The Chains of Habit


Written by Donna McClintock, COO with Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc.

“The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.”
–Samuel Johnson

This quote makes us think of a negative habit that takes root in our lives – a habit that controls us by the time we recognize it. However, the quote caused me to pause and think that it might be possible to instill some strong, positive habits in our young children as we enter this back-to-school season … good “chains of habit” that lead them to do things in a customary way before they realize they have established a habit.

Another quote says: “Watch your thoughts; they become your words. Watch your words; they become your actions. Watch your actions; they become your habits. Watch your habits; they become your character.”  We cannot completely monitor the thoughts of our children, but we can help them establish some great habits. These habits will then contribute to their overall character.

It’s amazing how our expectations of our children and what we live out before them truly impacts who they become as adults. We want the chains of healthy habits to control their actions. If we guide with respect, expect only the best from them, and consistently hold them accountable, they will be constrained by ‘good’ habits that will benefit them throughout their lives.

Often parents want to say “Yes,” as frequently as possible and give their children only joy and fun. As a mother and grandmother, I can totally relate to the desire to see a child immersed in fun … laughing and loving life. However, I have also seen the sorrow and pain caused by adults who do not instill the loose chains of good healthy habits in their young children. It is our job to equip them with the tools they need to survive, and this often means denying immediate gratification in favor of a long-range goal.

Helping our children develop the habit of doing the right thing each day is tough when those around them seem to get away with doing the wrong thing. But we owe it to them to teach the chains of habit that will protect them now and when they are older … the chains they don’t even feel as they surround them.

Love your child, enjoy your child, laugh often with your child … but do not be afraid to do whatever it takes to allow the chains of healthy habits to form around her for her protection as she emerges into adulthood. She will cherish these habits one day … and she will thank you.


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