The Blessings of Habit–Part 1

Do Your Kids Have Habitual Blessings?

Light switch habit
Light switch habit

“Hey! Turn that back on!” I heard 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 case of what I like to call “good habit—bad timing”.

It takes 21 days to form a good habit.

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.

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!

During an exercise class, 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 I looked it up.

So many habits go into each action…

Think of all the habits working in this experience:

  1. The phrase, repeated, became a reminder of the good of learning, repetition, and training.
  2. The 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 thoughts of atrophy.
  4. Our habit of being sure of facts caused 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 to the front of that huge book.

Imagine life without habits!

How difficult it would have been for me to benefit from the experience had I not had all those habits! Oh, the drill, supplied by faithful adults, that formed them 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 any benefit from life’s normal experiences. They become abnormal.

And we have to make up for their loss all around us.

Our children do not have to be among them, though. The home is the perfect environment for instilling good habits.

Let’s do it!


More tomorrow.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)


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.

14 thoughts on “The Blessings of Habit–Part 1

    1. Yes, it does seem effortless, Kate, to someone not in the know. I watched a track meet yesterday and the pole vaulting looked so-o-o-o easy. Ha. Looks can be deceiving. It only is easy for those who decided to make it so, for themselves.

  1. Great post Katharine. Yes indeed, nearly everything about us is habit!

    The websites we visit, the way we think, even the way we speak, our accent, is a learned habit! Changing habits can be a tricky business but as Kate mentioned above, what can be tricky at first, becomes effortless at last.

    It’s the “change” bit that’s tricky — habits are subtle and powerful! By the way, it’s become a bit of a myth that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. When was life ever THAT simple? haha 🙂 There are lots of variables involved, including intensity, frequency of repetition, sense of importance and so-on. Your pole vaulter is a good example, he has done probably hundreds of pole vaults before, and so is really just effortlessly running down that groove on “the big day”.

    An example Mike and I always use when people ask for advice about “how to change” is driving on the other side of the road. When we visit a foreign country and are suddenly driving on the other side of the road, we are become VERY conscious, very present, in order to override the old habit, because we know the consequences of not doing so would be very bad indeed! That is always the key overriding bad habits: conscious attention.

    Going back to your general point, I was most definitely taught better habits and a better way of “being” by friends and family, than anything I learned at school. In fact, there was no real life preparation at school, which is extraordinary when you think about it. It was a total academic focus, so career preparation really. And even that wasn’t great.

    1. Well, James, you’ve guessed at the rest of the posts in this series. 😉

      I agree, there is more to forming a new habit than just repeating the old habit for 21 days! It does take dedication, correction, etc., and I think you will be pleased to read the next few posts on the topic, here.

      I also realize a new habit sometimes can form in a shorter time, if the environment is enforcing it. When our lights were out for an entire week, we developed a habit of reaching for a flashlight instead of a light switch. After service was restored, I kept reaching for the flashlight and had to unlearn the old/new habit.

      Oh, I know what you mean about the training available in collective type education. It is far more about competition and crowd control than about personal development. It could be different, but is not. It is extraordinary (great word for it!) in that education is preparation for life.

      We must ask what kind of life!

      My main point was that the brain is amazing and it is worth adults working hard at training the children around them! We should aim at that goal, one on which I need to refocus continually!

      Thanks so much for visiting and for your insightful comments, here, James! 🙂

  2. We have to work on just one or two habits at a time here, or Mommy gets overwhelmed. I’ve started drilling the turning lights off, and the kids think I’m crazy. Oh well. They’ll get over it, and probably thank me later, when they’re paying their own light bills!

    1. We took a month of strictly watching every light and making sure they were all off. Then we measured the difference in the light bill for the month before and realized about a $15 difference, just for LIGHTS ON. Anyway, we took the cautious month as the standard and told them they would be paying the extra $15 per month if they did not watch out. It worked. They began even turning off lights WE’D left on. Ha.
      I know what you mean about Mommy overload, though! But it was Daddy who took the lead on the light bill. 🙂

  3. I figure it takes five reps to break a habit. I moved a mirror once and it took five times of me standing looking into a blank wall before the habit broke 🙂

  4. My husband had to teach me that light habit when I was, oh, 30 or so. lol Great post! It is so true that it is our responsibility and our pleasure to get to teach our kids good habits. Manners! Please and thank you, sir and ma’am, excuse me and thank you. Never overlooked when they are a habit. Physical activity is probably the most important habit we can instill in our kids in this techno-world, though. Thanks for a thought-provoking read!

    1. Thanks for your kind comments, here, KT, and WELCOME to Home’s Cool! I hope you enjoyed looking around a bit and I hope you return, soon! 🙂
      Husbands are wonderful! I’m glad you have one who will help you improve! So many women have husbands who just drag them down. 😦
      I agree with the physical activity habit and I think it is sad when grown ups have to work at sitting jobs and get out of shape.
      And I need someone to teach me the activity habit!

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