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Children learn mostly by watching and imitating their parents. As a result, along with the good habits they pick up from their parents, they pick up some bad ones too.
Children start forming habits early on in their lives. Therefore, parents are keen to teach their children good habits as early as they can. But as children grow older they 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 realize they themselves may be responsible, of course unwittingly, for the bad habits that their child is displaying. For, children learn by following the examples of those around them, especially their parents.
Let's look at the case of 4-year-old Bhoomika. One day at school, after eating a piece of cake Bhoomika wiped her hands on her skirt. Her teacher noticed and told Bhoomika it was not the right thing to do, that she must wipe her hands with the paper towel. However, a few moments later, the little girl wiped her hands on her skirt again.
This time, the teacher 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 girl 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 realize that wiping her dirty hands on her dress was a bad habit because she had seen her mother do it repeatedly.
When it comes to undesirable habits, once formed they are hard to break. Here's a list of some common undesirable habits that children tend to pick up from their parents. This will help parents become 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, he gets his limbs and body dirty. While it is not advisable to prevent a child from gaining experiences through observation and exploration, parents must ensure they wash their child's limbs and body. This is how a child learns his first lessons in 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. 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 to correct her. Instead, use the opportunity to turn your child's mistake into a teaching moment where you explain and help her understand what is the right thing to do.
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 attitude towards time. So, it's high time you set right this bad habit of yours. Practice being respectful of other people's time to show your respect for them. Soon your child will realize the importance of punctuality and begin practicing it herself.
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 making healthy food choices for themselves and the family. Sutherland et al published a study titled, 'Like Parent, Like Child', in the journal Archives of Pediatrics and 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 children 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 tend to be irresponsible and have a poor sense of time, as they tend to imitate their parents' behavior patterns.
While the above bad habits hold good for children of all ages, here are some specific habits that preschoolers may pick up from you. So, beware!
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 and learn a lot of things from them - like how parents relate to each other, how they treat those around them, and how they handle various situations. Therefore, it is very important for parents 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.