How to Break Bad Habits and Create Good Habits

The word “Habit” usually conjures up images of something bad, like the habit of biting one’s fingernails, smoking, fidgeting, talking out of place – you know the drill.

Break Bad Habit Create Good Habit

Habits are created by repeating the same action over and over until it becomes a natural thing to do without thinking. The repetition creates an action, or path in the brain, that is subconsciously followed. Like a path in a field, the more use or repetition a habit receives, the deeper and wider the path becomes ingrained in the brain.

I once heard it takes 28 repetitions to make or break a habit. I don’t know if that’s true but many agree that habits are usually created or changed within a few weeks of repeating the action.

Most habits are created more easily than they can be broken because once the pathway of the habit is set in the brain it must be replaced with a new or different pathway. If you fold a piece of paper and make a crease, it is very easy to make another fold in the same place. Removing the fold is much more difficult.

Athletes and musicians hone their craft by repeating the same actions until they become proficient at the task. Creating routines makes tasks easier to follow with better efficiency and accuracy.

Getting kids to create good habits may take a little work but the results can help them with school and daily life. Regularly brushing teeth, saying “Thank You,” reading, doing homework, not forgetting homework, writing neatly – the list goes on.

How do you create Good Habits or replace Bad Habits?

1. Understand what habit needs to be created or replaced. Once habits are formed they live in the subconscious and it is unlikely the person knows they have a bad habit.

2. Make a conscious effort to create or replace a habit. In the beginning it is important to think about the habit and repeat it often. The first few days the habit should be repeated as many times as possible if forming a new one. At least three times a day might work. If correcting a bad habit use a signifier as a reminder. An example would be to stop biting fingernails. Paint the nails red (for girls) or tie a string around the finger (for boys) so that it stands out.

3. Keep the concentration high on the action. Think about it and repeat it often. Resist any temptation to repeat a bad habit. Resistence will help create a strong pathway in the brain.

4. Continue the action for at least two weeks without fail. If it’s a difficult habit to make or break it may take a month, but concentration and repetition will drive it home in the brain until it is rooted in the subconscious.

Once a good habit has been created or a bad one eliminated, find others to work on. Creating good habits isn’t that hard but they make life easier. The subconscious is a powerful weapon for living life on auto-pilot and becoming more efficient.




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Easy IEP Help News on August 3, 2011




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Child Safety Recalls and The Power of the Internet

It’s taken far longer to get around to this than expected but when you have one child graduating from high school and preparing for college and another in middle school, sometimes life gets in the way of writing blog posts. Summer takes its toll as well, but that’s another story.

Anyway, I received a really nice email back in May from Ryan & Rachel who are expecting their first child. By now they may have already had the baby and if so, my sincerest belated Congratulations!

They said they were shopping for baby cribs and wondered if I had seen a recall on “ducduc Cribs,” which I had not. For those in the market for a new crib, here’s the link to the recall:
www.ConsumerAffairs.com/recalls04/2011/ducduc-cribs-recalled.html

For more recalls from Consumer Affairs visit:
www.ConsumerAffairs.com/recalls/recalls.htm

When my oldest daughter was born, it was early in 1993. I had a Prodigy account and an AOL account. Most of the time was spent chatting and checking the weather. By the end of that year there were 623 websites worldwide. Woo-hoo! Not a whole lot to do but it didn’t matter, it was revolutionary.

Child Safety Recalls

By the middle of 1994 when I started learning how to build websites the number of sites had “ballooned” to around 2700. Things were getting really interesting. We now had the Amazing FishCam, Yahoo, Lycos, and one of the first websites I ever created for my daughter, Madison’s World (it wasn’t much of a website and was only updated once in 1996 so I had to visit it to see if it was still up…it is).

Fast-forward to today and what we see doesn’t look anything like it did less than 15 years ago. Today, we get real-time reporting of everything that happens on the planet. Follow the right Twitter feed and you can almost hear about an earthquake before the shockwaves hit your house.

Most of the time this is really great stuff, especially for parents and parents-to-be. Need medical advice? Google it. Want to know where your kids are right now? Ping them via text, email, Twitter, Facebook…

As parents, we worry about everything that can happen to our children. Sometimes we worry so much we lose sleep over it, wondering if they’re doing okay in school, if they have issues with bullies, if it’s safe for them to bike or walk to school without an adult, are they eating the right kinds of food. And for some, do they have learning difficulties that cause struggles in school.

But today, we have the internet and with it comes access to information and resources that previously took hours or days to find. And that brings a slice of sanity and relief to all the parents who worry so much, but can now find the answer to at least some of their worries and fears.

Just ask Ryan & Rachel. I have no idea how they found my little corner of the web, or even the crib recall link. Probably Google. But I’m grateful they did because it means somebody is reading and sharing valuable information with other parents who might also need it.

That whole, “it takes a village…” idea really does have some merit when it comes to raising kids. Probably two-thirds of what I learned about parenting was through the daily experience of having kids. The other third is divided between the internet and the help and advice from other parents. Share what you know and don’t be afraid to ask when you don’t know.

BTW, for anybody interested in finding out more about other product recalls, visit the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission at:
www.cpsc.gov

Or for a list of all recalls (not including toys) visit:
www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/category/child.html




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Some Say Parents Are To Blame For Lack Of Good Education

I recently read an article in USA Today by Patrick Welsh entitled, “The key to a good education: parents (not teachers),” and was almost amused by how far it misses the mark.

