When I was a child, my mother would clean up after dinner, and then announce, “The kitchen is closed.” That was her way of saying we had better not go out there and make any kind of mess. No cooking, heating up, or anything else that required dishes to be used or messes to be made. I thought she was crazy. And now I find myself saying, “I’m done cleaning. Do not make a mess. If you use any dishes, you clean them up.” It’s my 2017 version of “kitchen’s closed.”
And yet, on a regular basis, I will find cups from late-night drinks in the living room, tea drips or sugar bits on the counter, or (gasp) a half a sink of dishes in the kitchen when I wake up, and it drives me mad.
On the other hand, what drives my husband mad is when I do the dishes when there aren’t really that many to be done. “You don’t have to run and do every dish the minute it’s dirty,” he says. Of course, that’s an exaggeration, and it’s also an expression of how he would prefer I relax a bit instead of getting annoyed over a trivial thing like dishes, and I would rather get the dishes done, so I can relax.
Of course, there are other bad habits that my family, and many others, are guilty of: constant arguing between siblings, not sitting together during dinner, and everyone being on their phone entirely too much. Today’s busy lifestyle may be in direct opposition to quality family time, but it doesn’t mean we can’t all work harder to not fall into bad family habits, and overcome them when we do.
Create family rules with your partner early on. Decide together what is important for you as a family and why. Different families have different ideas of what constitutes acceptable bedtimes, dinner etiquette, and homework schedules as well as proper cleaning and organizational tasks.
As the kids get older, integrate what makes good and bad habits into family discussions so you are all on the same page. This helps kids know exactly what is expected of them and every member of the family, and what consequences will ensue from bad habits.
Don’t let infractions slide. Maybe you’re tired and not in the mood to reprimand your child for the messy room or the texting at the table. Frankly, it’s often easier to disregard it, but ignoring it will create an unfair element between siblings, and teach your children that rules only apply sometimes.
Raising your voice or losing your temper is no way to create peace in your home, and it just showcases your bad habit — losing your cool. Remember that children need gentle prodding and clear-cut guidelines to thrive. Even so, they will still fall into bad habits from time to time as we all do. We need to call attention to it and calmly redirect their actions.
Parents need to keep up good family habits just as much (some might argue even more so) than the children. We also need to keep up our own standards. Sure, work might require us to answer co-workers during family time, but we cannot fall into bad habits and then expect our kids not to do the same. Remember, they are watching everything we do, and we are constantly modeling good (and bad) behavior for them.
Danielle Sullivan, a mom of three, has worked as a writer and editor in the parenting world for more than 10 years. Sullivan also writes about pets and parenting for Disney’s Babbl
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