Getting Kids on Board with Healthier Habits in 2023
By: Cecily Gadaire, PhD, LPA
For many people, the New Year feels like a fresh start, a time to set new goals and establish new habits. But, what about our kiddos? They might be fine with the status quo and even put up a fight when you try to help them establish new habits. It can feel like an enormous hurdle to get our kids on board with new habits we’d like to establish in our family. The good news is that parents play a huge role in helping kids develop positive habits and your child is ready to learn from you! We’re here to help with some tips that can help turn your New Year’s resolutions into reality.
Link new habits to their values. Just like us, children are more motivated to work hard when they care about something. Linking new goals or healthy choices to values that are important to your child is an important step in getting them to buy into making changes. Take some time to sit down with your kid and really listen to the things that matter to them.
- If your kid cares about being strong, remind her that her favorite superhero or professional athlete eats lots of vegetables because it keeps her muscles strong and her body working well.
- If it’s important to your kid to be on time to play dates and birthday parties, explain to him that keeping the home clean makes it easier to get ready and out the door quickly because we know where everything we need is.
Build new habits into your daily routine. Most children function better when they have routines. It helps them know what to expect! Find ways to build your new habits into your child’s daily routine. Start small and gradually work towards meeting your full goal.
- Sit down with your child and share a healthy snack around the same time each day.
- Establish a time each week to get outside and be active together as a family. Do something that your child enjoys like playing catch, jumping rope, or riding bikes.
- Reduce screen time by doing a 15-minute fun family activity during a time typically spent in front of screens. Think about doing crafts, cooking, playing a board game, or playing hide-and-seek.
Do it together and make it fun. Spending high-quality time with their parents is one of young children’s favorite things to do. Find ways to incorporate steps towards your goal into your time with your child. If healthier eating is a New Year’s goal for your family, include your child in meal planning, grocery shopping, and food preparation. If getting your child to clean up their mess is your goal, help them clean up at first and make a game out of it (e.g., beat the timer, race to pick up the most toys).
Reinforce good choices. Praising children’s positive behavior is one of the most influential reinforcers we can provide for our kids. Catch your children making good choices and let them know you’ve noticed. Be specific about what you liked and express your praise with enthusiasm.
“Great job choosing an apple as an after school snack, Tommy!”
“Maddie, I had so much fun with you on our walk this afternoon.”
“Thank you for cleaning up the playroom so nicely today, Billy!”
Be a good role model. As a parent, you know that telling your child directly what to do doesn’t always work. Children need to see you working towards the goals you’ve set for your family and making healthy choices, as well. If your child is resistant to forming new habits, remind them that you are trying your best to make healthy choices too.
Use SMART goals to set Specific, Measurable, Achievable/Attainable, Relevant/Realistic, and Time-bound goals. Check out C&FD’s blog post on this topic here.
Whether your goal is getting your child eating healthier, moving their body more, or finishing their homework on time, we hope these tips will help you work towards establishing positive habits for your family in 2023!