At The Oaks Academy, habit development is integrated into our curriculum because we know it is the secret ingredient that has prepared our students for success for the past 25 years – both academically and socially. However, habits are not just something that can be taught at school – parents can use the same techniques that our amazing teachers use to help develop them at home as well. Veteran teacher, Mrs. Terri Williams, shared 3 simple ways parents can support the development of habits at home.
Stated simply, teaching is telling the child what to do, while training is repeatedly providing the exercises that help them do it. When you teach a child how to do something, you are giving them knowledge on what to do and why to do it, but when you train them on how to do it, you are showing them exactly what those directions mean – and ensuring that they do it again and again – until they can do them with excellence. Mrs. Williams emphasizes that you cannot have one without the other. Teaching and training go hand in hand, but training requires additional skill because it involves the task of checking that a child has done what was asked and consistent, repetitive support of the child.
One example that Mrs. Williams loves to use is helping your child learn how to clean their room. You can teach your child to clean their room by telling them to pick up their books, put their dirty clothes away, and make their bed; but you train them by showing them how to stack their books on the shelf, where to put their dirty clothes, and how to make their bed – and then repeatedly checking that they have done it this way over and over again. Each time the child does the task correctly, they grow stronger and stronger in the habit until it becomes second nature.
When a child is not displaying or acting on a habit, it is important to recognize whether that is due to ignorance, weakness, or rebellion. A child is ignorant in a habit if they do not know or were not taught thoroughly how to do it. Usually young children are ignorant at first of what they ought to do or what the expectation is. A child is weak in a habit if you observe that they cannot do what they were taught and trained to do, or need a significant amount of help to do it. Rebellion is the easiest to spot: if a child has been taught a habit, and trained in a habit, but refuses to act on the habit, says “no,” or chooses to disobey, it is likely that the child is acting out of rebellion.
When a child is weak or ignorant, it is the adult’s job to return to the beginning and teach or train the habit over again. When a child is rebellious, then the adult needs to look for a natural and logical consequence. Recognizing these key differences and responding appropriately will allow parents to continue to help children develop strong habits and are a part of the training process. Natural consequences help children learn that doing the right thing is always the best choice.
Habit development is a continual and ongoing process throughout a child’s life. There will be setbacks – and that is ok! Mrs. Williams encourages parents who get frustrated with the process to find something to celebrate while reviewing what is needed to fully complete the task asked of them. This often involves returning to the task of training and bringing them to attention by pointing out what part of the child’s behavior did not meet expectations.
“It is really important,” states Mrs. Williams, “that you give them the opportunity to complete the task fully themselves and not do it on your own because this disrupts the learning process.” Parents may wish to say, “I see you did this really well, but you missed this part of it. Try again and let’s see if you get all the steps done.” Stating it this way highlights what was correct and trains them to complete the task as well.
While these are just a few of the techniques that our teachers use to support habit development at The Oaks, they have a huge impact on the child’s entire life. Parents often share that understanding these techniques has helped re-frame the way they interact with their children every day in small ways that bring big results.