Useful habits help people get things done and make us feel good about ourselves. By teaching your teen how to form a useful habit and why it is important to learn the process of forming a new habit, you will empower him/her to solve problems on his/her own and teach him/her to be independent.
- Begin by talking to your teen about habits - good and bad. Explain how you can change one habit by replacing it with another.
- Discuss and decided which bad habit your teen should work on replacing. Example: Not making his/her bed every morning.
- Discuss and decide what good habit can replace the bad habit. Following our example: Making his/her bed everyday.
- Discuss specifics of how your teen should accomplish the new habit. Write down the goal and a plan. Following our example: I have often given the suggestion to teens who had a hard time getting their bed made in the morning to roll out of bed and that very second turn around and pull up the sheets, fix the comforter and pillow. Voila, bed made! Talk with your teen, you can both come up with suggestions on how to attack the task at hand. Weigh the pros and cons of each suggestion but allow your teen to have the final say on how he/she will attack the task.
- Follow up for the next thirty days. You will need to check that your teen is completing the task for at least one month. When you check up on the task, it should be with your teen present so that the habit is fully reinforced. For our bed making example: you should be there to check whether or not the bed is made before your teen leaves for school. If it is, great. If not, your teen should make it before leaving. Don't admonish, just remind.
- After 30 days of following the habit, reward your teen for a job well done. Set your expectations that the useful habit will continue and allow your teen to start doing so independently. Re-discuss how the new good habit was formed to reinforce the power of useful habit making.
- While it may not seem that you are teaching your teen independence by checking up on him/her, it is imperative to do so. There is no natural urge to do things like making one’s bed. There needs to be some importance placed on the action in order for it to work for your teen. Your approval or disapproval will be all the importance your teen needs to complete the action day-to-day, allowing the useful habit to form over time. Independence comes after the process is learned and practiced.
- You can really reinforce your teen learning how to form a useful habit by forming one yourself. Modeling our behavior is how our children learn. You can even make this a positive parent-child experience by forming a useful habit together and checking up on each other. Try it out and let me know how it goes.
- I’ve read that it takes a certain amount of time to form a good habit. This time differs but it is anywhere from 21 days to 6 weeks. I have noticed that a months time normally works. You will be able to tell if your teen needs more or less time as he/she works on developing useful habits.
Habits of Highly Successful Teens
For teens, life is not a playground, it's a jungle. And, being the parent of a teenager isn't any walk in the park, either. In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, author Sean Covey attempts to provide "a compass to help teens and their parents navigate the problems they encounter daily."
How will they deal with peer pressure? Motivation? Success or lack thereof? The life of a teenager is full of tough issues and life-changing decisions. As a parent, you are responsible to help them learn the principles and ethics that will help them to reach their goals and live a successful life.
While it's all well and good to tell kids how to live their lives, "teens watch what you do more than they listen to what you say," Covey says. So practice what you preach. Your example can be very influential.
Covey himself has done well by following a parent's example. His dad, Stephen Covey, wrote the book The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, which sold over 15 million copies. Sean's a chip off the old block, and no slacker. His own book has rung in a more than respectable 2 million copies sold. Here are his seven habits, and some ideas for helping your teen understand and apply them:
- Be Proactive
Being proactive is the key to unlocking the other habits. Help your teen take control and responsibility for her life. Proactive people understand that they are responsible for their own happiness or unhappiness. They don't blame others for their own actions or feelings.
- Begin With the End in Mind
If teens aren't clear about where they want to end up in life, about their values, goals, and what they stand for, they will wander, waste time, and be tossed to and fro by the opinions of others. Help your teen create a personal mission statement which will act as a road map and direct and guide his decision-making process.
- Put First Things First
This habit helps teens prioritize and manage their time so that they focus on and complete the most important things in their lives. Putting first things first also means learning to overcome fears and being strong during difficult times. It's living life according to what matters most.
- Think Win-Win
Teens can learn to foster the belief that it is possible to create an atmosphere of win-win in every relationship. This habit encourages the idea that in any given discussion or situation both parties can arrive at a mutually beneficial solution. Your teen will learn to celebrate the accomplishments of others instead of being threatened by them.
- Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
Because most people don't listen very well, one of the great frustrations in life is that many don't feel understood. This habit will ensure your teen learns the most important communication skill there is: active listening.
Synergy is achieved when two or more people work together to create something better than either could alone. Through this habit, teens learn it doesn't have to be "your way" or "my way" but rather a better way, a higher way. Synergy allows teens to value differences and better appreciate others.
- Sharpen the Saw
Teens should never get too busy living to take time to renew themselves. When a teen "sharpens the saw" she is keeping her personal self sharp so that she can better deal with life. It means regularly renewing and strengthening the four key dimensions of life – body, brain, heart, and soul.
Eight Habits of the Heart: Embracing the Values that Build Strong Families and Communities