Strange as it may sound, bad habits can be really great for teaching kids valuable life lessons, something which many parents are unaware of. Read on to find out how some of these bad habits can be used to positively influence kids’ future behaviour.
One of the first lessons my parents taught me was that lying was bad and I should always tell the truth. This isn’t strictly true though and the issue is less black and white than you may at first imagine. As adults, for example, do we not lie all the time? Maybe we tell a new friend that the dinner they just served was delicious when actually every bite made you want to gag, or we assure our young children that everything’s ok when it really isn’t? Are white lies, used to protect somebody’s feelings, not ok? A Harvard University study reveals that actually, by understanding the use of white lies children learn that words can be used to build somebody up or tear them down and teaches them to be considerate of others’ feelings.
It is important though that parents still discuss lying with their kids, explaining how they can be used both to hurt and avoid hurting somebody’s feelings. It is important to explain that telling the truth even without the intention of hurting somebody’s feelings can still be hurtful and they should think before they speak.
It is still important to discuss lying with children but perhaps we should be focusing more on when it is appropriate and how it can be used to avoid hurting somebody’s feelings rather than writing it off as all bad?
A Promise is a Promise
I’m sure we’ve all broken a promise at least once. You promised the kids a cinema and pizza night with friends followed by a sleepover… but then the car breaks down, work’s stressful, you come home exhausted and completely forget about the promise you made – it happens. Try as you might, it is impossible to keep every promise, no matter how good your intentions. Although disappointed, your kids can learn from these disappointments: life does not always go as planned or give you what you want or expect from it. Being adjustable and able to roll with life as it comes at you is a hugely valuable lesson to learn and one which will stand kids in very good stead as they move through life.
That being said, it is important not to make a habit of breaking your promises. Not only will kids lose confidence in you but they will never learn the value of a true promise. Don’t make promises you don’t intend to keep. If a promise is unintentionally broken then apologise and if you can still make it happen then try to do so. By doing this, kids will learn that it’s ok to make mistakes; just own up to it, try your best to fix the issue and then move on. Making mistakes is ok (everybody does it) – it’s how we learn and so long as we’re honest about it and make every attempt to fix our error and learn from it, there’s nothing more we can do.
Losing Your Temper
Keeping your cool as a parent is not always as easy as some people make it out to be. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been running late in the morning, about to rush out the door only to discover the kids have lost their school uniform/decided to wear their breakfast rather than eat it/are up to some sort of mischief (usually messy). I’m sure many of you can relate in some way to this. Doctor Maslin, a specialist in the field, says that “[e]veryone loses it sometimes” – you are not alone! But the way you handle the situation can set a great example for your kids. Perhaps not in the moment (pigs might fly) but maybe later on during the day when you’ve had time to calm down, take time to explain to them why you reacted the way you did. While this might not suddenly cause your children to behave like angels, you’ll be showing them how to handle strong emotions and tackle relational issues in the future.
Although we’ve pointed out some fantastic learning opportunities here, it is still important to recognise when a behaviour or habit is not acceptable. If you decide to try and discourage your kid from certain behaviours be patient – it takes 30 days to break a habit (so they say) so even if you don’t see results overnight stick with it!