After I put on my seatbelt, I will push play on my audiobook.
This has been my most successful Tiny Habit to date! I can quickly finish 1-2 books a week. But this habit didn’t start this way.
My aspiration was to read at night after putting my kids to bed. During family dinner conversations, I would express my frustration with not getting the books read that I wanted to and how my pile was stacking up. There were nights of me commenting that I bought another book, and my kids would laugh because they knew my lack of success at reading was real.
After a couple of weeks of not completing this habit, I realized I needed to troubleshoot it instead of continuing to whine.
There was an aha moment one day… I am in the car for multiple hours a day running kids around.
And that was when this super successful habit was created. I was learning the content inside the books (which had been the aspiration the whole time). My kids heard and saw the process (I had wanted something, created a habit, it didn’t work, so I adjusted instead of giving up.)
While I was focused during this, I hadn’t realized the lesson I was teaching to my kids until one night at dinner, my middle son started to explain a habit that he had designed and needed to troubleshoot it.
He kept hearing about the importance of gratitude and wanted to create a habit around it.
He told me that initially, he was going to sit at his desk and write down three things he was grateful for. That hadn’t been working for him, so he moved to his bed.
He said, “Mom, I thought that after I sit on my bed, I will open up the notes on my phone and type out three things I’m grateful for.”
He explained that many of his teachers at school have him do stuff with an app on his phone, and then he dreads that, and he didn’t want to dread this habit. So time to redesign again. He liked the location of the habit (his bed); he just needed to design the gratitude part to be easier for him.
His habit ended up being, “After I sit on the end of my bed when I am done playing guitar, I will close my eyes and think of one thing I’m grateful for.”
I was excited for him. I had no idea this habit was being created and that he was doing it on his own.
The first and most powerful way to teach your kids the Tiny Habits method is by modeling positive habits yourself. Be the example and explain behaviors that you would like to have as habits for yourself. Involve your kids in the process. Let them hear what you would like to accomplish, how it’s working out, or how it isn’t. Letting them live through you and your explanations so that their thoughts can follow the process and see themselves within it.
My absolute favorite way to teach my kids about habits is with the Swarm of Bs.
To say I love doing this with my kids is an understatement!
It creates a moment for me to understand their aspirations and desired outcomes (sometimes it’s for a long-term desire, and sometimes it’s to solve a current problem).
How I to do the Swarm of Bs with my kids:
I love this because I get to hear their thoughts. We get to spend time together brainstorming all these fantastic possibilities of behaviors. Often there are ideas I would not have thought of.
One of my sons used this exercise to solve our family’s problem of not playing enough board games. I had no idea this was something he had wanted to have more of.
When I did this with my oldest stepdaughter, she wrote “confidence” in her swarm. Again, I had not realized this was something she wanted. Talking through how she (& I) could help her grow her confidence was playful, creative, and fun! It also allowed me to understand her and be aware of how I can help her be successful.
After Liv and I did her Swarm of Bs, she decided that mirror affirmations would be the most successful for her.
Awesome! We had a starting point.
From there, we talked through what time of day she wanted to say an affirmation. (Morning while she was brushing her hair. This was her anchor). Then we talked through what her affirmation would be (behavior).
Her Tiny Habit:
When I am brushing my hair in the morning, I will look in the mirror and say, “Today is going to be a great day!”
Recipe for a Tiny Habit:
Anchor + Behavior + Celebration
I have noticed that for kids, celebration comes pretty naturally.
A celebration is an emotional reaction. It can be verbal, physical, or in your mind.
One of my kids does a dance shimmy; another says “yeah!” in their mind.
My third and last suggestion for teaching your kids how to use the Tiny Habits method is to get their “buy-in.”
Fogg Maxim #1: Help people do what they already want to do.
Designing habits around things your kids already want to do is fantastic.
However, I have found I want them to do habits that they might not be stoked about.
Forcing them is one option, but that is not a long-term solution; it won’t necessarily help them as adults. So explaining to them what behavior I would like for them to make a habit and talking through it with them has been successful.
As we talk, I can hear something that they want that aligns with the behavior I am hoping for.
An example of this is making their beds.
I have yet to find a kid that is excited about this.
I remember a particular dinner conversation that came from my frustration of my kids’ rooms being trashed by the time school started each morning. I realized what I had been doing wasn’t working, which was getting mad at them, and I decided to take a different approach. I asked them why making your bed might be important. It was helpful for them and me to understand where we all were coming from. I then asked them how they felt after school when they came home and saw that their bed was made (they all agreed that they felt happy and there was peace). I took some time to explain how simple it could be. I also explained my expectations of what a “made bed” could be (aka it didn’t have to be perfect with blankets tight & pillows lined up, etc.). I explained how it could be done in 30 seconds or less. The final part was designing a habit around this:
After my feet hit the floor first thing in the morning, I will flip around and pull up my blankets.
It was fascinating how literally overnight this habit was magic. They understood the behavior and have invested their ideas into the habit of designing.
