5 Habits That Can Take Your Child Down The Wrong Path

A habit can sometimes make the crucial difference between success and failure in life. Look out for these five behaviours which, if unchecked, can put your child at a disadvantage later.

By Jasmine Kaur

5 Habits That Can Take Your Child Down The Wrong Path
“Habits are safer than rules; you don’t have to watch them. And you don’t have to keep them either. They keep you.”―Frank Hall Crane, American Actor-Director

Habits imbibed during childhood determine the type of individual we will grow up into and how our life will shape up. While good habits set us up for success, bad ones can lead to our downfall.

Therefore, as a parent, while you nurture good habits in your child, it is equally important that you watch out for any bad habits he may slowly develop.

Here are five unhealthy habits that can take your child down the wrong path and have undesirable adverse effects on his life later on:

1. Stealing: Young children are unaware of the complexities of life and look at everything in a simple way. Research shows that children under the age of three are unable to differentiate between their possessions and that of others. As a result, they don't consider it wrong to take things that don't belong to them. However, as they grow older, children begin to understand this difference. 

But some children do get into the habit of stealing. It may be because they:

  • have low self-esteem and want to feel better
  • want to understand what can happen if they cross boundaries
  • feel deprived when they see that others have a lot more than them
  • have seen parents or family members steal, even if it’s something as trivial as picking fruit from a neighbour’s tree without permission

Stealing becomes a concern when a child:

  • frequently steals
  • shows other behavioural issues
  • continues to steal as she grows older and doesn’t feel bad about it

If not controlled early on, this habit of stealing can land your child on the wrong side of the law later on in life. Some of the things you can do to help your child give up the habit of stealing are:

  • talk to your child about values and ethics
  • show your disapproval of the habit
  • help him make amends by returning the stolen object back to its owner

If your efforts aren't proving effective enough in helping your child, do seek professional help.

2. Aggression: Feelings of anger which makes an individual deliberately harm others or indulge in hostile interaction can be termed as aggression. Usually, the home environment plays a major role in giving rise to aggression in children.

Children may display aggressive behaviour due to reasons, such as:

  • seeking attention
  • medical/psychiatric issues
  • frustration
  • anxiety, fear or anger
  • conduct disorders

Feelings of aggression can make children behave in ways that are unacceptable. Some of the behaviours aggressive child tend to exhibit are:

  • angry outbursts
  • physical aggression
  • voicing threats
  • bullying
  • arguing

As a parent, some of the things you can do to curb your child's aggressive behaviour are:

  • maintain a positive environment at home
  • nurture her social skills
  • avoid exposing her to situations that she is unable to handle
  • make sure she is well-fed and well-rested
  • model non-aggressive behaviour even during stressful situations

3. Selfishness: Most children don't understand that they are being selfish when they are reluctant to share their possessions or want everything for themselves. However, as children grow older, they begin to understand that this is a bad quality and tend to begin sharing.

But, this is not the case with every child. Some children continue to behave in a selfish manner. This usually happens when:

  • children grow up without learning to share
  • their parents fulfil their every demand
  • they feel deprived

This can affect a child in many adverse ways. It can make him:

  • expect others to give up their possessions for him
  • feel unsatisfied with what he already has
  • put his own needs before that of others

After observing your child for a period, if you come to understand that he has been acting in a selfish manner, here are some things you can do to break this habit:

  • model and reinforce selfless behaviour
  • set age-appropriate limits to help him understand situations better
  • create opportunities for him to give to others
  • gently correct him when he acts in a selfish manner

4. Excessive complaining: Of course, all of us do resort to complaining when we want to draw the attention of others towards something that is troubling us. However, for some children, it can become a habit.

Some reasons why a child continues to complain, include:

  • unmet emotional needs
  • oppositional attitude
  • trying to get her way, always
  • inability to cope with feelings

Listening to frequent complaints can not only exhaust parents but also have adverse effects on children as well. Some of the bad effects of excessive complaining include:

  • developing a negative mindset
  • being unable to enjoy life
  • increasing stress, which gives rise to various physical and mental ailments
  • coming across as an unpleasant individual to others

Some of the things you can do to help your child overcome this habit are:

  • acknowledge her distress calmly. Explain to her that, sometimes, things may not turn out as she wants them to
  • help her identify the source of her problem and find a solution
  • motivate her to change her attitude by helping her see the positive picture
  • praise your child's efforts when she makes progress

5. Cheating: Once in a while, every child feels tempted to cheat. While little ones do so because they are unaware that it's morally wrong, grown up children may cheat because they are unaware of the consequences. In some cases, cheating may have become a habit.

When children cheat, it is usually due to the following reasons:

  • to live up to the expectations of those around them
  • unwilling or unable to put in the effort to get the desired result
  • to avoid facing the disappointment of losing

While cheating does help in the short term, it only gives rise to negative consequences later in life. The habit of cheating can make a child:

  • lose self-respect
  • prevent learning
  • lose respect for law
  • face legal consequences

Here are a few things you can do to help your child overcome this nasty habit:

  • model upright behaviour
  • set realistic expectations
  • avoid punishment but talk to him to make him understand the seriousness of the issue
  • find out the reasons and try to address them
  • make him understand that winning isn't everything

Children aren't born perfect. As they begin to grow, and experience and explore the world around them, along with good habits, they also develop bad ones. Therefore, as parents, it is our responsibility to help our children shun what's bad for them and encourage them to adhere to practices that will help them succeed in life.

About the author:

Written by Jasmine Kaur on 25 September 2018.

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