Our family is in the midst of our best home school year ever. I did not finally find the right curriculum, come up with the perfect schedule, join the right co-op, hire tutors. We are having a great year as a result of good habits. Habits that I have been diligently training for years. Years, I say!
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A Family Meeting was created out of the conviction that developing good habits within your children and your marriage will produce peace within families. Over and over again I’ve seen this truth play out in our own family and in those I’ve coached.
Practicality is powerful. When a problem arises, certain actions can be taken to a solution. Even in the most difficult and painful of times, there are steps that lead to healing and steps that don’t.
I am currently writing a book that will cover practical, workable habit training for children ages birth through 5 years. The first five years of a child’s life are a parents best window-of-opportunity to weave peace yielding habits into their child’s character.
Therefore, to give a small preview of what I’m working on and provide insight into A Family Meeting’s roots, let’s talk habit training.
Under two years.
How do you want your baby to act? Many parents think they don’t have a say in the matter. After all, they’re babies, right? They just act like… a baby.
Parents are influencers. How much sleep a baby gets, what he eats, wears, language he develops, all influenced by his parents. Sleep and feed training are two of the most important habits a parent is going to teach their baby. Sleep training in particular is an exhaustive topic. I briefly discussed sleep here.
Happy babies are well rested and well fed.
Habit training example #1.
~You’ve just gotten yourself and your six-nine month old up and around for the day. Sweet baby is hungry and you really want to start training on solid foods. Before nursing or a bottle feeding. Take baby to the table and offer some small chunks of avocado. Small enough to be safe (the stuff is slick and slides right down) but big enough that tiny hands can clutch it.
Sit across from baby. Talk. Point to the food, encourage baby to pick it up, eat a bite yourself. If baby starts to get frustrated, squish a little with a baby fork and offer it up for baby. After about 10 minutes, praise whatever effort was made and nurse or give a bottle.
This only sounds simple until you’ve tried it several times. Habits take effort. So, offering baby the right foods, in the right way, when they are truly hungry, may not produce instant results but it will be productive if you are consistent and persistent.
Baby cereal and watery, pureed baby foods are not your only option. (and not the best option) Make food training a priority within the first year of life to greatly lessen the amount of food battles you have as a preschooler.
Habit training example #2.
This one is pure rocket science! Ready?
~Baby is walking. Baby stops at your leg, stretches his precious little chubby arms to you and grunts, “Ehh!” You know he wants to be picked up and you want to hold him. So pick him up. But first… make him ask for it. You can say something to this effect, “say, UP. Up.Up.” As soon as baby has made an attempt to speak something other than a grunt, praise him and pick him up to reward a job well done.
Repeat this process, every single time baby asks for something in baby grunts. What a great vocabulary foundation you’ll begin to build.
The goal is to get baby using consonant sounds instead of grunts which are all wind and vowels.
We can not raise the same child twice. So, you won’t know if you could have better helped your child who is struggling with speech, unless you can look back and say, “I made every possible effort to teach/require them to use real words.”
Two to Four Years Old.
Habit training example #1.
~Two, three and four year old’s want to do everything “by myself!” Until they don’t. My two year old wants to wash dishes, let the dog out and wash his own hands. Then, upon entering a room, he calls for me to turn the light on. I know he can reach the light switch. So I say, “you can turn the light on. Use your tippy-toes.” To which he replies, “No, I can’t reach it.”
How would you respond? The most obvious response is to turn the light on for the kid. He can’t reach.
Oh.. but he can. A habit training response sounds and looks like this: “come on bud, you can reach all by yourself. Use your tippy-toes, I’m here to help you if you need me.” As he stretches to reach, he’ll probably be able to get it. If he’s so close but not quite there yet, give his tiny body a lift, but make sure it’s HIS finger that does the switching. Praise his effort, and restate what he just did. “You turned that light on all by yourself. You are very capable and I’m proud of your effort!”
Next time he needs the light on, he’s much less likely to say he can’t do it.
Approach every training opportunity of every day in this same fashion and you’ll have one capable and confident child. A child who understands when you say, “you’re going to do it by yourself.” You mean it. Over time, when consistent, this turns into an understanding that I must do everything mom and dad say, because they mean it.
Habit training example #2.
~Every successful person must be able to clearly and concisely communicate. Talking. Talking to other humans!
Does your grocery store offer free cookies to children accompanying their parents? Do you allow your child to have one? Does she have to ask for it herself? She should.
“Life doesn’t offer much that we don’t pursue.”
It’s certainly acceptable to feed your child the words to use when asking for something. Make your local grocery store free cookie an opportunity to teach confidence, boldness, and getting what you are willing to go after. To get a cookie, you must ask for it yourself.
I began writing this post expecting to give two examples of habit training for all ages, 0-teens.
I often have lofty goals, that have to be trimmed down to realistic proportions!
One final example.
I didn’t mention sleep training here. Truth is, it’s so very important, one blog post can’t contain all there is to say. I discuss it briefly here.
However, I’d like to give you one real life example of a mom I recently had the privilege of helping while she was sleep training her 6 month old. Developing good sleep habits for her baby has changed her life.
~Jenny has two small children. Three years and six months. Her three year old has special needs. After the birth of her youngest, they decided staying home with the children would be the most effective way for her to care for them.
Jenny’s baby is a good nurser and would fall asleep fine, however staying asleep longer than an hour or two rarely happened. When I spoke to her, she was weeping. Exhausted, unable to care for her older child who so desperately needed her, and fed up with this way of life, she asked for help.
I gave her a handful of simple instructions and told her it would only work if she followed them.
Shortly after our conversation, I received these words:
I finally got sleep last night!!! Didn’t have problems waking up a bunch.
Thank you! Why didn’t I stick to this sooner?
This mom has a baby who sleeps well at night, a special needs child who recently got a bright-shiny report from his school due to much recent progress he’s making. She is at home with both of them. It’s everything she’s ever wanted.
Training children is nothing about perfection. Getting compliments on your children is nice, but it’s not the goal. Forming beyond-good-habits in your children and marriage is all about peace.
“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ…”
A child who is well rested is equipped to learn and grow properly. Children who can walk through the grocery store without asking for everything they fancy, can instead be a helpful blessing. Siblings who are equipped with the know-how to work out conflict, create bonds that will last long after mom and dad are gone.
As I continue to discuss creating beyond-good-habits within your parenting and marriage and many other aspects of peace in your family, I’d love for you to join me.
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