My father always said, “To change your life, change your habits”.
For him, good habits are the most important thing that parents can teach their children. And true enough; I actually believe that the habits that I learned during my childhood have had a significant impact on my personality and well being on the whole.
So when it was my turn to become a parent to a cute little baby girl, I was understandably anxious.
I tried to find out what are some really good habits that a parent can teach their kids from an early age; habits that will help shape their personality.
Moreover, I was more interested in the ways to teach. I wanted to know techniques that did not involve any punishment or negative reinforcement.
I wanted something that would help my daughter learn good habits and actually enjoy repeating them. You don’t want your child to do something out of fear or threat.
So here is what I have curated – a list of 51 good habits for kids. Importantly, I have also mentioned some great ways that you can use to help the child learn these habits at a young age.
I have only listed those ones that I have tried with my daughter with amazing results.
#1. Sit, when eating food
As a family, we had got into the habit of eating in front of the television, probably when I used to feed Nysha and when she was a baby.
I observed that subsequently the posture of my child and even the attention she paid to the food was very poor. So, I made it a family routine to eat dinner at the table at eight. Everyone sat up, with elbows off the table and without leaning. This way, not only did we get more family time, we even became mindful of our postures, and also ate much better.
#2. Eating with the mouth closed
Correcting your child consistently is a great way to inculcate this habit. You could form a secret code with your child and assure her that you will point out whenever she forgets to close her mouth by making that secret gesture. That way you are not only telling her that you are on her team, but are also avoiding embarrassing reminders in front of guests. Reward systems and after dinner talks also work wonders with many kids. You must also extend this to when your child makes noises when eating or begins to spill food.
#3. Don’t be fussy about food
What works best is everyone eating the same food in the family. I have often seen moms prepare different meals to satisfy the palette of each member of the family.
If the child refuses to eat something, offering a reward such as an additional helping of dessert is a great way to encourage the child. Avoid preparing separate meals, it’s negative reinforcement.
#4. Eating right
It is important that children be taught to relish healthy food. When Nysha, my daughter was ready for solid food, I tried this proven method to make this a habit.
I started making food visually appealing by using colorful vegetables and fruits to make finger foods for her. Later on as she grew I introduced variedly colored grains, nuts and more fruits to prepare her meal.
Another useful tip I used was to eat the same food as my child. If your child sees you relishing it, they will quickly follow suit. Look for healthy alternatives for fast foods so that your child does not feel deprived of “fun foods” either.
#5. Washing hands before eating
An important measure to keep germs at bay is to eat after washing your hands; something kids keep forgetting on a daily basis. So the best way out is to make it a routine for the whole family.
When you do it together, the habit will get ingrained in the child. I even got Nysha animal shaped soaps and Barbie hand washes that worked wonders with her.
#6. Dental hygiene and care
Every parent knows the importance of brushing teeth twice a day. Making a mundane activity like brushing teeth exciting is sure to make your child look forward to it.
You can make use of books with fun stories that talk about how germs can destroy the teeth. There are also poems that you can sing along when your child brushes his or her teeth to encourage dental hygiene.
#7. Take a bath before you step out of the house
We have seen older children paying very little attention to personal hygiene, especially in their teens. Never neglect the importance of a good bath. This is a habit that children pick up by watching their parents. If you always look clean and fresh when you are stepping out of the house, your child will want to do the same too.
Paying a compliment to your child and telling them that they look or smell good when they get dressed is a great way to boost this habit.
#8. Washing your hands and feet after using the toilet
The toilet is a storehouse of microbes, especially the ones at school or outside. Therefore, washing hands is a habit that parents need to inculcate from the time you begin to toilet train your child so that the child forms an association of washing their hands and feet with “cleaning up” after using the washroom.
What worked best for me were mermaid and lion shaped soaps. You could go in for fancy hand washes in eye-catching cartoon bottles. Himalaya and Bathtime Kids have some great smelling hand washes for kids.
#9. Getting out of the house to play
In the initial years, I had to be as involved in playing, as was my daughter, since she would simply not go without me. But slowly as I started planning fun outdoor activities for her with her friends, or sometimes with the whole family, she kind of warmed up to the idea of daily playtime.
Letting your child choose the game or sport is a great motivator to push your child to go outside and play. You can slowly begin to include your child’s peers into your playtime with your child and then start weaning off when she is ready.
#10. Greeting people when you meet
My father was particularly insistent on us forming this habit. A smile and a polite greeting when your child meets someone they know is a highly appreciated gesture.
However, pressurizing or scolding the child never works here. Start prompting with encouraging questions like, “Honey, what do you say when you meet someone?” They may be shy at first but will develop the habit with practice.
