I spoke to a five-year-old boy today and asked him what he liked to do for fun.

“Video games,” was his response.

“Yeah, those are fun,” I said, “but what else do you like to do besides video games?”

“Just video games,” came the quick reply.

“What about LEGOS, Play-Doh, or coloring?” I asked.

“Nah,” he shook his head, “I just like video games.”

Trouble is brewing.

I spoke to another young child recently who had a very difficult time sharing toys with visiting friends. Not special toys, mind you, just the regular, everyday type of toys that other young kids would want to play with when they come to visit.

“Do you think it is nice to share your toys?” I asked.

“No, they don’t get to play with them. They’re mine.”

I think I smell trouble again.

While we don’t expect young children to behave with the maturity of older kids, this is exactly what we want them to gradually develop: Maturity. Maturity can be defined as making good choices that are appropriate for one’s age.

Good choices repeated over time become good habits.

Mature kids are kids who develop good habits.

While I don’t think you need to go overboard and become a “Good Habit Commando,” it is important to get good habits started from the very beginning. Let me give you a couple good habit/bad habit examples:

Bad habit #1: A child often becomes angry and disrespectful when playing a video game and is allowed to continue this behavior with little more than a reprimand.

Good habit #1: A child is only allowed to play video games if he can do so in a respectful way. This includes respectfully stopping when asked. Otherwise, the game is turned off.

Bad habit #2: A child often gets away with making negative and provoking comments to a sibling.

Good habit #2: A child’s negative sibling comments are always addressed with restating, apologizing, and negative consequences if needed, because of the family expectation of treating each other respectfully in every situation.

In my own family and with the families I work with, I have found that when parents take the time to establish good family habits from the very start, it saves them and their kids a world of problems down the road. There are many good habits you can help your kids start developing today, such as:

- Trying your best

- Being a good sport

- Making encouraging comments

- Sharing

- Creative non-electronic play

- Using a normal tone of voice (not shouting)

Many good habits are simply an extension of the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you would like to be treated. If your kids are starting to develop some bad habits, as we all tend to do, address them right away and help your kids replace them with good habits instead.

You, and your entire family, will be glad you did.

What bad habits are impacting your family?

How have you helped your kids turn a bad habit into a good habit?

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