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January 12, 2016

Coaxing Bad Habits Down the Stairs

shutterstock_342663545“Habit is habit and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs one step at a time. “
(Mark Twain)

If there’s a habit going on in your house that needs to stop, don’t try tossing it out of the window; coax it downstairs instead. While we’ve all heard of the lucky person who “smoked one last cigarette and never picked up another,” habits usually aren’t changed overnight—and they take some patience in undoing. The good news is this: by simply changing one small part of a pattern, you open up the possibility for great change to happen organically.

If bedtime at your house is chaos, for instance, and you want it to become more peace-filled, the last thing you should do is to make some proclamation that ?”From now on?, things will be different!” That just sets you up for failure. In fact, those three words usually act as a shovel when we use them, digging us deeper into the ruts we despise. We may hate the patterns we’re facing, we may want to change them with all of our hearts, but when we make statements like this, we put undue pressure on ourselves (and usually, those around us).

Instead, if it’s a more peace-filled routine you seek, make one small change to what you currently do at night—without telling your kids. Start 10 minutes earlier, for instance. Or start with the youngest and proceed one kid at a time. Or maybe, just maybe, do nothing at all and see if your spouse steps in (or, God forbid, one of your kids starts the process herself!)

Make one small change, and just observe what happens next, without saying a word. Who knows what you’ll find? Perhaps you’ll discover that any disruption to the pattern stops the rut from getting deeper. And once you put the shovel down, you can extend a hand and help your family’s habits down the stairs and, eventually, out of the door for good.

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