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Stopping bad habits in their tracks

Have you ever watched your kid do something, shaken your head and said nothing, hoping that tomorrow things would be different? I know you have – because who hasn’t? We’ve all done it. We’ve all hoped that if we just ignore something, it will stop.

It’s not just with our kids. I’ve been doing it with wrinkles on my t-shirts. I’ve done it with muffler-less cars, I’ve done it with shriveled up petunia flowers. 

Here’s the reality though – while the petunias will pass and the cars will go make a noise somewhere else, the kids are our responsibility. Especially, when it comes to how they treat other humans and how they treat themselves.

Noticing something once is not a big deal. Noticing it every so often is probably okay too (we each have our moments.) When we notice ourselves ignoring a behavior and saying nothing for a few days in a row, it’s time. The amber-bad-habit flag is waving, and we need to pay attention and act.

So, what do we do, and what do we say?


Here’s what we don’t say:

“You’ve done that every day for a week, and I’m  sick of it!”

“What’s wrong with you?”

“You always do that! How can you be so mean and thoughtless? Don’t you care about other people?”


Here’s what we could say:

“Have you noticed the language you’ve been using with your brother lately?”

“Have you noticed any patterns about how you are treating your stuff in the last day or two? I have and I’d like us to talk about it. I’ve got time now or we can talk in 20 minutes, what works for you?”

“I’ve been hearing name-calling and before it becomes a bad habit, we need to find a way for it to change. I have some ideas, and maybe you do too. Let’s talk.”

“I’m noticing you putting yourself down a lot lately. 

We treat everyone around here with care and kindness and we need to find a way to help you treat yourself with care. Why don’t you think about it, and we can talk about it some more on a walk this afternoon. I care about you – you’re important to me.”


Kids will misbehave – it’s what they do as they are learning and growing and thinking about so many things at the same time. It’s our job to notice and support them in learning new ways to behave so that simple behaviors don’t become bad habits.

Ideally, while we are noticing, we can have some kind discussions with ourselves about some of our own behaviors and model self-compassion for the whole family. 

Author, blogger, podcast host and parenting expert, Julie has been supporting parents across North America for 20 years. Through her company JFS Parent Education, she helps parents find relief from their everyday parenting challenges. Want to know how she can help you? Email her today: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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