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Silent Habits Tutoring Our Children at Home

MsDora—parent, grandparent, Christian counselor—offers suggestions on raising confident, conscientious, responsible, productive children.

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.

Photo by karriezhu.  Text added.

Photo by karriezhu. Text added.

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.

I. Atmosphere

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).

II. Behavior

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.

III. Nutrition

Photo by Lance Cpl. Jackeline Perez Rivera

Photo by Lance Cpl. Jackeline Perez Rivera

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.

IV. Pictures

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.

Photo by Graham Tidy

Photo by Graham Tidy

“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.

V. Purchases

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

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

Comments

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on July 26, 2019:

Thank you, Shauna. Just a reminder for parents to be aware of what they teach by incidentals around the home. You said it right, the children are sponges and soak things up through their senses.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on July 26, 2019:

Dora, I love this article. Children are sponges; they absorb that which they see, feel, hear, and taste. What we provide as parents isn't always obvious to us. Subliminal messages oftentimes speak louder than those we intend to impart.

Children don't always do as they're told, but will undoubtedly repeat what they see. The phrase, "do as I say, not as I do" should be eradicated from parental advisement to their children. They (children) live by example.

It all starts with Mom, Dad, and the home environment.

Excellent article, Dora!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on June 05, 2019:

Denise, I'm sure guessing that your experience of having the children do what you do kept you on your toes. Yes, it does take time and effort for them to unlearn what we taught them by example. Thanks for underscoring how careful we need to be.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on June 05, 2019:

Eric, you're such a joy to know. Thank you for following and sharing. I'm guessing that you're doing even much better than you think.

Denise W Anderson from Bismarck, North Dakota on June 05, 2019:

I have learned from my own experiences that these things are so true. Our children follow both our good and our bad examples. On a humorous note, when my children were young, we had rolls of toilet paper placed throughout our home to use for nose blowing as tissue was too expensive. One day, I used about ten squares from a roll of toilet paper to blow my nose, and then, with my children watching, I stuffed the used paper inside the roll. From that day forward, my children did exactly the same thing. It took years of providing a different example to undo the results of that one moment of thoughtlessness.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on June 03, 2019:

Such beautiful work of love. I tried to practice what you preached today. Maybe I got it a full quarter right. Better and we are "in" love. Thanks.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on June 03, 2019:

Thanks, Alyssa. Being a parent myself, I agree that there are many other areas of influence we need to consider and adjust. Old habits die hard, they say.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on June 03, 2019:

Thanks, Peg for your valuable input. The children may not need formal lessons from the parents; they learn by watching them everyday. Thanks for adding to the list of silent habits.

Alyssa from Ohio on June 03, 2019:

This is spot on! Actions speak louder than words and children learn so much from watching their parents. Your five tips are helpful and encourage parents to consider other areas of life where they may need to improve their behavior and daily habits. Excellent article!

Peg Cole from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on June 03, 2019:

Someone mentioned recently that an insurance discount was given at one time to parents who taught their own children best driving habits. Looking around in traffic that doesn't seem like such a good idea.

You're so right about the silent tutors that shape our children's habits. Our language, our manners, our interactions, our bedtime regimen, our TV watching, all influence our children.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on June 03, 2019:

Nithya, thank for your agreeable input. We really need to pay attention to the impact of our behavior in the home.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on June 03, 2019:

Thanks, Devika. Glad my article helped you see even better the impact of parents' habits on the children.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on June 03, 2019:

What we do and how we behave at home greatly influences our children and we do not realize how it affects them.You have given excellent advice for parents to follow.

Devika Primic on June 03, 2019:

Parents show their actions to their children and these actions are observed easily from a young age. You made me see more of how parenting skills affect children from that age.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on June 02, 2019:

Wow, Flourish. Most likely, your daughter will continue the habits instilled in her early. She will thank you too.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on June 02, 2019:

Jackie, I'm grateful and contented. Thanks for your affirmation. Of course, habits are passed on to our children even though they may not be aware. Yet, we all should be aware as you and your husband were.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on June 02, 2019:

Sean, our focus on love will make a difference. It diminishes our selfishness and make us more determined to live our lives for the good of our children. Thanks for your input.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on June 02, 2019:

You're welcome Rajan, and you're right. Children are always observing even when we take a break from intentional instructing.

FlourishAnyway from USA on June 02, 2019:

What wonderful advice. We have little notion of the impact we parents have on kids until they start to repeat our words and behaviors. I’m thankful that mine picked up on motivational and congratulatory talk at a young age. We also never gave her soda and she still doesn’t drink it even now as a 19 year old.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on June 02, 2019:

Good resolve, Bill. We can only do so much. Perseverance is a great asset.

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on June 02, 2019:

How are you Dora?

Before my husband and I had children we discussed how our own parents arguing or getting in fights as we called it, (even if no punches were fired), upset us. We agreed then we would not put our own children through that and I think for the most part we kept the agreement. I am so glad we did seeing our children are low key with their children, so I think these things can be handed down.

Ioannis Arvanitis from Greece, Almyros on June 02, 2019:

An excellent and helpful article for all parents, and not only! Your writings always come from your Heart, a Heart full of Love for others; that's why they always are helpful! Thank you, my Sister, for your efforts for a better world!

