One Simple Tip to Break Bad Habits in Kids

Ugh! Bad habits!

Sometimes kids pick up bad habits, or they just come naturally. Bad habits can be difficult to break and sometimes parents are completely stumped at how to handle them. Punishment that is reserved for tantrums, fighting or disrespect just doesn’t seem fitting for a child that consistently leaves the refrigerator door open or forgets to brush his teeth. Sigh.

bad habits in kids

For years I have tried to break certain annoying habits of my little lovelies. I love each one of my munchkins, but I want them to be neat, orderly and mannerly. After much prayer and thought, I was blessed with an idea that finally works! In fact, their day-to-day discipline of overcoming their bad habits sometimes puts me to shame.

So, what’s my secret?

Our family plans a fun, Friday slumber party every single week. We stay up late, play games, have special snacks and all sleep in the same room. Everyone looks forward to this day — even mom and dad! Who doesn’t like time to just relax and enjoy some fellowship with the people you love most? I mean no chores, no clocks and special snacks like cheesecake and s’mores that you don’t typically take time to enjoy during the busy week. Yep, it’s definitely like a tiny vacation each and every week…but. It’s something that none of us should take for granted. It is ALMOST in the privilege category.

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Thinking along those lines, I developed a point system for my kids. I keep it reasonable and short so that even the youngest of the kids can easily remember which items get points off.

In fact, just last night I heard my four-year-old say to her sister. “We can’t throw our clothes on the floor. It’s on the point system!” Her ten-year-old sister replied, “Then we better pick them up.” Ahhh…music to my ears! Trust me, if you stick to this simple system, it really does work.

Here’s the basic idea of my point system.

For each one of the following infractions, the kids lose a certain amount of points. At the end of the week, if they have lost 50 or more points, they are not invited to the slumber party and have to go to bed at their normal bedtime. To make the stakes a little higher, I told them I wanted to start budgeting my funds in order to provide an extra special snack on Fridays. The kids really listened up then!

Friday night has basically become an easy reward that my kids can look forward to. In fact, now that they know it is possible to LOSE that special time due to bad habits, they now appreciate Friday nights even more. So two parenting issues are helped with this one system!

Here’s an inside look at what items are on our point system list.

  • Going outside without shoes on: 2 points
  • Girls not keeping their hair neat: 2 points
  • Chewing on pencils: 2 points
  • Losing schoolbooks: 5 points
  • Not cleaning room correctly before 8 am: 10 points
  • Leaving out toys, clothes, shoes, books etc. at night: 2 points
  • Leaving refrigerator door open: 2 points
  • Leaving toys or shoes outside: 2 points
  • Going to bed with a messy room: 5 points
  • Taking or eating food and drink upstairs: 5 points
  • Picking nose: 2 points
  • Bad attitudes towards siblings: 8 points

I highly recommend that you take the time to write out or print out your list and have it visible for all the kids to see. If your kids are unable to read, you can make a picture chart as well. My two preschoolers ask their brother and sisters about the point system if they forget, but we have been doing this system for about one year now and even the young ones have the points memorized!

I encourage you to try this point system for one week and see if it makes a difference with your family. If you don’t have a fun, family tradition, start one now and use it as an incentive. If your family chooses not to have a regular Friday night family night, then choose another regular privilege to be rewarded or missed.

Have you found any parenting strategies successful for bad habits? Let us know! All moms can learn a new parenting tip or two!

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