Tried and True Habits & The Surprising Advantage of Good Manners

a shadow on pavement of an adult hand offering help to a child

One of the nicest things about deciding to do better is that you get to start right where you are.

If the gulf between the life you envision for you and your child, and the life you are living resembles the grand canyon – no problem. That just means lots of room to improve. If your child is a lifeguard, was just chosen captain of the team, is a member of MENSA and tutors math in his or her spare time, it may be that the only improvement possible is to tidy up the stitching on their “Student Of The Year” badge. But for those of us who are still aspiring, it’s worth standing back and taking a look at some basic areas that are proven markers on the road to a happy, healthy life.

Campouts are over, you’ve had enough late nights, s’mores and fair food to last you till the next ice age, so, it’s time to ask yourself and your child: How are your eating habits? (Do you have eating habits?) It’s way to easy to catch a bite whenever if you are on a tight schedule and already struggling to keep up. Making meals a priority will give your child a 35% less chance of engaging in disordered eating, 24% greater likelihood of choosing healthy foods, and 12% less likelihood of becoming overweight. Parents are at the helm when it comes to food choices in the home. So, is your pantry geared toward the brain game or the couch slouch?

Are you getting enough rest? In case you missed my other posts, sleep is as essential to life as food. Every major bodily function depends on it. The continuing national trend toward less and less sleep for kids has led in some cases to misdiagnosis of ADHD and ADD. Sleep deficit also impacts the ability to focus and retain information, and can lead to mood swings and depression. Definitely not attributes for success in life or school. Are you and your child disciplined in activities that require practice?

Discipline has become a negative word in some circles. But since we are not born knowing how to read music or play an instrument, taking regular time to practice, can be the difference between doing well at something, or enjoying rather than enduring music lessons. Doing well at anything is its own self-reinforcing loop, and practice is the mainstay.

Why do I keep including you in the list for your child? Well its simple; However much we like it or don’t, our kids take their cues from us. One of the very best ways to enrich your child’s life is to better your own. (Good excuse to learn to do well at something you love!) Is it easy for your child to make and keep friends? Is he or she polite and considerate of others? It’s likely that no matter how adept you, or your child, are at socializing there is room for improvement.

If yours is the more reticent personality, take heart! Studies have shown that we can continue to improve and acquire social skills throughout our whole life! Interesting that being courteous is much more than just a nice idea. Why does this matter so much? Well it seems that children who learn well and are polite tend to get more attention (and do better) than those that don’t. However much we may grind our teeth and pound our fists in the name of fairness, its true. This is called “The Matthew Effect” and was coined by Malcom Gladwell in his book Outliers.

These skills can be the difference between an average education and a better one, being hired or passed over for a job, or getting a recommendation from someone important for a school or other program. Check out the full story at Huffington Post – you-tube “Matthew Effect”

It’s sort of like the rich get richer thing, except in this case the resource is an inner one that is equally available to everyone. What do you and your child want in exchange for this year of your life? Whatever you decide, keep your standards high. If you don’t expect anything from your kids you won’t be disappointed.

Lots more resources!  

Effects of insufficient sleep

Importance of social skills – success

Cornell study – effects of family mealtimes

Seven Habits for kids

New York Times – health special report

AHA Top 10 Tips to Help Children Develop Healthy Habits

CDC – guidelines for childrens activitiy

Family Doctor Tips for healthy eating for kids. kids

Kids Health Organization – Tips for healthy eating – kids

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