Only Love can make a home!

Sean

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on June 02, 2019:

These silent tutors greatly impact a child's mind. We need to make the best use of them. Children learn more by observation than pure instruction. Thanks for sharing.

William Kovacic from Pleasant Gap, PA on June 02, 2019:

Very informative and inspiring, Dora. I may not hold the parent's influence with my grandchildren, but I can always do what I can do. Thanks for the enlightenment.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on June 01, 2019:

Have fun, Eric. What a healthy humorous attitude for your son to imitate!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on June 01, 2019:

Thanks, Linda. The job of parenting is never done, if we take it seriously. Still learning.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on June 01, 2019:

Lori, never mind your neglect when you didn't know better. We all fell short but His grace is sufficient. Best to you, the children and grandchildren, going forward.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on June 01, 2019:

Dora we did "faces" yesterday and will again today. Silent is so cool. He does not do "mad" very well. We will work on that and questioning today. (that is hard to do silent ;-)

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on May 31, 2019:

You have included a lot of excellent advice in this article, Dora. You've listed some important habits for parents and children to develop.

Lori Colbo from Pacific Northwest on May 31, 2019:

What a great topic. I wish I had read it when my kids were at home. I had some bad habits that I'm sure gave the wrong message and I regret them. It's funny because when I last visited one of my son's home a few years ago all these thoughts you mentioned were going through my mind. I picked up on the silent habits and I was sad for some and happy for others but I had to look at my own life as a mother and couldn't judge. Thanks for your wonderful presentation.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on May 31, 2019:

Thank you, Gabe and Eric. You are blessed to have each other, and you obviously learn from each other. Big advantage for Gabe!

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on May 31, 2019:

Came Back to read again. Thank you. And Gabe said thank you. Our pediatrician is adamant about finances we are just starting :-)

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on May 31, 2019:

Thanks, Liz for your affirmation. Children do begin to learn early and we do well to be and remain alert in giving them directions.

Liz Westwood from UK on May 31, 2019:

Having recently spent time with grandchildren I can see the relevance of the points you make in this article. Children learn quicker and younger than we realise. Our 19 month grandson copies and picks up on a lot.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on May 31, 2019:

Thanks, John. With the children gone, it's start again and we will probably do better with the grandchildren.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on May 30, 2019:

What wonderful advice, MsDora. Children respond to these(silent tutors)and store so much information (like sponges) so we have to be very aware to ensure they absorb the right kind of things. I no longer have children at home full time but grandchildren come to visit, so your advice is helpful.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on May 30, 2019:

Pam, I share your joy that the children are grown. We might still have to help them in influencing the grandchildren. The little ones also mimic us.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on May 30, 2019:

Mary, your friend is also right. When I taught school in the Caribbean, there were no partitions between the classes and the noise from one class traveled to another. I tried talking softly to my class, forcing them to listen and also to talk softly and was commended. Same strategy! Thanks for sharing.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on May 30, 2019:

This article is so true. Children do seem to mimic their parent's behavior when they grow up. I think this beautifully laid out article lists virtually every important point in raising children. A lot of love goes a long way. I never considered a picture influencing a child for a career, but children do take in everything they see and hear.

I am glad mine are grown and responsible adults.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on May 30, 2019:

You are right Dora. Even the way we speak to one another are learned by the kids. I had a friend who put on the television at a very low volume because she believes that kids then lean to listen better and talk softly.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on May 30, 2019:

Tim, thanks for your sweet encouragement. Such a beautiful trait may be included in the habits which make good tutors for our children.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on May 30, 2019:

Thanks, Bill. The longer we live, the more reminders we need. Still, a good life!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on May 30, 2019:

Linda, your children and their children are blessed for having you as a parent. You got it twice right, but only time will tell how many times they get it right because of you. Blessings to you and your offspring!

Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on May 30, 2019:

Wonderful article with a wealth of great information, Ms. Dora. Lots of good things to remember. Our habits silently influence our children and as adults we have to always teach them through words, actions, beliefs, and thoughts. I enjoyed it Ms. dora, and I will read this again for more ideas. To a thoughtful and kind author, may your day be peaceful.

Respect and admiration,

Tim

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on May 30, 2019:

Eric, thanks for the smile your comments brought. Prayer for us parents, teachers, mentors and all is the most appropriate response to this article.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on May 30, 2019:

All excellent points and excellently presented. What we do matters as much as what we say. Such simple lessons and yet we tend to forget them over the years.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on May 30, 2019:

Dora, this is simply beautiful. My own children, my 2 daughters, are now adults and I feel so very blessed by them. They are caring, sensitive, honest human beings.

I was not a perfect parent, but I did the best that I could to give them security and stability. I welcomed their friends into our home, we cooked and baked together, their dad and I worked hard but we also had many memorable vacations as a family.

I always read to them, long after they could read on their own. We went to church every Sunday.

I haven't accomplished huge things in my seven decades on this planet, but I know that twice I got it right.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on May 30, 2019:

I only aspire my lovely Dora.

I used a bad word yesterday. Your writing here is like poetry to me. I pray for all leaders of children.

You touched my heart. Thank you. I need reminders to act right. I must adhere to "Do as I do not what I say".

May the wings of angels alight on your soul.