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I have a confession: I used to love seeing kids have tantrums. Every time I passed a toddler thrashing on the grocery store floor or saw a red-faced kid screaming at the playground, a part of me breathed a sigh of relief. Thank goodness, I thought. Other people’s kids do this, too.
We’ve all chuckled over the “Reasons My Son is Crying” blog or a friend’s tale of their own tot’s tantrum, because it’s so reassuring to see just how normal these outbursts are, but that doesn’t mean they’re easy to handle when they come from our own kids.
In our last post, Tiny Habits Academy director Linda Fogg-Phillips detailed strategies for helping parents to keep their cool when a kid is blowing up, but kids need help learning to negotiate their own big feelings as well. She mentioned my son, Gavin, and my goal to help him (and myself) to learn to deal with frustration without throwing a fit. In the Tiny Habits for Moms course, I learned some great strategies that have helped me and both my kids to develop emotional resilience and put irritations in perspective.
1. Meet Primary Needs
Linda reminded us that people who are hungry, thirsty or tired have trouble keeping their emotions in check, and that goes double for children. I’ve learned that the combination of after-school hunger and homework makes it hard for Gavin to push through the afternoon without drama. Now I set him up for success by making sure he is getting enough rest, and that his blood sugar stays stable throughout the day.
Sample Habit: After my child sits down to work on his homework, I will give him a healthy snack and a glass of water.
2. Join Their Team
My friend Amanda’s son is a lot like Gavin, and she has said that sometimes she feels like she’s his emotional punching bag. Kids come to us with their frustrations because they want our help, but sometimes their efforts at getting it are clumsy and even downright abusive.
When one of Tiny Habits for Moms coach Brittany Herlean’s three boys becomes frustrated and starts taking his feelings out on her, she reminds him that she is not the enemy, and that she is on his side. Then she helps him redirect his focus by identifying the real problem, and helping him to find a solution.
Sample Habit: When my child yells at me, I will remind him that I am on his side.
3. Identify Tantrum Triggers
To deal with tantrums, outbursts and general moodiness, try to identify the root of the problem. It might not be as obvious as you think. Some are predictable; you know that these circumstances often challenge your kid. Common triggers include:
These triggers are pretty immediate, but some are much subtler. If a kid’s fit seems way out of proportion or just doesn’t make sense, step back and look at what’s going on in the rest of her life. Like hunger and thirst, feeling out of control or neglected can give kids a hair trigger. So can trouble with friends or stress at school, which may sap your kids emotional resilience and manifest in general snappishness.
Deal with the bad behavior, but follow up with a heart-to-heart once things have calmed down to see if your child is struggling with something unknown. Find ways to give your child more of whatever they need (like autonomy or affection) once the conflict is over, or help them to find solutions to the problems that are causing stress.
Sample Habit: After my child has a tantrum, I will snuggle her in the rocking chair.
Sample Habit: After my child pulls out her homework, I will help her outline a study plan for her test.
4. Help Them to Self-Soothe
Over the years I’ve tried a number of strategies to help my son Gavin deal with his mercurial temperament. Yoga didn’t help; a meditation app did. Counting to ten makes him angrier. Folding origami is magical. I spoke to some of the moms from my Tiny Habits for Moms group, and together we amassed a list of ideas that have worked for us. Try a few for yourself and see what happens.
When I feel like hitting, I will stomp my feet.
When I get suck on a homework problem I will tell myself, “I can do this.”
5. Think Like a Scientist
Being a mom is a lot like being a scientist. Your child is an unknown element, and it takes some experimenting to learn what causes a reaction, and how to prevent one. As they get older, their triggers and strategies will change, and so will yours. Finding the right recipes can take time, but remember, you’re also teaching your children to be more aware of their emotions and more able to act on them in a healthy and socially acceptable way, and that lesson will benefit them for the rest of their lives.
Tantrums are just one of the challenges moms face every day. To learn how the Tiny Habits method can help you to deal with everything from the dinner dishes to your relationship with your spouse, join our next session of Tiny Habits for Moms.
The “morning rush” is so common it’s a bona fide cliché, but your day doesn’t have to start with pandemonium. Here’s a secret the most successful people know: their mornings begin the night before.
Take a look at your morning routine and evaluate each action. Does this need to be done in the morning, or could it be done at night instead? If it is indeed a morning behavior, what can you do the night before to set yourself up for success?
My son used to beg to sleep in his clothes, arguing that it would enable him to sleep in for several more minutes each morning. We don’t advocate allowing your business suit to do double duty as pajamas, but laying out your clothing the night before does more than just save you time deciding what to wear. You’ll also spare yourself the hassle of searching for stocking and accessories, and you’ll know before it’s too late whether part of the outfit is wrinkled, dirty or in need of repair.
Have your kids lay out their entire ensemble as well, from underclothing to socks and shoes. You’ll know whether a necessary item is still in the laundry, and you can veto the bathing suit/batman combo and other unacceptable choices before your kid is halfway out the door.
Prepare Breakfast, Pack Lunch
Set out bowls and cold cereal or bake muffins or quiche cups that can be quickly reheated. Chop fruits and veggies, make sandwiches and put cookies in zip-lock bags. If your kids’ activities keep you out late, prepare everything you need for a crock-pot dinner. In the morning you can dump it in, set the timer and go. For even more efficiency, set aside some time on Sunday and prepare meals for the whole week.
