Teach kids about bad habits the good way

Photo: Shutterstock

Photo: Shutterstock

The lectures about the dangers of alcohol or the poison in cigarettes are already pretty weak artillery against the persuasiveness of peer pressure. But what happens when your child sees Mommy or Daddy not practicing what they preach? You can then pretty much throw your firm stance out the window and your hypocritical ideals to the wind. If Junior catches you lighting up, there’s little chance he’ll take your advice seriously.

So maybe it is better not to lie to your children about your bad habits. You may think that admitting to having a sly cigarette, one too many drinks or issues with food will project a bad image to your kids and may encourage them, but being honest could actually help them understand negative effects more clearly.

“One of the most important things is to have an open conversation with the whole family. If mom gives one message but dad is doing exactly the opposite, it’s confusing for kids,” Amy Morin, psychotherapist and author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, told Yahoo Parenting.

She adds, “If parents say ‘smoking is awful, it’s terrible and horrible,’ and then kids see one parent smoking, they are going to think ‘it’s not the worst thing in the word because Dad does it’.”

It is important to be clear with your children on why you feel compelled to continue this destructive behavior. When you admit that you struggle with addiction, whether it is food or nicotine, you are illustrating the true negative consequences of that vice.

Morin suggests saying something like “Nicotine is addictive, and it’s something I struggle with, and I don’t want you to go through the same struggle so it’s better to start now when you’re a kid, so you don’t have the same hard time when you’re an adult.”

And it is essential that you are making an effort to curb bad habits yourself. Children are perceptive and if they see no effort on your part they will have difficulty taking your advice seriously.

Morin said, “Explain that this is a bad habit and I don’t want to do it, but it’s a hard habit to break. That’s the biggest mistake parents make – they say ‘you should never do this because it’s bad.’ But they don’t give the full picture.”

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