Useful habits help people get things done and make us feel good about ourselves. By teaching your teen how to form a useful habit and why it is important to learn the process of forming a new habit, you will empower him/her to solve problems on his/her own and teach him/her to be independent.
Time Required: 30 days
- Begin by talking to your teen about habits - good and bad. Explain how you can change one habit by replacing it with another.
- Discuss and decided which bad habit your teen should work on replacing. Example: Not making his/her bed every morning.
- Discuss and decide what good habit can replace the bad habit. Following our example: Making his/her bed everyday.
- Discuss specifics of how your teen should accomplish the new habit. Write down the goal and a plan. Following our example: I have often given the suggestion to teens who had a hard time getting their bed made in the morning to roll out of bed and that very second turn around and pull up the sheets, fix the comforter and pillow. Voila, bed made! Talk with your teen, you can both come up with suggestions on how to attack the task at hand. Weigh the pros and cons of each suggestion but allow your teen to have the final say on how he/she will attack the task.
- Follow up for the next thirty days. You will need to check that your teen is completing the task for at least one month. When you check up on the task, it should be with your teen present so that the habit is fully reinforced. For our bed making example: you should be there to check whether or not the bed is made before your teen leaves for school. If it is, great. If not, your teen should make it before leaving. Don't admonish, just remind.
- After 30 days of following the habit, reward your teen for a job well done. Set your expectations that the useful habit will continue and allow your teen to start doing so independently. Re-discuss how the new good habit was formed to reinforce the power of useful habit making.
- While it may not seem that you are teaching your teen independence by checking up on him/her, it is imperative to do so. There is no natural urge to do things like making one’s bed. There needs to be some importance placed on the action in order for it to work for your teen. Your approval or disapproval will be all the importance your teen needs to complete the action day-to-day, allowing the useful habit to form over time. Independence comes after the process is learned and practiced.
- You can really reinforce your teen learning how to form a useful habit by forming one yourself. Modeling our behavior is how our children learn. You can even make this a positive parent-child experience by forming a useful habit together and checking up on each other. Try it out and let me know how it goes.
- I’ve read that it takes a certain amount of time to form a good habit. This time differs but it is anywhere from 21 days to 6 weeks. I have noticed that a months time normally works. You will be able to tell if your teen needs more or less time as he/she works on developing useful habits.
- Does your teen have a set curfew?
- No, we set different curfews depending on what he/she is doing that night.
- No, I don't believe in curfews.
- No, I haven't set one yet.
- Quiz: Do you have a case of parental burnout?
- Quiz: Is your teen over-scheduled?
- Quiz: Are you raising a mean girl?
- How Well Do You Really Know Your Teen?
- Screening Quiz: Is Your Teen Lying?