Check Your Calendar
Take a look at your appointments and to-do list for today as well as tomorrow. What did you accomplish today? Was anything left undone that you should address tomorrow? What are your highest priorities this week? Are there any conflicts in your schedule?
What do you need to be ready for the coming day? Will you need any documents, files or other materials? Will you need to prepare in any other way? If you wait until you’re at the office to see what’s on your agenda, you risk missing an early appointment or arriving unprepared.
Check your kids’ schedules, too. Is there a student council meeting that slipped your mind, and possibly theirs? Do they need any special materials or equipment? Do they have a ride to and from all their activities? By reviewing their day as well as your own you forgo missing cleats, unfinished science projects, and a hundred other morning dramas.
Prepare Your Launch Pad
You’ve identified all the major events of the day to come and prepared everything you need, but how often has an important form been left on the kitchen counter or in a child’s room? Identify your launch pad and make sure everything is there before you go to bed. For kids, set out:
For yourself, include:
Only two things stay out of the launch pad: Your clothes, which are laid out neatly in each person’s bedroom, and your lunch boxes – leave those in the kitchen, ready to be filled.
Set the Stage for Success
Now that you’ve covered the essentials, you may find that you’re more able to meet some of your personal goals. If you’re familiar with the Tiny Habits method, you know that the easier a goal is, the more likely you are to follow through with it. By arranging everything you need the night before, you invest in the next day’s success. In fact, it will add to your motivation – you don’t want to have gone to the trouble of laying out your things for nothing!
Morning Chaos or Morning Clockwork?
Rushing through the morning has implications for the entire day, for both you and your children. Most kids need time for transitions. Arriving at school a few minutes early allows them to calmly stow their backpack and jacket, pull out the things they’ll need for the day, check in with friends and adjust to the classroom atmosphere. Running late means they’re constantly hurrying to catch up, and it impacts their entire day. You’ve probably noticed similar effects in your own life. Set your whole family up for success by letting your evening routine do the heavy lifting and see the morning chaos turn to clockwork.
If you’re looking for more ways to master your to-do list, create balance in your life and create peace and positivity in your home, sign up for our newest course, Tiny Habits for Moms.
When my children were younger, we spent a few years homeschooling. Class started promptly at 7:30 am, in our pajamas, after we had gathered and scrambled some eggs from our free-range backyard chickens. I knew that the arrangement was temporary, and that these few extra years with my children at home were a gift that I did not want to waste. While I had always been their teacher, the role took on new meaning as I worked to create a curriculum that would inspire passion, kindness and creativity while imparting the skills they’d need to assimilate into a traditional classroom one day.
I considered my priorities. As an English major, I wanted them to crave beautiful language and stories the way I always had. As a lover of science, I wanted them to wonder how everything works, from the creation of the universe to the infinite reaches of their own minds. As a mother, I wanted them to understand the power they have in this world, and to use it well. I knew that the habits and values we form in our youth are often the most lasting.
I began collecting quotes, scriptures and verses of poetry that inspire kindness and courage. Each morning as we nibbled our toast we worked to memorize one. We learned about Nelson Mandela, who said, “We can change the world and make it a better place. It is in your hands to make a difference.” We talked about Ghandhi, who taught, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” We read Aesop’s Fables and learned, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”
Every week we talked about someone new, someone who used this one life we’re all given to make a difference in this world, and as we went about our day we looked for opportunities to “be the change”. Soon we’d made a habit of picking up stray trash at the playground, thanking our cashiers, and smiling and making eye contact with those we meet. We learned to watch out for new members of our groups and to invite them into our circles. We looked for those who were struggling and learned to ask, “How can I help?”
In first grade my daughter returned to public school. One day her teacher told me that they’d read a book about Helen Keller in class, and that London had shared from memory Keller’s famous words, “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. I will not refuse to do the something I can do.” I explained our homeschool devotional. “Well, it worked,” she said. “I’ve noticed that. She’s always watching. If someone is getting picked on or left out, she takes care of it.” All those words we’d learned were still there, in her mind as well as in her heart.
During this holiday season, we become more focused on serving others. Up to 88% of those who make charitable donations each year do so during the holidays. In addition to money, many individuals and families donate gifts and food to homeless shelters and needy neighbors. Others give of their time, serving in soup kitchens, caroling at nursing homes or collecting packages for soldiers stationed abroad. We recognize how blessed we are, and we search for ways to share those blessings with others.
On the heels of this season of giving we begin to contemplate the year to come. We imagine ourselves thinner, wealthier and more accomplished. We set goals and make resolutions and consider deeply the people we want to become. For many, giving is a cherished Christmas tradition, but imagine how powerful it would be if this tradition became a habit, a way of living that infused our lives every day of the year. How could you transform your own life, and the lives of those around you? As you write your resolutions for the new year, consider how in the accumulated small moments that are available to every one of us every day, it is in your hands to “be the change” and make a difference.