One of our Parentzilla Parents asked us this question:
How do we instill good habits in our kids? How do we get them to habitually say thank you or no ma’am, or make their beds, or take their vitamins? Knowing that minor habits can translate into future good major habits.
I can’t wait to hear your thoughts and comments on how to help teenagers form healthy habits, but until then I will start the conversation with 5 Keys to Helping Your Teenager Form Healthy Habits.
1. Give Up Control- If we could force teenagers to have healthy habits than middle school boys would be walking around with perfect hygiene and AXE deodorant spray would be out of business. Unfortunately, it is not that easy. To be a parent of a teenager you must perfect the art of guiding them and resist the temptation to control them. Your teenager will embrace the healthy habits that they have chosen for themselves. It would be so much easier if they would just act like robots and do what we want them to do, but where is the fun in that?
2. Teach How to form a healthy Habit- There is one thing you can control in this process. You might not be able to force them to form a healthy habit, but you can teach the life skill of HOW TO form a healthy habit. Check out this article of 18 tricks to making a new habit, and use them to teach your teenager how they can form the habit for themselves. The Chicago Tribune suggests that to form a habit you need to do it for 66 days, “The 2011 study in the European Journal of Psychology found that for a subset of 96 volunteers, it took a median time of 66 days to form a new habit. The total time it took for a behavior to become habit ranged from 18 to 254 days. That’s a marathon, not a sprint, and experts say motivation is key; you’ve got to pick something that you really want to do and that offers a genuinely rewarding outcome.”
3. Model the Habit- Allow your teenager to catch you living out the habit that you are promoting. The biggest thing they should see is you enjoying the reward that the healthy habit is bringing you. Your teenager watches, observes, and critiques you way more than you want to know, but you can use that to your advantage by modeling healthy habits for them. If you are promoting a healthy habit that you don’t participate in yourself than don’t expect to get very far with your teenager.
4. Inspire your teenager with the “Natural Reward” of the Healthy Habit- The reasons why Healthy Habits are so wonderful is the rewards that are attached to them. I don’t enjoy working out. I enjoy having worked out and seeing the positive effect it has on my body. You have a much better shot of inspiring your teenager rather than guilting them. Develop your own healthy habit of refusing to take your teenager on a guilt trip about the absence of their healthy habit, and instead talk to them about the wonderful rewards they can enjoy.
5. Offer to do it with them- Another great way to guide your teenager towards a healthy habit is to say, “Hey, I want to start __________________ more and I was wondering if you wanted to do it with me?” This adds a new reward to the healthy habit, it can build a new and deeper connection in your relationship.
6. If necessary, Offer Consequences- If at all possible let your teenager feel the “natural consequences” for rejecting their healthy habit. Many times, experiencing natural consequences are the only way a teenager will decide for themselves to form a healthy habit. But unfortunately there are times where the natural consequences will affect their health or their future and you must step in. At that time you tell them that the healthy habit is an expectation and if they choose not to do it you will give them a consequence. Give these consequences consistently with as little emotion as possible. This is the only way to strike the balance between controlling your teenager and letting them do whatever they want to their own detriment. Let me say again, using consequences to help form healthy habits is really not the most effective approach. It should only be reserved for the instances where you as a parent feel that the absence of that habit will harm your teenager’s health or someone else’s health.
Now it is time to tell me what you think. How do you help your teenager’s form healthy habits?