7 habits that could transform the school year

The school year has started for some and is soon to start for others.  As we get back into the swing of things, we always have so many high hopes.

It’s like a jr. version of going into the new year.  Parents have goals for their children. Children have goals of their own (often very different from their parents goals). Some are scared to death. Some are excited. Some believe this will be the year they break through.

While most are focused on things like grades and success in sports or other extracurriculars, I think school is the perfect opportunity to work on building habits. Goals aren’t achieved without good habits. Since habits are the part of achieving goals that we can actually control, why not focus on building habits that can lead to the things our kids are going after?

To help you out, I’ve selected seven habits that I believe could transform your children’s upcoming school year. Let me know if you agree (or if you have one or two of your own).

First, a word about habits…

Some of these habits are a little mushy. What, after all, is the ‘habit of kindness’?

Perhaps that’s one of the difficulties in developing certain character traits. We want to instill kindness into our children, so we tell them to ‘go be nice to people.’

That’s helpful and good. But if we thought of it in terms of a habit, what would the habit of kindness look like? How would you build kindness intentionally into your day?

The habit of kindness might look different for your child than it does for my child, but thinking of building character in terms of building a habit can be a powerful practice. When I dropped my children off for school once a week the last couple years, I’d tell them to ‘say something nice to someone today.’ I was trying to help them develop a habit of kindness.

Even if the habits listed below don’t resonate with you, consider your own values and goals and your kids’ goals. How can you create a habit that fosters working toward one of those values or goals?

Other habits will be more traditional (the habit of reading, for example).

In essence, habits serve at our pleasure. What follows are some suggestions, but I urge you to think through this idea as it relates to your children’s upcoming school year.

Without further fanfare, here are 7 habits. I will not weight each down with too much explanation. Take them. Leave them. Create your own:

  1. The habit of organization.
    How many of our children would have so much less frustration if they developed a habit around being more organized? Some of our children seem to be built with that artistic or absent-minded professor gene, but still… all of them can create a simple system to help them to remember to bring their homework home.
  2. The habit of quiet time.
    We are all constantly asking everybody else and every screen around us to entertain us. How badly does that hurt study skills? I don’t know, but I’m guessing it’s not good. Can our children create a habit – whether they have studying to do or not – around being quite, alone, playing or reading or practicing an instrument?
  3. The habit of kindness.
    I discussed this above. Your child might already be the nicest kid you know. That doesn’t mean she still isn’t shy or just doesn’t know how to look out for opportunities for intentional acts of kindness.

4.The habit of courage
This habit goes hand in hand with kindness sometimes. It’s often the courageous thing to do to step out and be kind to someone in the shadows at school. More than that, courage is the practice of doing a thing in the face of fear of the thing. School is filled with opportunities with this. When you know the only reason your child is not doing something or trying out or taking a class is fear, it’s an opportunity to instill the habit of courage.

  1. The habit of tinkering
    This is the only way I could describe encouraging your child to play in a way that also helps him to learn. Tinker with programming a computer. Tinker with art. Tinker with a musical instrument. Tinker with filmmaking. Tinker with math. Tinker with writing. Provide space, give the raw materials, and see what happens over time.
  2. The habit of reading
    This one is simple. You should read. You should create space for your child to read. I recommend 20 minutes before bed, every school night (at least).
  3. The habit of drilling/flash cards
    This habit is a great habit that will serve your child’s education for years to come. Use flash cards. Vocabulary. Historical dates. Concepts. Transform notes to flash cards and then little shots of studying can happen at a moment’s notice.

Did I oversell these habits? 

I apologize if these habits don’t have the power to ‘transform the school year.’ I’m guessing you can come up with your own list that would probably do so for your kid (or kids). You know them well and know exactly what they need.

Come to think of it, we could probably, as parents, develop our own habits that will transform us during our kids’ school year. Or transform our families? You think?

Happy 2017-2018 school year!



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