In bed by [insert bedtime]

A habit stack like this helps to set children up for success in the morning. If their goal is getting to school on time, then a habit stack like this enables them to be prepared ahead of time, and reduce stress in the morning. Habit stacks can be introduced to any area of a child’s life, such as during weekday mornings or after school. Habit stacks trigger a series of behaviours that become natural over time, and empower children to stay on track and achieve their goals. You can introduce these by starting small and building on the habit stack, to ease into the routine.

3. Rewards and praise

Rewards are an important aspect to building habits. Similarly to goal setting, habits can be motivated by rewards and praise. Making habits as attractive as possible is important to motivate behaviour change and sustain new habits. At NumberWorks’nWords, we motivate children to achieve their daily tasks and bigger goals with certificates, praise (getting the room of students to stand and clap when a student achieves a goal), and small prizes. Rewards and praise bolster children’s motivation to stay on track with their goals and habits. Introducing rewards for a full week of repeating a habit (e.g. unpacking a school bag or achieving a daily reading goal), are useful tools in solidifying habits and making them stick.

4. Consistency and routine

Habits can become second nature if they are approached with consistency, and built into daily routines. At first it may seem challenging to carve out 30 minutes every day for reading. Build it into your routine by dedicating time to the task, removing distractions, and making it as easy and attractive as possible for your child. Set them up in a pile of pillows or in their reading nook, with a book they enjoy reading. Do this every day at the same time, and provide a reward, such as their favourite fruit or play time afterwards. Combine a consistent approach with a habit stack, rewards, and consideration for the wider goal, and they will have healthier habits in no time.

Habit building is important for all of us. In some ways it is easier for children to build habits, especially if they have positive role models around them. Choose a healthy habit and try out one of these strategies with your child - comment below to let us know your experiences or what has worked for your family. At NumberWorks’nWords our tutors help young learners achieve their academic goals, develop healthy learning habits, and model positive behaviour, in a nurturing environment that celebrates success. If you would like to learn more about maths and English tutoring with NumberWorks’nWords, get in touch with your local centre or contact us today.

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