Do Your Kids Have Habitual Blessings?

“Hey! Turn that back on!”

I heard it bounding from the hallway one day. It had happened again.

We have taught our children, from the time they were young, to turn off lights as they leave a room. Someone had turned out the light while there was someone still in that room.

It was a clear case of what I lovingly call “good habit — bad timing”.

How amazing that the brain, once trained, knows what to do on its own! Eventually we no longer have to think about what to do and how to do it. How unaware we are of how many habits scoot us along our way, every moment!

Imagine if you had to reinvent tying your shoe, each time you did it.

We can turn off a light without thinking, even without looking at the switch. We can be thinking about the next task in the next room while we finish the task in the current one.

The mind is wonderful.

Stretching OutDuring a gym class, as a teen, I heard a phrase worth remembering: “That which is used, develops; that which is not used atrophies.” At that time, I did not know the meaning of the word “atrophy”, so I guessed it meant the opposite of “develop”. Since our family has a motto of knowing, instead of guessing, it bothered me I didn’t know for sure, so when I got home that evening, I looked it up.

Think of all the habits working in this experience:
1. That phrase, repeated in every gym class so I could never forget it, reminded me of the good of learning, repetition, and training.
2. Habitual use of English caused me to guess correctly at the meaning of a word in context.
3. The habit of exercise, itself, gave me a lifelong urge to keep moving, partly spurred on by dread of atrophy.
4. Our habit of accumulating new words and facts inspired me to bother with a dictionary.
5. A family habit of returning a thing to its place enabled me to find the dictionary.
6. A habit of working alphabetically caused me to turn immediately to the front of that huge book for the word “atrophy”.

How difficult it would have been for me to benefit from the experience had I not had all those habits! It takes 21 days for a disciplined person to form a good habit. I was not a self-disciplined person by nature. Nope.

Oh, the drill, supplied by faithful adults who insisted upon good habits in me!

The sad thing is that some children who lack faithful training might be learning to hate exercise instead of fearing atrophy. We have many such children living among us, these days, lacking drill in good habits, and this loss causes many problems. They never reap normal benefits from life’s normal experiences.

They become abnormal.

Our children do not have to be among them, though. The home is the perfect environment for instilling good habits. With 180 days in an average school year, the potential for 9 good habits per child per year presents itself.

Let’s go for it!


Photo credit: Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums

Published by Katharine

Katharine is a writer, speaker, women's counselor, and professional mom. Happily married over 50 years to the same gorgeous guy. She loves cooking amazing homegrown food, celebrating grandbabies, her golden-egg-laying hennies, and watching old movies with popcorn. Her writing appears at Medium, Arkansas Women Bloggers, Contently, The Testimony Train, Taste Arkansas, Only in Arkansas, and in several professional magazines and one anthology.

11 thoughts on “Do Your Kids Have Habitual Blessings?

  1. Your son is definitely one who turns lights off. I will leave a light on if I know I’m coming right back, but he usually switches it off before I get there. He switches your stove light off when you’ve left it on to remember to clean the stove! But he is good and I don’t mind turning a light on again. 🙂

    This is a great post. I’m trying to form a habit of walking every weekday–interesting to know that it’ll take a month before it feels habitual and regular. It doesn’t help that it will be raining/storming all day today and I probably won’t get to go. 😦

    1. Sorry! 😉
      We went through a time of huge financial cutbacks and ingrained the savings ($15 per month) into our kids. They learned it even better than we did, I think.
      I am trying to start walking more, too. An elderly man, whom I thought was near his end, has made a huge rebound, just from walking. He actually has a spring in his step and color in his skin. I was amazed.
      Although it takes 21 days to develop a habit, I think it takes lots less to realize benefits and to like the new habit, as we begin developing it. When I begin walking, I notice results in less than a week. That is a great incentive to me.
      And I have walked in the rain, many times. It’s sort of romantic, in a melancholy way. Just no lightning. 😉

  2. Maybe I can kick the bad habit of eating sugar by doing it for at least the first 21 days. I know this works. I’ve done it before. Walking is good too. I do that every week day. I bet you even enjoy SINGING in the rain. 🙂

    1. Oh, the sugar habit is hard. When I know someone who needs to kick sugar and caffeine, I always suggest to kick caffeine, first, because it is easier. You just sleep. 😉
      However, to really eliminate sugar, you have to eliminate starches, too, because they turn to sugar in your digestive system, beginning even in your mouth. I remember doing a science experiment with a bunch of kids, about that. If you chew a soda cracker for about a minute, it will begin to taste sweet because it is turning to sugar from your digestive enzymes in saliva. The stomach finishes the job and UP goes the blood sugar. 😦
      However, if it would help someone to tell himself, “I’ll just do this for 21 days and then it will be easier,” I say, go for it, although I think you will find the actual addiction will be broken in less time, like about 10 days or so.
      I do not sing in the rain, though. I’m too busy puddle-jumping! 😀

  3. i love the challenge of forming new habits (or breaking unhealthy bad habits). It is such a good feeling to have that hyper-focus in practicing that new habit over and over. trying to do that always lets you know rather quickly whether you are at that point “into it” enough to have the discipline to succeed. Then, if you are being brutally honest with yourself, you can delve into the whys if it turns out you can’t seem to make yourself stick to the new habit!

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