6 Empowering Practices to Correct “Bad Habits” for Kids

bad habits for kids

We all have habits that aren’t ideal. From nail-biting to spending a little too much time on the screen, bad habits for kids (and grown-ups) can manifest in different ways. 

That said, these “bad habits” are often just ways that we’ve learned to cope with other issues, such as anxiety, fear, pain, etc.

For example, nail-biting may actually be a sign of experiencing nerves. Temper tantrums may be a reaction to feeling overwhelmed. Excess screen time could be a symptom of boredom. 

We all want our children to grow up to be their best selves. Whether it’s procrastination, thumb-sucking, or talking back, these habits can be frustrating for both parents and kids. But fear not! With a bit of understanding and some simple practices, you can help your child correct those unwanted behaviors and set them on the path to success.


How bad habits form

Poor habits can form for various reasons, including boredom, stress, imitating peers or adults, lack of awareness, or simply as a way to cope with confusing emotions. It can be helpful to recognize that we all have negative habits to work on—managing these bad habits is simply a manner of finding the root of the cause

It’s important to approach correcting children’s undesirable habits with empathy and understanding (rather than judgment or punishment).

Before trying to correct unwanted habits, it’s helpful to understand why the habit has become a coping mechanism for your child. 


how to correct kids' bad habits


What are bad habits for kids?

Kids can pick up a wide range of bad habits. Remember, these behaviors are often unintentional and manifest as coping strategies for occurrences like being tired, scared, unhappy, bored, etc. 


Examples of bad habits in kids may include:

  • Thumb-sucking or nail-biting – This act can feel soothing to a child.
  • Procrastination or lack of focus on tasks – The child might feel insecure about the difficulty of a task or their ability to complete it.  
  • Interrupting others or talking back – They may struggle with impulse control. 
  • Avoiding chores or responsibilities – The child may simply find chores boring. 
  • Excessive screen time or device addiction – They may be getting most of their dopamine from the device’s games. 
  • Screaming during inappropriate times – The child may have reached their limits (they may be tired, frustrated, overwhelmed, etc.).
  • Lack of boundaries with other people – They may lack a sense of self in regard to others. 


6 practices for correcting bad habits

1. Open communication

Start by having an open and non-judgmental conversation with your child about the habit they’ve picked up. 

Ask them how they feel about it and what may have triggered the behavior. Listen patiently and offer reassurance that you are there to help them.


2. Positive reinforcement

Rather than focusing on the negative behavior, praise and reward your child for their positive efforts in breaking the habit. 

For example, if your child is trying to stop thumb-sucking, celebrate the days they go without doing it and offer small rewards or incentives to encourage their progress.


3. Role modeling

Children often imitate the behavior of adults, so it’s helpful to be mindful of your own actions and habits. 

If you want your child to develop healthy habits, you can set a positive example by practicing them yourself. Remember, it’s important for children to see that it’s normal to make mistakes and have setbacks. In fact, mistakes are often the best helpers when it comes to learning! 


4. Establish routines

A consistent routine can help children develop good habits and break bad ones. 

For example, if your child tends to procrastinate on homework, establish a daily study routine with a set time and place for homework to be done.


5. Encourage self-awareness

Help your child develop self-awareness by encouraging them to identify the triggers or emotions that lead to the bad habit. 

Once they’re aware of the underlying causes, they can learn to manage them in a more healthy way.


6. Make it fun! 

Kids just want to have fun! Correcting unwanted behaviors doesn’t have to be so serious. 

For example, If your child is avoiding chores, add a dash of joy to the process by listening to “cleaning up music” or turning it into a game


correcting kids' bad habits


Remember, it’s never too late to help your child become their best selves! Breaking bad habits is a process that requires patience, understanding, and positive reinforcement. 

By implementing these practices and maintaining a supportive and non-judgmental approach, you can help your child correct their bad habits and develop healthy behaviors that will benefit them for a lifetime. 


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How do you correct your child’s bad habits?

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