#11. Always excusing yourself when you want to leave the table
Speaking to your child about how getting up and walking off in the middle of the meal is rude is the best idea. But even better would be to follow it up with a good example.
Explain to them why it is important for everyone to eat together and also why they should ask to leave when they are done.
#12. Help clean up after mealtime
With my daughter, I made it a game about getting everything cleaned up as fast as we could. We often timed ourselves and tried to score better than last time. However, the rules were that everything had to go at the right place.
Dishes in the sink, chutney in the refrigerator, mats on the shelf, and napkins in the bin. This not only helped get the job done, but also made us a stronger team, while also teaching her to be more organized.
Involving the whole family and assigning roles to each member of the family also teaches the child a sense of responsibility.
#13. Always thank the person who has prepared the meal
The credit of developing this habit in my daughter goes to my husband. Every night, in front of my daughter, he made it a point to thank me and tell me how wonderful the meal was.
Soon my Nysha was mirroring him and even did this when we went to other people’s homes to eat.
#14. Keeping their room clean
Schedule a cleaning time for everyone in the household each day. This can involve 15-20 minutes everyday. When the child does his bit, appreciate and tell him what a good job they have done. For kids who are fussy about cleaning, associate a reward with the task. My cousin added Rs.1 to my nephew’s piggy bank every time he tidied up his play area after the playtime. At the end of the month she took him for an ice-cream treat allowing him to spend the money he had collected. It worked as a great motivator for the little one.
Research has shown that most parents of successful people had one habit in common – they assigned household chores to their kids from an early age.
#15. Sleep on time
Children need ample sleep to stay healthy and to develop well. One of the oldest tricks in the hat is to read a bedtime story to your child. Nysha loves the collection of bedtime reads from Enid Blyton even today. You could opt for bedtime puppet books too.
A fancy night lamp or a huggable pillow work equally well. It’s advisable to go to sleep at the same time as your children so that it doesn’t seem like you are forcing them to do one thing while you are doing another. Once they get into a routine, you can alter yours, as you like.
#16. Learning to be responsible with money
Saving money in a piggy bank always gives children a great sense of pride. Give your child an allowance and teach them to use a portion of it for the things they need and save a portion in the piggy bank.
As they grow you can always open a bank account for them. Books like – The Everything Kids money Book and Money matters for kids are great to teach children the importance of being responsible with money.
#17. Do not litter
If you see your child littering, ask them to pick it right back up and look for a dustbin. Even when you are driving or are out on a picnic etc, carry a spare trash bag and never allow them to fling litter around. You could use car organizers and large storage bins for the kid’s rooms to help inculcate the habit.
#18. Share with everyone
The first step is to encourage your child to share with members of the family. Then they will extend the habit to their friends.
You can also talk to your child about caring for other people’s feelings and not hurting them by refusing to share. However, on the flipside teach your little one to understand the difference between reasonable sharing and over sharing. A bite from the lunch is good. But giving away all your lunch to a friend who has finished hers is definitely not advisable.
#19. Stop being a couch potato
Too much television is one of the biggest problems with children today. With the advent of gadgets, it is even harder to keep your child on the move.
What worked best for me was to restrict gadget and TV time. Instead I diverted Nysha’s attention to fun activities and board games. Of course you will get a little tied up with all this, but it really is worth the effort. Doing things together as a family or forming a small group of your child’s peers is a great way to do this.
#20. A little bit of reading everyday
Books seem to be a thing of the past today. So, stressing on reading is more important than ever. Set a reading task for each day and spend about 30 minutes with your kid. Observe the kinds of books that your child enjoys to make this more fun for them.
To begin with I personally find all Enid Blyton books to be great reads for toddlers. You could also subscribe to comics such as Tinkle, Magic pot, and Amar Chitra Kathas. You can also check out the beautifully categorized collections of vintage and modern classics for early readers on Amazon.com.
#21. Have a positive outlook on things
There are times when your child will be upset or unhappy about something. It could be about poor grades at school or something else.
Encourage your child to talk to you and tell him/her about the positive side of things. You can show your child videos or read stories about their heroes who overcame adversity to achieve great things.
#22. Treat people with respect
The only way to teach your child to respect is to show how to respect others in front of them.
Talking politely to people, thinking about the convenience of other people and avoiding any rude behavior should become a common practice in the household.
#23. Everyone should be treated equally
Children learn about concepts like rich and poor and other societal differences very early in life. They will learn from the way you treat people, especially the house helps, drivers, guards at the mall parking, the milkman, cobbler, street vendors, and others who are evidently not financially at par with you. It is for this reason, that we as parents really do not have much choice but to practice what we preach. Be polite and try to behave empathetically towards others especially when around children. They will pick up after you.
