The kids do their homework on their way to piano lessons, your
family meal is often eaten in front of the TV, and the floor of the
family room is covered with shoes, game pieces and newspapers. Most
families don't strive to serve frozen dinners every night or
purposely ignore the clutter that builds up at home. But busy
schedules, growing kids and any change in lifestyle can trigger the
onset of a bad habit.
So how do we teach our kids good habits in the midst of all our
"It's really not the kids who are the issue," says Laura Gauld,
mom of three and author of The Biggest Job We'll Ever Have. "Once
we get parents where they need to be, their children will be
inspired by their parents' growth."
Her book is built around 10 core beliefs on how families can
find a balance between character and achievement and offers
families ways to find strategies for their most difficult
"What we try to do is help parents focus on themselves as the
primary teachers and the home as the primary classroom," says
Gauld, adding that families who confront their bad habits can
change their ways and influence their children.
Sharon Miller Cindrich is a freelance writer and mom.
Bad habit: Mom works late most nights, Dad is
drowning in home improvements and Junior is signed up for five
extracurricular activities. "We aren't very good at saying no,"
says Gauld. "But when you get going and put too many things on your
calendar, you become a slave to that schedule and no one is
New habit: Families need to take time out of
their hectic schedule and make time for each other. Before your
monthly agenda books up, set aside some time for R&R in
permanent marker, just like you would for one of your other
obligations. Making a commitment to zone out in front of the TV
together, read a book at night or play a family game of Monopoly is
just as important as any meeting you have during the week.
Bad habit: The kids eat in the car on the way
to soccer practice, standing at the kitchen counter or in front of
the TV. "We can't beat ourselves up for being on the go," Gauld
says, "but making an effort to sit down as a family, even once or
twice a week, is really up for success."
New habit: Plan family meal times and make an
effort to sit down together at least half the nights each week.
Have kids help find crock pot recipes or easy soup and sandwich
menus they can help prepare and cook. Assign each family a task
(Dad is in charge of dessert, Mom makes the main course, and the
kids can place biscuits on a pan, set the table or pour the
beverages). Turn off the ringer on the phone, light candles, bring
out the china and make it special at least once a week.
Bad habit: You drive to school, the grocery
store, even your neighbor's home just two blocks away. The kids
could walk home from a friend's house, but they call you for
personal limo service every time.
New habit: Ask your family each time you set
off on an excursion if you can walk instead. Encourage children to
walk to school, the park, even the convenience store for a gallon
of milk to keep your family exercising and teach kids to appreciate
the ride. If you have to drive, build in some extra time, park half
way to your destination and get some fresh air as you walk across
the parking lot
Bad habit: The dining room table is stacked
with papers, the fish tank is dirty, and you can't see the floor in
the children's rooms. "The home needs to be a cherished place,"
says Gauld, who notes that the home is often treated as a way
station. "There is a principle of ownership and respect for our
things that we need to teach," and parents need to lead the way for
New habit: Dedicate one or two hours each
weekend to a whirlwind tidy-fest. Get kids together, turn on music
and hand out assignments. Dust and vacuum bedrooms, clean out
backpacks and briefcases, and organize your closet so you'll have
clean clothes for the coming week. Each time, add one major
chore-like raking leaves or organizing the toy chest-that the whole
family can do together.
Bad habit: Dad's birthday came and went. Your
anniversary passed without a card. It's easier to deal with the
guilt of missing special days than the pressure of planning a big
celebration. "Some of the most special things are done when people
work together," Gauld says, adding that the achievement culture
drives us to think special events need to be big.
New habit: Think small when planning a party
and ask for help from other family members. Develop a family
celebration day that fits into everyone's schedule each month to
honor special events: anniversaries, sports victories, birthdays
and good grades.
Sharon Cindrich is a mother of two tech-savvy kids from Virginia Beach. Learn more at sharoncindrich.com.
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