Silent Habits Tutoring Our Children at Home
We try hard to steer our children into becoming happy, healthy, upright adults. We instruct them and buy books for them to read. We scold them, praise them and offer them incentives. Do we also consider the silent tutors (our habits) in our home which add their influence to our teaching? They "speak" to our children as often as we do.
Habits come from tendencies which take up residence in our subconscious minds. Good habits trigger good actions, but bad habits compete with our conscious efforts to perform the right action, when it is contrary to the habitual. Sometimes we mindlessly follow our habits into acting on impulse and our children are more impressed with what we do rather than what we say. Our habits (good or bad) prove to be more effective teachers than our instructions.
Let's silently inspire happy, healthy living in the following five areas by installing healthy habits in our home. If some damage is already done, it will help for the parents to admit their error and implement a change of direction which will positively influence the children and later, the grandchildren.
Children learn home atmosphere by sensing it. They notice the complementary blend of colors, the subtle fragrances, the cleanliness and the comfort. They also notice the smiles, the nods of approval, the welcome and goodbye hugs, the looks of pride and appreciation in the interaction between family members. This setting becomes stamped on their minds as normal and exemplary. Usually, the physical and relational atmosphere in their childhood home will become the model for their own.
For parents who understand the importance of the home atmosphere as a training ground for the future homemaker, Ellen White, prolific author on the importance of the home environment suggests:
- Make home as attractive as possible. . . Home must not lack sunshine. . . that they may look back upon the home of their childhood as a place of peace and happiness.
- The home may be plain, but it can always be a place where kindly deeds are done, where courtesy and love are abiding guests.
- Cleanliness, neatness, and order are indispensable (to be balanced with the physical development and the mental and moral training of the children).
Eliza Martinez, expert on childhood development, warns: “It's not easy to be on your best behavior at all times, but by doing your best most of the time, your child learns how to act in the world around him.” Following are some positive behaviors which children learn in the silence of their parents’ example.
- Being punctual for appointments; making ample preparation beforehand;
- Putting away the cell phone at dinnertime;
- Reading often, and let the children see them read;
- Doing chores they expect the children to do, like clearing the table after a meal, putting soiled clothes in the hamper, putting shoes and bags in assigned places.
- Hygiene routines like washing hands after using the restroom and before sitting down to eat, brushing teeth before going to bed.
- Regular attendance at a place of worship.
The children are likely to adopt these and other similarly good behaviors just because they are established habits in their home.
The environment—and the family home in particular—play a crucial role in shaping children's eating behaviors (Kral and Faith, 2007). The pantry, the refrigerator and the platters on the dinner table are the first food environments for the child. What foods do parents make available?
- Fruits instead of Fritos?
- Home cooked chicken instead of processed meats?
- Lemonade instead of soda?
Children learn to like what they are fed. It is worth the time to instill healthy eating habits rather than lecture them on proper nutrition and then serve them fast food with repeated apologies of how busy life is. Early eating habits influence their strength or weakness in response to contagious diseases, and later to the threat of diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity which come with the threat of daily living. It is in their parent’s home that they develop the appetite for healthy foods. No words, necessary except to explain why the food in the house is good for them.
There is a story about a father who had four sons. When he became of age, the first son chose to become a sailor. So did the second and the third. In a desperate attempt to direct the last child toward a different career, the father sought counsel from anyone who had an opinion. Finally, a behaviorist asked to visit the house. After visiting the bedrooms, he turned to descend the stairs. On the wall at the bottom of the stairs hung an imposing picture of an ocean liner.
“No wonder,” the visitor said. “They responded to the invitation they received every day of their lives.”
Every child will not choose a career based on a picture, but it is wise to err on the safe side by feeding the children’s minds with wholesome pictures which can affect their interests. Be aware that even though they may not discuss the pictures in the magazines on the coffee table, or on the one they found hidden in a closet, or the images they saw in the movie, the impressions stay on their minds. Isn't that the reason that business places hang motivational pictures on their wall? Make it a habit to choose images for the home, and even for their clothing, which "say" something inspirational or empowering.
One young female celebrity blamed her mother’s online purchases for the huge debt she had amassed. She watched her mother unwrap multiple colors of dresses and shoes in the same style. Whatever the older woman liked, she bought many and her daughter learned to do the same. The young woman was not privy to the cost or how it was paid, and she never took that into account when it was her time to order.
What do the children learn as they watch parents make purchases? Do they learn:
- to spend cautiously and not frivolously?
- to differentiate between want and need?
- to purchase sale items only to add to some of the same already hoarded at home?
- to look for a cheaper brand which has equal quality?
"Personal finance and related topics are subjects I don’t think our school systems focus on enough, which leaves financial education up to the parents or the child’s initiative." (Ryan Guina in Money Management)
Budgeting, wise spending, economic responsibility and self-control are lessons the children can learn from the parents’ habits as much as from classroom lessons on economics. Because their sense of cause and effect is limited, it is also wise for them to see the parents write the check and pay the credit card bill.
Silent Habits Poll
What other silent tutors in your home have you thought about?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Dora Weithers