What three habits will help your child grow into a happy, healthy adult?
Easy, practical tips with life-changing effects
Written by: Jessica Serrano
10 Minute Read
I bite my nails. I know, I know, it’s a terrible habit and something I have been trying to break for decades. My mom did it, I did it, and I dread the day my daughter puts her fingers in her mouth to chomp down. I am not blaming genetics here, but I have considered how my own habits can influence the next generation, for better or for worse.
“Habits are powerful, but delicate. They can emerge outside our consciousness, or can be deliberately designed. They often occur without our permission, but can be reshaped by fiddling with their parts. They shape our lives far more than we realize—they are so strong, in fact, that they cause our brains to cling to them at the exclusion of all else, including common sense.”
- Charles Duhigg
(from his book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business)
Take a minute to think about how this relates to health. It’s no wonder that despite all the diet fads, nutrition labels, 24-hour gyms, self-help books, and health apps, we continue to struggle to make daily, healthy decisions. It’s not for a lack of knowledge that we continue to make these choices. Most of us are fighting against years of habitual thoughts and actions that date back to our elementary school days.
What kind of “health” are kids experiencing at most schools?
Habits are incredible because they can stick with us for a lifetime. I have been a classroom teacher for over ten years, and although most schools do not teach health explicitly, they are reinforcing a “culture” that is having devastating effects on our youth:
What if we took the 12,000+ hours kids are in school and helped them develop some healthy habits?
The earlier children begin developing healthy habits, the easier it is for those to stick. You shouldn’t be the only one encouraging (well, making) your kids eat broccoli. Imagine this: your child starts eating (and enjoying) whole, preservative-free foods at five years old, has a daily exercise regiment by seven, and is talking about a healthy mindset by nine years old? Impossible you say? Well, that’s the just the type of thing parents are experiencing at Ignite Academy.
I get giddy just thinking about the impact those kinds of habits will have on a child. They wouldn’t need the fad diets in their 30’s or experience the negative self-image that comes with an addiction to social media. They would be the kind of adults who are healthy enough to fulfill the ministry God has called them to, and have the energy and drive to do it well.
How is Ignite Academy bringing healthy habits into the school and classroom?
We saw a need in our schools. Learning was being impeded because the mind, heart, and soul were not being nourished correctly, and as a result, not functioning the way God intended. Yes, Ignite Academy cares about academics, but we also know you can’t drench a plant with gallons of water from a fire hose and expect it to grow if it’s not rooted in the right soil. We have a lot of drowning plants in our current school system. So, we need to create an environment that ignites boundless growth by immersing kids in REAL health. Let’s get into the nitty-gritty. How do we bring healthy habits into our school and classroom?
First, let’s identity three habits that help children grow into healthy and happy adults:
- Feeding your mind, body, and soul the right stuff- What goes into our hearts, minds, and mouths has vast implications.
- Winning the morning- Live each day intentionally by preparing yourself for what’s ahead.
- Saying “yes” to the harder choice- Make a habit of doing difficult things and knowing mistakes will only help us grow.
These habits need to be practiced EVERY DAY. And for us, this training begins in that magical place called kindergarten. In the following paragraphs, I will unpack each habit in more detail and explain how we implement it at Ignite Academy.
#1 - Feed your mind, body and soul the right stuff
So often, when we talk about health, we jump straight for the “physical health” aspect and ignore the other components in the “real health equation”. Mental and spiritual health are essential and without addressing those as well, you will never have the true health you desire.
There are a lot of things going into the bodies, minds and hearts of our children these days. Someday I want to track everything that they take in during a 24-hour period. Think about the video games, TV shows, reading content, social media posts and pictures, advertisements, snacks, fast-food, drinking water, medications, air quality, personal hygiene products….and the list goes on and on. What you taste, touch, see, and hear affect you in profound ways.
Nourishment is the substance necessary for growth. Here are just a few ways we nourish the mind, body and soul at Ignite Academy:
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
#2. Win the Morning
I am not a morning person. And despite the fact that my husband says I can become one, I am pretty sure it’s never going to change.
However, I know successful people are notorious for having a well-executed morning that borders on compulsive, so I commit to winning my mornings too. Take for example Benjamin Franklin, who began his mornings by asking himself, "What good shall I do this day?" or Tim Ferris, who begins with filling up pages of a journal or Twitter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, who begins with a quick exercise workout routine.
When you begin each morning with a regiment that fills you up, you are able to pour into those around you and you have “won” before you’ve even begun. At Ignite Academy, we help kids learn to win the morning by:
#3. Say “yes” to the harder choice
When someone says the word “discipline” nowadays people get uncomfortable. Discipline means, “to train oneself to do something in a controlled and habitual way.”
We may not like it, but we need it. In his book, The Compound Effect, Darren Hardy offers a formula for success: “Small, smart choices + Consistency + Time = RADICAL DIFFERENCE”.
Choosing what is right, even when it is difficult, takes a lot of practice. Here’s how we are allowing space for that practice at school:
How can parents start healthy habits at home?
Parents, we are firm believers that you are the ones who have been entrusted with the training and education of your children. As a school, we want to come alongside you and support this amazing endeavor. So what can you do to help your child develop these healthy habits?
Whether you are focusing on the three habits we mentioned above, or have some of your own in mind, here are some strategies to help you get the ball rolling:
- Start small and start now. Pick one. Don’t try teaching your kids ten habits and create more chaos than what you started with. Pick a healthy habit that feels easy and start today. Stick with it until it becomes routine before moving onto a new habit (this usually takes 4-6 weeks). Think about it: if your child starts at age 10 and only implements one habit per year, he/she would have developed about 30 good habits by the time he/she hits 40! That has a considerable compound effect!
- Get your whole family involved. Make sure everyone is on board and willing to try developing the habit together. If you want to start incorporating more veggies into your meals, that means kids and parents are eating those greens. If you want to win the morning, make sure everyone has their list of three things to do when they wake up. Then, take one night a week to talk as a family about the habit you are starting and how it’s going. What’s working? What’s not? How can you help one another? Be sure to celebrate the success together and continue to remind one another of the long-term effects.
“The decisions we make today determine the stories we tell tomorrow.”
Give your child a healthy head start. They are destined to pick up a few of your bad habits (like nail-biting, thanks mom) but with a proactive approach, you can also encourage positive behaviors that will last a lifetime.
Parents, we know that making healthy choices when it comes to our nutrition can be one of the biggest challenges. To help make the transition into healthier eating a smooth one for parents and children, click below for a FREE resource called, “Ending the Food Fight”. This pdf is yours to keep, print, and share with other families on the road to developing healthier habits.
Parents, end the food fight for good!
To help make the transition into healthier eating a smooth one for parents and children, click below for a FREE resource called, “Ending the Food Fight”. This pdf is yours to keep, print, and share with other families on the road to developing healthier habits.