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How to Break a Child's Bad Habits-Breaking a Teenager’s bad habit

Updated on April 10, 2014

How to evaluate the habit

I have mentioned earlier some very terrible habits associated with hard drugs, and have also talked about mid range habits like gambling, lying and stealing which could become very destructive. Whatever the habit first evaluating the scale it falls into gives you a better perspective of the manner of approach.

Habits grow slowly over time, being conscious of our children’s sudden changes can point at certain underlining issues, by evaluating the problem through observation, assessment and tracking the parent is in a better position to intervene. Close scrutiny and objective analysis of the habit would give a clue as to why the child suddenly develops the habit.

By careful scrutiny the parent is able to decipher the cause, origin and day the bad habit started, having this information at your finger tip would help you make an informed intervention.

Bad habits

We have been there before a rebellious child exhibiting some profoundly bad habit, as parents our job is to correct such habits by nipping them in the bud before they manifest further becoming a serious problem. When we notice such unwholesome behavior, acting quickly can make the deference between stopping the behavior or allowing it grows into a serious problem. As children experimentation is part and parcel of life, how else did we become the dominant species on earth?

We are born curious, creative thinkers with a high sense of curiously and wonder, so getting into unwholesome habits and practices is just part of life. A habit could be good, bad or outright dangerous even deadly so identifying the cause, reason and experimentation that could have led to such a habit helps us quickly understand and get to the root of the problem.

Most habits develop slowly over an extended period giving us as parent adequate time to help the child break the habit, slowly developing habits related to drugs could be smoking cigarettes, snorting household products like glue, paint or God forbid taking hard drugs like cocaine or heroin.

A child’s bad habit could be a simple as picking the nose, farting carelessly in public, poor self hygiene, tardiness, laziness a lackluster attitude to academics. Other more serious bad habit that the child could exhibit are drinking alcohol, stealing, gambling, lies, and truancy from school and sneaking out in the middle of the night or coming home very late at night.

When such habits are noticed it is our duty as parents to acknowledge the fact that the child needs help or guidance, wishing the habit away would not help and ignoring them won’t get rid of the behavior.

Remove what causes the habit

Haven identified the habit through close observation the parent’s next call to action is eliminating the cause or trigger that led to the habit in the first place. The first question we should ask ourselves is why now? Could there have been a traumatic experience like the loss of a loved one, teenage rebellion, and nervousness, lack of confidence or the environment.

All of the above can cause the manifestation of bad habits, knowing the trigger, and identifying the cause allows us remove the reason associated with the habit. Nipping ad habit before it becomes an addiction is the best way of stopping an unwholesome behavior in its tracks.

Let us consider drinking strong beverages, if you have stockpiles of choice spirits, beer and wines, the child might feel if dad takes the brew and has a large pantry full of the stuff it might not be all bad. Removing the cause of the habit like getting rid of every bottle of alcohol in the house enables the patents have sincere discussions with the child which might put an end to the habit.

Mannerisms associated with stress

Stress we know leads to all kinds of ailment and diseases; it can also cause bad behavior and the child developing bad habits even if the child is stressed out for no apparent reason. Then the parent’s job is to identify the reason for the stress. There are so many reasons that are stress related that could bring about bad behavior.

Children get easily stressed out a lot especially during academic season, examinations, bullying at school, illness, a change of school and peer pressure. Identifying the cause of the stress removes the obstacle which could have contributed to having bad habit, there are many simple actions when taken at the appropriate time that could help us reduces bad habits or the cause bad habits.

By effectively removing the cause of stress that is manifested in bad manners works.

A child from the Congo with a stick

A child from the Congo with a stick
A child from the Congo with a stick | Source

Motivate the child

Sometimes even as adults we find ourselves over our heads in certain behavior, children who exhibit bad habits apart from physiological treatment need honest discus. Honest discussions with your child would yield positive results faster than scolding the child, shouting or other aggressive tactics.

Children are usually more aware of the world and its consequences more than we think honest dialogue about the demerits and dangers of the bad habit can work. Give your child a good and valid reason why the habit should be stopped; give him examples, pointers and irrefutable proof of the dangers of such habits.

It is not out of place to give the child incentives that would motivate a change, using reward to elicit change could be effective, partnership in progress is better that forceful outbursts.

Alternative work

Suggesting an alternative action to your child gives them a leeway to explore less dangerous habits; habits might be instinctive and not consciously done. When an alternative is suggested the child on reflex might leverage on the alternative when the urge to do the bad habit comes.

Although some alternatives might also be annoying but they are the lesser of two evil, for example if the child has an annoying habit of squeezing the navel offer an alternative like shredding paper. If the hand is busy anytime the urge to pinch his navel comes up he just instinctively reaches out for paper and starts shredding. Doing something like fist clenching could in the long run prevent the bad habit.

