Over the past forty-two years, I’ve developed many habits. For example, whenever I run across a new piece of music I absolutely have to sit down at the piano and play it. Or when I have a child with a sick stomach their absolute first foray back into eating again has to be 7UP and saltines. It’s a habit. I don’t even think about those things anymore because they’re so ingrained in me.
Whether we like it or not, we all operate on habits. “Creatures of habit” is not just a cliché, it’s very revealing about human nature.
Inside of a busy home, particularly one with many children, all of those habits are magnified. With our big crew, I have become increasingly aware that my habits are reflected in the lives of my children. That can be rather scary to see your bad habits magnified by eight.
I’ve also become aware that instilling good habits in my own life and in my family’s lives makes our home run smooth as silk. I do know that it requires that I am purposeful because those nasty little (and big) bad habits creep in unaware. Before I know it everyone is piling their books on the end of the counter (habit: lack of neatness), or giving snippy responses to each other (habit: lack of courtesy), or stretching across the table to reach the bread while food falls out of their mouths mid-conversation (hello! habit: bad manners).
Habits, habits, habits. Every single one of those things can be related to developing a bad habit. When that’s the case, that bad habit needs to go. Since the mother is usually the one with the most opportunity to teach, it’s up to us as mothers to give those bad habits the boot.
1. Select one habit that you all need to work on and focus on just that one habit for a month or two. This is where we are training our minds to be on alert for one specific thing; in the process, it becomes an ingrained habit.
2. Consider how your own behavior models the good habit on which you’re wanting to focus.
3. Focus on that habit by seeing how it influences little actions. For example, rather than being frustrated with your eight-year-old’s messy room and nagging her again to clean up, you focus on the overall habit of neatness. Rather than getting upset because the trash bags were left by the back door again, you focus on the habit of diligence in work.
We discuss it first thing in the morning before the day gets started. This keeps it fresh on our minds and this reminder every day for two months is effective to say the least! We often talk about how that habit applies to different situations – how we did or did not do it. Remember: focus on developing the overall habit not just nitpicky issues that are simply a symptom of a bad habit.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed with all that we have to work on – we can be so hard on ourselves, can’t we? So pick one habit that you believe will be most beneficial in making the home run smoothly and keeping the family life strong, and just focus on that. When that one is well-ingrained – and it will be when that’s your focus for two months – move on to another habit.
Now, because our home is one where we desire for Christ to be central, I have to be on guard against ever giving the impression that doing good leads to “scoring points with God”. Our salvation is dependent on Christ, not on some perceived good work that I do or my child does. Some habits – like regularly spending time in God’s Word – can truly lead to developing a deeper love for God; other habits are developed just to keep the house running smoothly. It’s important to keep those distinctions clear and to ensure that the message of the Gospel is never confusing.
Habits are important because we are preparing our children for life. Good habits will be a lifelong blessing to them and to those they relate with day in and day out.
“Oh, that my ways may be established to keep Your statutes;
Then I will not be ashamed when I look upon all your commandments.”