Confession time; would you say your habits are causing you to raise unhappy and problematic children?
Can you identify this habit that’s causing issues with your parenting skills?
Before our guilt and doubts compounds and spiral out of control, who recognise this wise saying
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it”
It gives parents biblical perspective and hope, and when applied to modern parenting skills, it can guide and direct our focus on raising happy, confident children.
Whatever stage you are in your parenthood journey, with a bit of hard work, mental and emotional shift, you will be looking back on your dark times with revered new insight and joy.
Momentarily going back to the verse in Proverbs, I don’t believe this verse can be dissected easily as its implication is diverse and begets many explanations.
Now, if we start decoding each word and begin with the first word, it reinforces what habits forming implies and how best to instil this skill into raising and mentoring children.
I remember hearing this passage when in Sunday school bible studies. It was a favourite quote when adults wanted the children to listen and pay attention, along with other verses that list rules and regulations biblically.
Hmm, those were the days.
Has time changed with new strategies in teaching or training children to behave and grow up as responsible adults? You guessed right, not particularly as old teachings are recycled but with new burdens and obstacles to overcome. Ancient teachings with valuable insights and wisdom will never go out of fashion.
The correlation between training up a child, good habit forming, and raising a happy, confident child is an underappreciated investment that pays far greater dividends than any other investment; not forgetting that it’s the most fulfilling job. Parenting is a full-time job with no written rules and manuals.
Civilisation has made it easier to overcome the unknown hurdles in the form of researched studies and expert advice from experienced parents and child development educators who have written books in hope to shine light on what has worked and hasn’t so that it will be easier for novice and even seasoned parents still struggling to get the handle of parenting.
Regardless of the overzealous knowledge bank, every parent has and will combat the dreariness of the inevitable, which is whether their children will be proof that they succeeded in their parenting journey.
As a parent, I’m constantly on the lookout for ways to improve and excel in the areas I find the most difficult, which happens to the number one habit most parents wrestle with ‘tendency to raise voice and lose patience’ (which, unfortunately to my children, is shouting, oh dear!)!
This particular bad habit is what in most cases cause children to suffer from self-confidence, self-esteem and generally finding ways to be happy and remain happy
Not a surprise secret or revelation, as subconsciously, we are aware that this nemesis is hindering and sabotaging the success of guiding and navigating children on the right path. I remember as a child, it all seemed unfair, harsh and downright boring to be constantly nagged, corrected and sometimes punished (not a naughty corner like the millennial has currently).
However, heavy reprimand and discipline still give me the chills thinking about them.
Once, taking matters into my own hands, assuming I was being assertive, resulted in breaking a window during the winter months in London, UK.
In hindsight, it was a terrible accident, but from a parent’s point of view, it was an unnecessary cost and stressful event, meaning spending money that was limited and scarce. After all, parents keep reminding their offspring ‘that money doesn’t grow on trees’, a universal language for the majority.
That one incident and some unpleasant experiences have tainted and influenced my parenting skills, which unfortunately have become a daily battle to overcome due to the habitual programming from my childhood.
There are days when guilt and annoyance set in as I feel defeated that I’m allowing that parental pattern to control my mind and behaviour.
I’m sure you can relate!
Kudos to the parents whose had good training from their youth; it must be joyous to pass on that experience and help their children learn and model the right attitude and mind-set.
However, if you were not as lucky and had to relearn and retrain like the majority, there’s hope as the willingness and determination to better ourselves is endless.
WHAT IS HABIT, AND HOW DOES IT WORK
Generically, the definition of a habit is consistent by researchers, educators and the general public to be “a settled or regular tendency or practise, especially one that is hard to give up” –Merriam-Webster. An easy and self-explanatory meaning but is a concept that is very hard to implement and sustain over a long period of time.
If that’s the case, surely it should be straightforward to introduce new habits or break old habits, right? Unfortunately, just like any character trait, it can take time and consistency before it becomes second nature.
It is a known myth that it takes 21 days to break or set up a new habit, and some other myths that make habit-forming a huge challenge. I have tried this challenge with a bit of trepidation because it became elusive and disheartening. I did this 21-days transformation challenge, and during that time, yes, I was more aware of the issue I wanted to improve, but what also happened was I became overly critical of myself for having bad days. This process made me become anxious and strangely enough, it seems my issue seemed impossible and unachievable.
