This blog post is unlike any other I have written. I humbly take the risk of sounding like a self help book while I pour out my thoughts on living, daily chores and routines all inextricably connected to parenting.
I think about the habits, that I (and that includes my husband) don’t want our daughter to inculcate. TV watching, iPad addiction, bad language, indiscipline – so many threads that need to be battled on a daily basis. She is only 18 months old but I believe firmly that it is the old habits (good or bad) that ‘die hard’.
It is so tough and almost impossible to be a good parent. It is not always possible to avoid using the iPad or watching TV in front of our daughter. But how do you explain the principle to the 18 year old without inculcating the habit first.
The truth is though principles are the thread on which lifestyles and habits should be based, habits are inculcated first. No understanding of the underlying principle is necessary for an infant to cultivate habits. For instance, brushing teeth as soon as you wake, wearing pajamas before bed, potty training. We are always focusing on the habits. Putting principles before habits is like putting the cart before the horse. Hygiene is first a habit and then based on the study of microorganisms. Habits habits habits…
When I was about 18 my dad gave me 7 Habits of the Highly Effective Teens. The book said – learn to say no, ward off peer pressure and all such things. At the time, I did not fully understand the import of the book. I took two lessons from the book. Firstly, our motto in life should be – “Nothing Less”. Secondly, success is a habit.
I understand now, the true import of the word habit in the book and the focus on habit by Stephen Covey (the author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People who inspired the teen version) and his son Sean Covey (the author of the teen version of 7 Habits).
Parenting is (and similarly life is) therefore the constant struggle of bridging the gap between principles and habits (most of which are already formed). To be good parents, we need to be good people. Come on, none of us are bad people. We are actually people with poor habits. While it is true that the principles matter the most, habits are what establish behaviour in the long run.
Understanding emulating is the key. Children are like monkeys – and imitate everything we do. This copycat tendency of children casts a huge burden on parents. To constantly watch oneself and to avoid actions that are natural is a difficult task. Sometimes, circumstances force us to let go. Identifying the bad / poor habits and replacing them with the good / desirable habits is step 1. Introspection is challenging and the result demoralizing.
All of this and more is whizzing through my head every day and causes me to constantly be on guard. I want to let go and relax. The advice often is – don’t take yourself so seriously.
But the problem is – my daughter does.