#24. Always be honest
Reading stories about honesty is a great way to inculcate this habit. You must also make sure that your child trusts you to be honest with you. This means that mistakes should not be met with punishments and reprimands.
Instead, explain to your child that telling truth is always better than lying, whatever the consequences.
#25. Be patient
Games that involve patience can teach your child this important skill. I like to give my daughter a ball of yarn to untangle or give her a mixed bag of beans to separate. This keeps her busy and teaches her to be patient. Also reminding her to wait for her turn when playing or teaching to stand in a queue reinforces this habit.
#26. Don’t be a spoilsport
Teaching your kid to be a gracious loser is very important. If your child loses a game, just laugh it off and remind them that they will have several chances to do better. Teach them to have the grace to walk up to their opponent and congratulate. They must know that throwing tantrums or cheating will never win them matches, in fact it could be a reason to lose out on friends. Putting pressure on your child to be the best will extend into the child being competitive even in trivial matters.
#27. Be grateful
We take time off to visit children who are not as privileged as our daughter. During this time, we encourage her to share her books or toys with them.
Usually we do this around Diwali and New Years. Now she looks forward to these visits. I feel they have taught her about the blessings that she can count and to be grateful for all that she has.
#28. Spend time with the family
Family time should be taken very seriously. Have dinner together or at least get together for a cup of tea every day and encourage every member of the family to talk and share stories from their day.
This way you not only get a sneak peak into your child’s mind but also stay connected even as the child moves into teenage.
#29. Do not bully or tease people
Bullying is a serious issue. If you catch your child teasing or bullying anyone, it should be addressed immediately. Talk to your child about how he or she would feel if he or she were bullied.
You must also teach your child to come to you if someone at school is bullying them and talk about it openly.
#30. Be kind to birds and animals
Buying stuffed animals and teaching your child about the type of animals is a great way to make them love animals.
Also visit farms, zoo parks, sanctuaries, or even homes of friends who have pets. This will teach your child to enjoy amidst animals and make a point that animals too need to be treated with care and respect.
#31. Stand in a queue patiently
Take your child with you to places where you are most likely to wait in a queue. A supermarket is possibly the best choice. Here you have a chance to demonstrate this habit, so that your child can learn by observation and practice.
#32. Teaching Politeness and Courtesy through the magic words
It is important that every child be taught the magic behind the words – Sorry, thank you, and please. Remind your child to use these words generously and see how friendships and relationships improve as if by magic.
You yourself must say please when they are asking for something. Don’t ever miss a chance to say sorry to another person in front of your child. If you accidentally nudge someone in a crowd or if you have had a fight with someone in the family, say sorry to them and make sure your child is watching.
Ask your child to bring something for you and say thank you while accepting it. When you ride a cab or take a bus, thank the driver and encourage your child to do the same. When there is an opportunity to say thank you, try to get your child to do it too.
You will notice an evident change in the personality of your little one.
#33. Stay organized
It is one thing to clean up after playing and another to develop the habit of being organized. When I was small my mom taught me tricks to a better-organized cupboard and I did the same with my five-year old. Yes, I started that early and it is still working.
Here goes – Always keep your clothes folded side out for a neater finish. Color coordinate as much as you can in a way that the pinks, mauves and purples stay together and the reds, browns and peaches live together. Use baskets for socks and undergarments, use loop hangers for belts and scarves; and let the flowy gowns dangle from the hangers.
That’s 90% of your kiddo’s wardrobe sorted. Books are to be stacked with their bound side out so that titles can be read and stationary is best dumped in labeled boxes for easy access. Of Course you will have to guide them every now and then.
#34. Clip your Nails
Neatly clipped nails are an indication of proper grooming. Long nails not only look shabby and unkempt, but are also a storehouse of germs that might lead to diseases. Teach your child the importance of clipping nails and make a weekly schedule for the same. I have allocated Sunday as the nail clipping, toe and ear-cleaning day for Nysha. It is now part of her weekly grooming routine and she dislikes going to school with long nails on Monday.
Make sure that you do not cut your child’s nails too deep because that might hurt and scare the little one away from the task.
#35 Never leave food in your plate
Children often have the habit of leaving bits and pieces of food in the plate, thinking that it’s alright for parents to eat whatever they leave or maybe even to throw it away. It takes a strong and sensible parent to teach a child that leaving food in the plate is not only bad manners but also wasteful.
Tell your child to take small helpings to start with. Be firm, and never give in as a parent. Make a rule that only clean plates get to leave the table. Children are sensitive. If nothing works, give them the example of millions of underprivileged kids across the world who go hungry everyday and are longing for even a morsel of food.