Anything that we want to improve and adopt takes actionable steps and programming to get to the desired destination. My struggle with breaking that habit was because habits don’t develop from just doing the same thing repeatedly; as Albert Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Therefore, for an action or a thought to become a habit – it must be embedded in our subconscious mind. To understand the profound impact of how good habits form or break bad habits, we must embrace the idea that small sustainable actions create the most significant impact in the long term and requires a trigger and a reward.
Every country and culture exhibits stanch habits that may be passed down from generation to generation, such as from my African background, the habit of shouting can be considered the norm for raising children.
However, from the past and current observation, this way of parenting breeds children with timidity complex – A parent’s battle that’s cripplingly children’s ability to reason, challenge, adopt reasonable boundaries and stay steadfast in their minds and behaviours.
Let’s apply the habit loop, which is a simple concept – in order to change a destructive habit, we must understand and acknowledge the routine, whether good or bad that we want to change, followed by setting a realistic trigger that will assist in the decision making (choosing one of the five triggers: time, people, location, emotional state and proceeding action), which essentially should smoothly move to the last and final stage of the habit loop, the reward; fun part of making sure the habit-forming becomes set and congruent.
Now going back to the shouting and impatient habit, to break that habit with the new mindset and if I’m honest, my trigger is usually emotional, such as if I’m overwhelmed and tired with general life, I tend to lash out on the children because, by that time, I’m too gone with emotional fatigue that my control level is low.
With my new understanding, if I want to change this bad habit, I have to remember and embrace that I have to implement small actions such as practising breathing or walking away to gain composure and reduce the surge of overwhelm.
By identifying my trigger just before the explosion and working my hardest to achieve the desired result of peace and seeing the kids not coil to the shouts and admonitions, the long-term routine of consistent smaller action will lead to the success of forming a better, healthy habit.
The reward will be exponential.
After all, seeing the result we achieve as parents will bolster our confidence and sense of worth, as well as the added bonus of knowing that our impact and achievement will make our children become and walk tall with independence and the assurance that if mum and dad can do this, then indeed it’s possible for them also.
Bob Keeshan summarised this when he declared that
“Parents are the ultimate role models for children. Every word, movement and action has an effect. No other person or outside force has a greater influence on a child than the parent.”
ACTIONABLE STEPS TO RAISE A HAPPY CONFIDENT CHILD
Fast forward three months from when I decided to change my habit. Yes, I do have days when I was tested (parents are forever tested, or should I say human beings in general are consistently tested to see our level of growth and capabilities), and what kept me going is thinking about my impact on the children, and accepting that they are the by-product of my habits and success.
Taking into consideration Proverbs 22:6 and the fact that a happy, confident child is someone who must believe that they can do and achieve anything, helping them build good habits is the prerequisite to a happy and confident life.
As a parent with ample responsibilities, showing our children that regardless of life stresses, the most crucial thing in life is their happiness, and to succeed in life, they must “Believe in themselves and have faith in their abilities!” – Norman Vincent Peale
If you also confessed that you have been struggling and want to break this vicious cycle, and want to see your child grow in confidence and see them bubble over with happiness, then take into account these actionable steps and practice with consistency until you can finally kick that bad habit to the kerb.
Anything that is worth doing, is worth doing well, so when you encounter difficulties along the way, keep going and never give up as the end of the tunnel is worth getting to and your children will be the embodiment of success for you as a parent.
ACTIONABLE STEPS TO START A GOOD HABIT
1. Know your routine. This is the easiest part. Acknowledge the way you want to practice and write it down.
2. Set up a trigger. There are five types of triggers: time, people, location, emotional state, and preceding action. Invest some willpower to move yourself to the routine once the stimulus is presented, especially at the beginning stage.
3. Set up a reward. It could be anything; however, a reward that you associate with positive emotions works best here.
SUMMARY TO YOUR SUCCESS
What does success mean and look like for you as a parent? Since there are different outlook, I would personally say success for me as a parent is knowing that when I leave this world, the values and morals I leave as a legacy to my children will be a testimony to training my children in the eye of the Lord, preparing them for the uncertain harsh world so that they have the ability and drive to carry on in the midst of adversaries.
This all stems from the early foundations of helping them build good solid foundations of good habits and using them to manoeuvre through life challenges and setbacks.
They will never get it right, but by persisting, persevering, and having a strong sense of courage, they would have armoured themselves with the necessary mindset, tools and confidence to face the world with boldness and happiness.
“The most beautiful thing you can wear is confidence.” – Blake Lively