5 Ways To Help Your Child Create Habits That Stick

7 minute read

Healthy habits are important because ultimately they influence how we think, act, feel and behave. Habits can also make our lives easier! When our good habits go out the window, we can begin to experience mental fatigue, frustration and difficulty maintaining focus. The same is true for children! As parents, it’s our responsibility to help our children create good habits that will instil confidence and productivity as they grow up. This is one way we can set them up for success!


An example of good habits for children would include their morning routine:


  • Eat breakfast
  • Get dressed for school
  • Brush teeth
  • Let the dog out
  • Get your school bag
  • Carry a water bottle to stay hydrated


Other habits you might want to introduce into your child’s life include healthy eating, getting into an exercise routine or completing homework before dinner time. 


Related: 8 Habits of Highly Successful Homeschool Families


Tips for parents

Be patient

Habits are not formed overnight. In fact, it can take a little over two months before a new behaviour becomes automatic and turns into a habit. When setting expectations for your child, try to be realistic and patient with them. It’ll be more difficult for children to adopt a new habit if they feel that their progress is causing frustration. Allow your child to set the pace and you will notice that the more at ease they are, the easier it will be for the habit to stick. 


Start simple

Begin with a habit that is simple but satisfactory, for example, brushing teeth. This may form part of a bigger morning routine, as discussed above, but it’s important to start simple. Children may feel overwhelmed by trying to do multiple tasks and developing several new habits at once. So break the routine down into smaller, simple steps and allow them to master one thing at a time. 


5 Ways To Help Your Child Create Habits That Stick


As you begin to build new habits for your family, remember the 5 Rs:


  • Role model
  • Reminders
  • Remove temptations
  • Routines and rituals
  • Rewards

Role model

The mantra “more is caught than taught” has never been more true! Your child will find it easier to adopt new habits and make them stick if they watch you do it too. If your child sees you reading, they are more likely to want to read as well. If they see you eat all the vegetables on your plate, they are more likely to enjoy them with enthusiasm. 


The opposite is also true. If you never wash your hands before dinner, there’s a smaller chance that your child will adopt this new habit. 


The good news is that you don’t have to be the only role model that helps to form these new habits. You could be inspired by your child’s favourite athlete to encourage healthy eating. Or perhaps one of their friends has just started a new sport. Their peers have a profound effect on their behaviours, so you can use their commendable behaviour as an example to help form a new habit.


The conclusion: In order to create habits that stick, you need to model them for your child. Simply seeing you do it may be enough to keep your child motivated. By simply seeing you doing something may be enough to keep your child motivated. 


Related: How To Get Your Child To Love Maths (Even If You Don’t!)


The most effective way to get a new habit to stick is by setting reminders for ourselves to do it. Find a way to prompt your child to start the action. To start with, these prompts will need to come from you. The key is to make these reminders and prompts tangible and visual. 


You could create a daily checklist or calendar of activities that need to be completed. This will aid your child in successfully completing their morning routine, without forgetting any of the steps. 


Reminders can be very simple, like putting a glass of water next to your child’s bed to remind them to begin the day with a big gulp of water. 


Related: Make Your Week Easier By Doing These Things On A Sunday


Remove temptations

Sometimes the easiest way to create a healthy habit is to break a bad one! The best way to do this is to remove any temptations from their periphery. Temptations create a pull in the form of desire, so stopping this desire requires moving the temptation. 


For example, if you are trying to get your child to head to bed earlier each night, remove the temptations to stay up until late, such as taking the TV, phone and any other tech devices out of their bedroom. 


Another example centres around homework habits. If you would like your child to complete their homework before dinner, then remove the temptations which would hinder this goal. You could establish a rule that as soon as your child gets home from school, they have a healthy snack and then begin doing their homework. In this instance, you’d want to remove toys, gadgets and other items that would steal their attention. 


Routines and rituals

Routines help us to create habits that stick, particularly for children. If you are looking to incorporate a new habit into your child’s life, often it’s helpful to begin by piggy-backing off of an already established routine or ritual. 


For example, if your child is already in the habit of having a bath just before bedtime, it’s a great opportunity to stack a new habit you want them to adopt, such as brushing their teeth. They will gradually start to associate their established habit (bath time) with their new habit (brushing their teeth). You could then add to the train of habits by including activities like getting into their pyjamas and reading a chapter of a book. 


Related: 7 Ways To Boost Your Child’s Confidence In Their Academics



Positive reinforcement is when you reward somebody for good behaviour, making it more likely for them to repeat that good behaviour. Introducing a reward system to their daily routine will help your child’s good habits to stick!


Good rewards could include things like hugs, fun activities and sincere praise. You might want to avoid offering material rewards like food or toys which could set them up for unhealthy habits in the future. 

Rewards can be a mix of both short term (they get to choose the book you read together that night) and long term (you’ll put money in a jar to earn something bigger at the end of the week or month, such as a special day out). These rewards will be dictated by the habits you are trying to form, how big they are, and just how invested you want your children to be in the process. 

Related Articles

Millennial woman with curly black hair tutoring brunette teenage girl

We help families find their perfect tutor

Help your child improve their grades and get their confidence back.