Children start forming habits early on in their lives. Therefore, parents try to teach their children good habits. But, over a period, children pick up some bad habits as well. When this happens, most parents pin the blame on the child’s peers or others around her. Seldom do they realise they may also be responsible, of course unwittingly, for teaching their child some of the bad habits that she is displaying. For, children learn by following the examples of those around them, especially their parents.
Let’s look the case of 4-year-old Bhoomika. One day, in school, after eating a piece of cake, Bhoomika wiped her hands on her skirt. Her teacher, who was watching this, intervened and told her that it was not the right thing to do and that she should wipe her hand in the paper towel. However, a few moments later, the little girl again ate a piece of cake and wiped her hands on her skirt.
This time, the teacher came and sat beside Bhoomika to try and find out the reason why she was doing so despite being told not to. When the teacher asked her the reason why she always wiped her hands on her skirt, she was shocked by Bhoomika's answer. The little one told her teacher that her mother always wiped her hands on her dress while cooking in the kitchen.
Shocking, isn’t it? The child didn't realise that wiping her hands on her dress was a bad habit because she had seen her mom repeatedly doing it.
When it comes to undesirable habits, once formed they are harder to break. Therefore, to prevent parents from unintentionally teaching some bad habits to their children, here’s a list of some common undesirable habits that children tend to pick up from their parents. This will help parents be aware of their bad habits and set them right as well.
1. Lack of hygiene: As a child grows up and starts exploring the world around him, he tends to pick things up or walk on different surfaces to experience how they feel. In the process, his gets his limbs and body dirty. While it is not advisable to prevent a child from gaining experiences through observation and exploration, it’s the duty of parents to make sure that they clean their child’s limbs and body every now and then. This is how a child learns his first lessons on hygiene. However, when parents neglect cleaning up the child or they themselves follow poor hygiene habits, the child also grows up with a poor sense of hygiene.
2. Hitting and cursing: A lot of children have the habit of hitting other children. When a child displays this habit, the usual reaction of many parents is to hit and scold the child to break the habit. But, this approach, in fact, produces the opposite result. It signals to the child that it is alright to hit and verbally abuse someone who has made a mistake.
In his article, ‘You influence your kids' popularity from the time they're babies - here's how to make that a good thing’, published in Business Insider India, Richard Feloni speaks about parental aggression. He says, “Parents who have a tendency to bring aggression into even minor interactions normalize that trait for their kids. Aggressive children and adolescents can use that trait to rise in status, but are almost guaranteed to be among the least likable in their school.”
So, avoid hitting and scolding your child in a harsh way to prevent him from learning the habit. Instead, express your anger or frustration in a more reasonable way so that your child will also learn the same.
3. Lack of punctuality: Are you a regular ‘late-comer’ to work, social gatherings, appointments and so on? You can be sure that you will pass on this habit to your child. For, if your child sees you giving scant respect for time and being habitually late for work and other appointments, he will also develop a similar outlook towards time. So, it’s high time you set right this bad habit of yours and made your child realise the importance of punctuality.
4. Unwise food choices: Parents lay the foundation for healthy eating habits in their children - by giving them healthy food when they are young, by teaching them later to make healthy food choices and through role-modelling. Sutherland et al published a study titled, ‘Like Parent, Like Child’, in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. According to their study, “The data suggest that children begin to assimilate and mimic their parents' food choices at a very young age, even before they are able to fully appreciate the implications of these choices.” Therefore, it is important for parents to ensure that they make the right food choices to prevent their child from falling prey to the various lifestyle diseases caused by food.
5. Laziness: A study about socially contagious attitudes was conducted by Marie Devaine and Jean Daunizeau. The findings of the study titled, ‘Learning about and from others' prudence, impatience or laziness: The computational bases of attitude alignment’, was published in the journal PLOS Computational Biology. The study found that people tend to observe attitudes like prudence, impatience and laziness in those around them and start acting like them. Children of lazy parents usually tend to be irresponsible and have a poor sense of time, as they tend to imitate their parents’ behaviour patterns.
While the above bad habits hold good for children of all ages, here are some specific habits which preschoolers may pick up from you. So, beware!
- Nail biting
- Picking the nose
- Coughing and sneezing without covering the mouth
- Eating food picked up from the floor or the table
- Licking the fingers while eating
- Slurping while drinking liquids
- Interrupting conversations
- Speaking loudly in public places
Bad habits that preteens and teens may pick up from their parents
- Smoking and drinking
- Rash driving
- Using foul language
- Not respecting rules and laws
- Gossiping and backbiting
There, you see! Your raised eyebrows are an indication that you did not know you could be having these ‘bad’ habits which you would have passed on to your child.
Children look up to their parents to learn a lot of things like how parents relate to each other, how they treat those around them, and how they handle various situations that arise. Therefore, it is very important for parents to remember that they need to pay attention to how they conduct themselves in front of their children. However, if your child inadvertently picks up a bad habit, use gentle persuasion and reasoning instead of severe measures to set him back on the right path. And, if you are guilty of it yourself, correct it first before advising your child.