A baby sucking the thumb

A baby sucking the thumb
A baby sucking the thumb | Source

How to deal with a child's bad habit

How do you deal with a child's bad habit

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Conversation is king

Being able to listen, talk honestly and freely with your child is very important; the child develops trust for the parent’s judgment and would likely excel in his chosen carrier. For your child to refrain from bad behavior the child needs to be educated on the dangers of the habit, just pointing it out is not enough. Talk freely about the habit while giving concrete advice.

Conversation between kids and their parents can make or break a child especially in their developmental period. Such children would seek your council over and above anyone else especially if the child is confidence of getting good advice. Instilling good values through conversation and dialogue is about the most effective method in breaking a child’s bad habit.

Teach your child how to relax

Children are born hyperactive that is how it’s been, they need to explore grow and learn new things, as adults it took many years of good and bad experiences to formulate our character and achieve enlightenment and wisdom. Imparting useful knowledge about the way the world, the virtues in patience and how to relax would be a very useful tool to break bad habits.

Nervous energy and hyperactive tendencies could bring about bad habit such as biting the nails, nose picking, sucking the thumb, and grinding of teeth. You can teach your child relaxation techniques like yoga, leisure swimming, slow breathing and even reading a low tempo novel can bring about a drastic change in your child’s habit.

Palestinian children in class

Palestinian children in jenin doing the right thing
Palestinian children in jenin doing the right thing | Source

A fathers love

image of a man carrying a child
image of a man carrying a child | Source

Support the child

The child might have decided on his own to stop a bad habit, if this scenario happens the parents job is to support the child, habits happen slowly so recovery or denial of such habits would also take sometime to reverse. The parent can support the child through counseling, encouragement, incentives, books and moral encouragement.

Be very patient

Breaking a bad habit is hard work because the habit has developed with time which makes it difficult to break; it takes time, will and dedication to overcome. Each day the parent should evaluate the changes, such as how long between manifestations of the habit, what triggers it and how well the child is doing each day. The progress would then be clearly seen and any needed adjustment to the program can be done.

Set a good example for the child

The parents have to lead by example if a change is possible and the bad habit dropped, we can’t say stop drinking its bad for you, if we constantly indulge in the act in the presence of our children. Because in child’s mind why stop the habit when daddy takes six bottles of the liquor daily.

The parent needs to show good example or else all the effort to change a certain situation would persist, good example shows proper behavior, mannerisms and conduct. A well brought up child would not start a bad habit unless motivated by certain conditions that brought the habit to life in the first place.

Always lead by example children model their behavioral character on what they see and the temperament and character of their parents. If the parents are sloppy the tendency for the child to be sloppy is high, same apply for neat freaks, and children imitate their parents either consciously or unconsciously.

How to break a bad habit in children

Types of bad habit

Bad habit can be categorized into dangerous habits, very bad habits and moderately bad habits, all of which I shall highlight bellow.

Some of the types of bad habits include

1 A child being addicted to hard drugs, this could be caused due to peer pressure unsupervised parties or being friends with people with bad intention. Some of the terrible drugs that can be classified as hard drugs are cocaine, heroin, Indian hemp, L.S.D. and many more, using this drug might transcend from bad habits to total addiction.

2 Stealing is another very bad habit, the child might steal to please friends, buy popularity, has low self esteem or just out of selfish motives. Stealing is a seriously bad habit which should be nipped quickly. Teach the child accounting and how he can live within the pocket money you give.

3 Lies is also a seriously bad habit, the parents job is to inculcate good values in the child. The child should know the value in telling the truth. Lies can be very damaging to a family’s dynamics.

4 Self inflicted injuries is a serious bad habit which can be dangerous to the child’s health, serious physiological issues might be at the bottom of the behavior. Professional assistance is keenly needed to break this strange habit.

5 Bad habits that can be considered minor are pulling of hair, grinding the teeth, pulling the navel, farting recklessly, bed wetting and low self worth.

Give the child confidence

Behavior and manners can be shaped through conversation an open door policy and tasks, give the child some responsibility while monitoring his progress. Build up your child’s confidence, so nervous bad habit like biting the nails becomes a thing of the past; praise the child for the good things done will boost his confidence.

Show your child you appreciate the effort and dedication he put into beating the habit, offer encouragement, direction and focus so the child can build confidence through determination and perseverance. Offering the child praise for his effort, recognition and attention through incentives and more privileges can affect the child positively which could lead to a permanent end to the bad habit.

Breaking bad habits need fast intervention, patience, a keen knowledge of changes in the child behavior, having meaningful conversation and giving support to help stop the bad habit.It takes total dedication and strict devotion to helping your child shake the habit, before some of the more serious ones can be overcome.

Some habit go away by themselves with age but some if not checked early would be with the child to adulthood.


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