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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15 thoughts on “One Simple Tip to Break Bad Habits in Kids”

  1. Such a good idea! Our family , as well as probably every other family, also faces struggles like this. I have tried little reward systems that are similar, but turning them around into a penalty system might just be what we needed, Thank you for posting! – Found you through the blog hop, by the way. Have a wonderful day!

  2. KC @ The Real Thing with the Coake Family

    I love your idea of a family slumber party… I bet my girls would LOVE that! It sounds so fun!
    Thanks so much for sharing at Real Family Fun at The Real Thing with the Coake Family.
    Have a great weekend.
    KC

  3. My Father in heaven gave us a Friday night celebration with Him like that every week, too. It’s a wonderful brilliant idea. It’s called the Shabbat. :-)

    1. There are so many, aren’t there? :) Too big of a list is annoying, so I try to decide on what is the best for them and our family. Since we have so many kids, leaving out shoes and toys is a big one. We can easily clutter up the house in no time. Each family is different, and each kid has their own areas where they need more direction. I would try to focus on those! Thanks for commenting!

  4. Do you let the children *know* during the day (or at the end of the day) how many points they’re losing (or have lost) and for what infraction(s)? Or do they just find out at the end of the week whether or not they can participate in Fun Friday? Just trying to figure out how much the kids are “in the know” about their point loss.
    And do the kids miss out on ALL the fun or just the whatever happens after bedtime?

    1. Hi Melissa,

      I do let the kids know when I remember to point it out. Sometimes we talk about it before we go to bed, so everyone knows if they need to work harder or not. Especially if I find lots of toys or shoes lying around, I remind them about how many points they have already lost. I do tell them why they lost points. That lets them know I am keeping up with the rules. It also helps them to see what they need to work on. They only lose out on bedtime activities. But, none of them want to lose out on it! We had a FUN slumber party last night. We were up giggling at 1:30 am and we had to get up at 7am the next morning! But, we made memories. :)

  5. This is fantastic! I would love to know what you do on a week where you have other plans on a Friday night and can’t have a slumber party that week…or is it a priority that always happens no matter what? Can’t wait to share this with the Mr. I think he will love it too!

    1. Hi Tara!

      Great questions. Honestly, because we stick to the points system, when we do have something else planned it’s not a big deal. I still may say “5 points off for that!” but no one really remembers that we don’t have a Friday night planned. We travel once a month, and sometimes that lands on a Friday night. We just enjoy and have fun on our travels whether they do well or not on the point system. You may have a better idea, but I don’t like to roll their points to the next week. Everyone gets a clean slate every Saturday morning! If you come up with a good idea, let me know. :) Thx for asking!

  6. LOVE THIS IDEA!! I’m thinking of the logistics in my family and my biggest issue will be TATTLING – “Mom, I just saw so & so pick her nose” for example. What would you do in that instance? I was thinking add “Tattling” to the list, but then I wonder if I’d ever catch them picking their nose, or just they’d hide while they did it? Ha.. any thoughts would be sooo appreciated!! (: Thanks for the great idea!

  7. At what age could you realistically start this? My oldest son is a bit over 2.5 and not extremely verbal yet. I love this idea, but I don’t see him being ready for this for quite some time…

  8. I noticed you didn’t mention a starting points number. I’m assuming it doesn’t matter because you focus on loss of points. Is that correct? If you were to give them points to keep, how many would you start with? I’m thinking of using pennies or something for this. My 8yo DD does well with a money system in her class.

    Thanks for the tip! I love this one.

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