#36. Be Punctual
Respecting time is vital to succeed in life. Timely action always saves one from greater effort and embarrassment. If you need to get somewhere on time, make a schedule with your child and stick to it. This teaches them to respect time and also to be punctual, a life skill that will go a long way.
Give deadlines to your little one and speak out the time by which you need a task to be done. Reward them when they finish in time. Kids find digital watches easy to understand. You could also try out the minute minders and sand clocks for great results.
#37. Prepare for the next day at night
Preparing in advance is a skill that can be taught right from school. Teach your child to keep their uniform, school bag, and shoes ready the night before. This allows them to relax the following morning and have a good start to the day. This habit can be extending to studies as well, asking the child to prepare for tests and projects well in advance to avoid last moment panics.
#38. Always help people
Teach your child to help around at home. They can help with chores, help clean up after meals, and help grandparents with their little things. If your child has a sibling, teaching them to help each other with schoolwork is a great way to build this habit.
You can also introduce your child to the concept of ‘each one teach one’. Let them derive pleasure by teaching street kids or maybe even your house help’s children. The younger kids can donate toys and clothes. Let them decide on their own what needs to be given away. This adds to the satisfaction of helping.
#39. Respect your elders
Let your child spend time with their grandparents. When you do this, make sure that you are around and treat them with a lot of love and respect. Anyone in the neighborhood who is elderly should be greeted with a smile and with courtesy.
#40. Discuss problems with those you trust
Teaching your child to let their feelings out can help them a lot in life. Tell them time and again that they can come to you with any problem. Even when your child is in the wrong, make sure that you do not over react in order to keep their trust.
#41. Exercise often
As a family, we have a dedicated exercise day, when we go out to the park and try new things such as the jungle gym.
A healthy lifestyle begins at home and is passed on to the children. I have even taught my five year old some yoga exercises and breathing techniques and she simply loves being on the mat with me.
#42. Work hard
Let your children earn their pocket money. Give them a task to complete for any money that they want to make. While hard work is not always about the money, this teaches them that they cannot take anything for granted.
#43. Do not procrastinate
Set a schedule for studying and homework. If your child has a project to finish set a deadline. Deadlines help children to finish a task fast and on time instead of procrastinating.
#44. Wake up early
Mornings should be fun. Then your child will be motivated to wake up early. This could mean an early morning walk in the park, cycling, a swim if the weather is warm, some yoga exercises, maybe a stroll with a pet dog, fun breakfast, and any activity that you child can do to relax in the mornings.
# 45. Always carry a Handkerchief
It is very important to make this little habit a part of your child’s grooming. It keeps little ones from wiping everything with their clothes or dirty surfaces. Hankies come in very handy whenever they have a cold. Carrying a clean, ironed and neatly folded handkerchief every time your child steps out of the house is a must.
When my daughter was very small I used to pin it with her dress. However, as she grew I made a ‘home leaving checklist’ for her that included a hanky, and a water bottle among other things. I also noticed that many children love the idea of having a set of day-specific handkerchiefs for each day of the week.
#46. Never miss your breakfast
Never let your child leave home without breakfast. You can plan breakfast time in such a way that the entire family sits down together. If their school starts too early, give them a glass of milk and something bite-size to nibble on. Insist that they sit and eat. That way everyone in the family is eating a healthy breakfast.
#47. Take care of your belongings
Do not replace broken toys or missing pencils immediately. Teach them to keep them neatly and to take care of them. This teaches them that being careless will only mean that they will not have things that they want.
#48. Take responsibility
A child learns to take responsibility when you give them a responsibility. This can be a simple task such as watering the plants.
Make sure your child does this every day. When your child is old enough and if you are ready for one yourself, a pet is a great way to teach your child responsibility and empathy.
#49. Accept the consequences of your actions
It is important to teach your child that there are consequences of every choice they make in life, whether good or bad. If you have to punish or ground your child, make sure you explain why you are doing so. A child learns to fuss when you start giving in. If your child is being difficult or is fussing for a new toy or gadget, a firm no is important.
Do not change your stance if the child throws a fit. Stick to your decision, no matter how harsh it may seem.
#50. Cooking is fun
Whether it is a boy or a girl, cooking is a life skill that is essential. Encourage your child to help around in the kitchen and start with simple foods like sandwiches.
You can even assign a simple task like making a fruit punch and serving it to everyone at a party to encourage your child to learn this skill.
#51. No Yelling
Correct your child when they raise their voice. This practice begins at home. If the child talks back or tries to yell their way into things, a timeout to think about their actions is the key. You must also make sure that you do not yell at people to get your way.
These little and big habits if inculcated through persistent and consistent efforts, go a long way in shaping your child into a well-mannered, well-groomed individual with a pleasing personality. So go ahead and give them a try. You will love the changes you see in your little ones.