We start to develop habits as soon as we are born. Babies learn by association, consequently, the associations they experience lead to the formation of habits. A habit is a psychological pattern, sometimes called a habit loop, which becomes etched onto the neurological pathways of our brains. A behaviour which is repeated regularly enough becomes habitual and is triggered automatically to the extent that you can get on with something else and not be aware of it.
There are four stages of the habit loop:
- The cue or craving – The motivation behind the habit, the reason we act, the response to the need to change our internal state;
- Response – Performance of the action or habit;
- Reward – The result, getting the desired outcome; and
- Reinforcement – Feedback to the brain which says, that is how it is done
Because our habits are drivers for our short-term goals, it is crucial we encourage the development of good goal setting in children and parents play a crucial role in that.
Good Habits for Dads to Encourage
Children learn by mimicking and imitation. As a father you are a role model for your child and must behave in front of the child in the way you expect them to behave.
Set time aside with your child, make sure they know that is your special time and make it sacrosanct. If you duck out of it regularly your child will soon learn that it doesn’t matter if you don’t keep appointments. Teach your child that every day is a new opportunity to achieve great things, no matter what happened yesterday and that goal setting can be fun and lead to rewards.
Whatever you do with your child, make it enjoyable because it is those activities they will repeat.
Preparing and Eating Food Together
Preparing and eating food together is a great opportunity to teach your child how to cook and what food is nutritious and healthy. Even younger children can take part. Once the meal is prepared make eating it together a pleasurable experience that, whenever possible, involves all the family. Always make sure the child gets lots of praise for the role they played. In case you are not in the mood for cooking, you can spend some quality time with your kids in a restaurant too. Family occasions like this one don’t have to cost a fortune since there are places that feed kids for free (or really cheap).
The Benefit of Exercise
At the end of your meal go for a walk to establish a link between healthy eating and exercise. This is a time for conversation, not mobile phones and other gadgetry. Even if the child is still in their buggy, they will associate the end of the meal with going out. As the child gets older, set goals, such as getting faster, walking further and introduce a small element of reward for you both.
Tending the Garden
Growing things, such as fruit, vegetables or flowers can teach a child a lot, and demonstrate that your efforts don’t always result in instant gratification because sometimes you have to wait for results. When they come, the reward might be the best tomato they have ever tasted.
As Often as Possible, Set Aside Special Time for Reading
Get your child into the habit of reading as soon as possible. Being able to read at an early age provides a huge stimulus to educational development in other areas. Moreover, reading can be very enjoyable and informative and once the habit is formed, it is there for a lifetime.
Get Into the Child Zone
In creating habits for your child it is sometimes useful to revert to the child in you. Let’s take playing on scooters, something you are unlikely to do of your own volition but an activity your child might enjoy. Going out on yours and your kids scooter can be a once a week treat. Get your youngster interested by showing them YouTube videos of how much fun it can be and research the best scooters for kids. Your adventures will help instill good road safety habits and concern for other pedestrians. Another thing you could do is join your child’s play circle, take part in the fun, encourage fair play, turn-taking etc. and discourage bullying, but not as an adult just as another member of the gang.
Being a father is a privilege, so seize the day and build those habits in your children that will lead to them having successful and happy lives.
Article contributed by Han-Son from daddilife.com