There are life skills kids need to learn, as well as good manners they need to adopt, such as always saying please and thank you, sharing, and respecting elders. When it comes to babies and toddlers, there are habits like thumb-sucking and pacifier use that serve a self-soothing purpose, but that you’ll want to wean your child off eventually. Then there are those nervous habits like biting nails or twirling hair that might not be all that bad, but you might want to consider helping your child find alternatives if they become bothersome.
With older kids, there are other habits that can quickly take form and will continue if you don’t put an end to them. Here are 10 habits you should help your kids kick right away to prevent them from becoming frequent occurrences.
10 Talking With Food In Their Mouth
There’s nothing grosser than someone talking with food in their mouth. While it was cute when Vada did it in My Girl, joking that she was eating “seafood” (as in “see food”), it’s never cute for a child, or adult, for that matter, to gab away while chewing on food.
If you notice your child doing this, correct the behavior instantly, and repeatedly. It might take a while before they stop doing it. Kids tend to always have something to say, and find it difficult to stop to complete the mundane task of chewing and swallowing food. But it’s a habit you want to get them out of before they get older.
9 Picking Their Nose
Sometimes, a nose needs to be picked, and we totally get that. But teach your kids to use a Kleenex, and duck away to the bathroom or a private area to get the troublesome booger out in private.
No one wants to watch a toddler, child, or teenager digging for gold at the dinner table, or while you’re having a conversation in the living room. And without a Kleenex in hand, who knows where said gold will end up!
8 Not Putting Things Away
From dishes to toys, it doesn’t matter what the “thing” in question is. What’s most important is that they learn to put “it” away rather than leaving their stuff for someone else to pick up after them.
Get them into a habit of cleaning up after themselves early, whether it’s putting their dishes in the sink or dishwasher, putting toys or books away, tidying up a homework desk, or anything else. Making this part of a routine early on will make things much easier as they get older.
7 Belching in Public
In some cultures, belching out loud after a good meal is totally acceptable. And if this is the case in your culture and household, by all means, respect that. But if not, try to curb such behavior, especially when it happens at all hours, not just after a meal, so your child doesn’t make a habit of it.
At the very least, if they feel they need to open their mouths to really get a good one out instead of trying to burp quietly, make sure they utter a sincere “excuse me” once they’re done.
6 Not Covering Their Mouth When They Cough
It’s amazing how many adults still cough openly, spreading their germs and potential illnesses into the air. Teach your kids from a young age to cover their mouths when they cough. And not with their hand, but with the inside of their elbow.
This contains the spread of germs and keeps germs off their hands as well so they don’t spread them by then touching a toy in school or at home, or someone else. The more kids who learn to do this, the fewer illnesses will spread in schools, and eventually make their way home to you, too.
5 Leaving Dirty Clothes On The Floor
Kids have this knack for throwing clothes on the floor, usually right beside the hamper, instead of actually putting them inside the laundry bin. Or they might leave them on the floor in the bathroom after changing or having a shower.
As good parents, you probably dutifully pick them up and throw them into the hamper, cursing silently to yourself as you do this. Try to stop and get them into the habit of putting their own dirty clothes away, even if you have to bite your lip and leave the offending items on the floor until the child gets home from school.
4 Wiping Their Hands On Clothing
Kids have this nasty habit of wiping their hands on their clothes, usually with food but also with other things, like paint, dirt, or any other substance they come across. While it’s fine for outdoor play where you expect them to get muddy and dirty, inside, you want to avoid nasty stains that won’t come out in the wash. Not to mention this bad habit.
Make sure to give your child a napkin or paper towel at every meal and encourage them to use it to wipe not only their mouths, but their hands, too. And provide a napkin or cloth for hand wiping during other messy activities, like painting.
3 Not Drinking Enough Water
It’s tough to get a child to drink water when they haven’t had it engrained in their minds from an early age. Start early by offering as much water as possible instead of juice. Once kids get used to sugary juices, it will be harder to get them to drink water.
Not drinking enough water can lead to so many issues, from dehydration to constipation, chapped lips, and even dental problems. So you want to prevent kids from getting into the habit of going all day without water, or only drinking sugar-filled juices.
“I’ll do it later.” You probably hear this a lot, especially from older kids. It’s often in response to telling them to finish their homework, walk the dog, empty the dishwasher, call their grandmother for her birthday, or some other chore or task.
Procrastination can become a bad habit pretty quickly, so you want to get your kids on the right track to completing whatever needs to be done quickly and right away rather than letting a to-do list get longer and longer. They’ll thank you when they become adults, enter college or the working world, and realize the value of not leaving everything to the last minute.
1 Too Much Screen Time
This can snowball pretty quickly: first it’s an hour of video games after school. Then it’s spending an hour in their rooms on their phones, computers, and social media. Next, it’s mindlessly sitting in front of the TV binging shows.
Set a structure and some kind of limits early before kids starting craving more and more screen time. It really can be like an addiction (in fact, many classify it as such), so it’s best to set limits early, and stick to them, so this doesn’t become a dangerous and detrimental habit.