bad habits

How to Correct Bad Habits in Your Child

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There I was picking up my 17-year-old daughter’s towels off the floor (yet again), and it occurred to me in a flash: I have failed miserably in this aspect of parenting. She’s an awesome kid. Straight A’s. Never gets in trouble. Just a delight. Yet, here I am picking an honor student’s towels up off her floor. What happened here? How did these bad habits form?

Those questions led to a Facebook discussion with a few moms. That’s when I learned there are actual practical solutions to resolving negative habits in children. Turns out, my sarcastic wit and guilt trip method I’ve been leaning on all these years is wholly ineffective. Let’s take a look at 3 common bad habits in kids, and we’ll offer some practical tips to help rectify the situations.


Tidiness is a learned trait that comes by doing and not hearing. Start a child off early with age-appropriate cleaning tasks,  such as putting away their toys when they’re finished playing. A mom friend keeps a chart on the wall, and every time her 6-year-old picks up her towel, she gets a star. When she gets 30 stars, they will go to her favorite ice cream place. It’s slowly working. Be proactive with hands-on teaching and rewarding.

Poor Diet

We’re on the move, they’re on the move, and fast or processed food is the quickest remedy. That’s alright in a pinch, but when it becomes the standard, we begin to see health issues like sluggishness and obesity. If the core issue here is family busyness, the first step to take is to start making cuts that will create time for the kitchen and dinner table. Maybe Junior doesn’t need to play year-round baseball, but he definitely needs proper nutrition as he’s growing big and strong. There are many great cooking tutorials online, and anyone can cook healthy and fun meals if they make the effort. Invite your child into the kitchen to help you. This teaches valuable life skills, teamwork, creativity, and open-mindedness as their tastes evolve.


Lying is a particularly nasty habit, and we need to be able to distinguish from fun fantasy and deceitful manipulation. If your 5-year-old daughter is adamantly telling you she’s a mermaid? Cool. Roll with the fantasy. If that same daughter is screaming that her brother conked her in the head, and you know he’s over at the neighbors? This is when a bad habit is starting. The key issue at stake here is trust. When she’s 17 will you be able to believe her when she tells you something? This is delicate, and we need to avoid being too accusatory. For instance, do not say, “You’re a liar. I know your brother isn’t here.” Instead say, “Do you want Daddy to be able to trust you?” When she answers, “yes,” then you ask, “Then why are you telling me a fib right now?” Opening the dialogue builds the bonds of trust. This takes time and patience. Generously praise your child for being truthful. The cycle to follow is to reward, nurture, and encourage honest dialogue.

Sound off: What are some bad habits in your own kids, and how are you dealing with them?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What is one bad habit you would like to stop or change and one positive habit you would like to start?”