We currently have a rousing debate in this country about how best to educate our children. On one side we have schools and teachers and on the other we have education reformers. It’s difficult to include Congress in the debate at this time.

Certainly parents can be more involved in the education of their children, some more than others, but good parenting only goes so far when it applies to success in the classroom. Some parents take it a step further and homeschool their kids because they understandably feel they can do a better job. I haven’t seen their stats for success but I’ve seen it work well in the limited exposure I’ve had in this area.

I can say for certain that every parent I know wants their children to get a better education than they had, wants their children to have better opportunities than they had, and wants their children to have more career success than they have had in their life. I’m also certain that we can all agree on that.

We must keep in mind though that parents don’t create the curriculum, don’t teach the curriculum, and don’t monitor the effectiveness of the teaching on the curriculum. Schools and teachers do that, among others.

Are Parents to Blame For Lack Of Good Education?

It is also important to note that teachers are trained to teach. They are professionals that get paid to teach and educate children. How many parents (unless they are teachers) have the educational background or the tools to match the credentials that reside in the classroom? The real key to a good education is the effectiveness of the classroom. Does it inspire, lead, and arouse a willingness to learn? The parents are absent from the equation because they are either at work or at home and not in the classroom.

In the article, the author writes:

“Reduced to its simplest terms, the rationale behind the attack on teachers is this: Children born to single, semi-literate, poverty-stricken 16- or 17-year-olds can, with the right teachers, reach the same level of academic skill as children born to parents such as Ben’s and Emma’s (two success stories mentioned in the article). Teachers would love to have such power, but statistics and common sense show that with few exceptions, things don’t work that way.”

Are you sure about that? The success of the KIPP schools would beg to differ. In the book, “Work Hard. Be Nice,” it tells how two overly-determined and hard-working teachers made a difference with children that were born to parents that had none of the advantages of Ben and Emma’s. They replicated their success in KIPP schools around the country. And that’s just KIPP. There are other programs that have proven the right combination of teacher-skill and curriculum can get through to kids at a disadvantage. I won’t even go into “Waiting for Superman,” as it’s now available on DVD for all to see.

I don’t want this to sound like I’m bashing teachers and I also know that the success found by KIPP and others is very difficult to achieve nationwide at every school. It is cost and time prohibitive and requires an insane commitment by the teachers and students. As good as it may be the process doesn’t scale well.

I love teachers and have respect for them and the job they perform. They spend more time with our children every day than most of us do as parents. What they teach them will have a lifelong impact on their lives. We’ve all been through school and know some teachers are great and others not so great. The same goes for parents.

In the end, the key to a good “education” is on the teachers, schools and curriculum. The key to good kids is on the parents. Teachers have had training, have resources, and get paid to teach. Parents have had zero training, and some have zero resources.

What is required in the classroom is beyond the scope of understanding of many parents. What is taught now is not the same as what was taught when the parents were in school. Sure, George Washington has always been the first President, but some parents barely scratched algebra in high school and they probably don’t remember it today. Their kids are being exposed to it in elementary school. Don’t laugh, but there are actually parents that struggle with a computer yet their kids use them every day in school. Many parents are at a major disadvantage on so many levels that there is simply no way they can provide for their children what is necessary for them to thrive, let alone compete in school with kids that have every advantage. How can they be at fault?

The biggest problem I have with the education debate is that almost everybody on either side is only looking at 80% of the kids that are high-functioning children without any form of learning disability. From KIPP to teachers to Congress, absent are the struggles of the families that have special kids that under-perform in school. The parents certainly don’t have the training to help other than a lot of love and a willingness to fight for them because they can’t fight for themselves. Parents of children with learning disabilities spend more time with homework, special programs, and sometimes being the only friend they have because they do whatever it takes. They spend countless hours just to get their children to reach the back of the pack, which for them is success.

Oh how easy it would be if these kids could pull a “C” in all of their classes and only spend two or three hours on homework every night instead of the recommended 20 to 30 minutes.

I know many of these parents and I can safely say they never give up on their kids either. They don’t just spend time helping them get an education – they’ve made it a full-time commitment. Every day and every night.

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Nothing Brightens Your Day Like Kids Laughing

Yesterday, I heard my daughter laughing uncontrollably downstairs and wondered what was happening. She yelled up that I had to watch a video of two little kids laughing.

Sometimes we agree on videos but a lot of the time there is a generation gap on funny. Still, the truly funny things in the world appeal to everyone.

Have you ever gotten stuck trying to find something you can do with your kids that won’t bore either you or them? Spend 30 minutes watching YouTube together. If you can find videos like this one to watch with them you’ll find that 30 minutes of laughter with your kids will make that generation gap a little more narrow.

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Help Schools, Teachers and Parents Understand Learning Disabilities

I recently read one of the best pieces I’ve seen written by a parent of a special needs child. Everyone should read this post by Marianne at The Life Unexpected titled, “Dear School Personnel, Community Members and Neighbors.”

Being the parent of a child with learning disabilities can be a lonely existence. You never really understand what it’s like for the kids unless you have a learning disability yourself or have a child that struggles. Because most of the focus and effort of overcoming these challenges is directed at helping the child, there is usually little time or empathy for understanding how it impacts the parents.

Just as special needs children must work harder and longer to complete schoolwork, so must their parents. The same socialization struggles that affect the children are also felt by the parents. And in the same way that children in school form cliques that separate tribes, so do parents.

Parents that don’t understand what it’s like can’t be blamed, because how would they know? Programs to help the children are confined only to those with the need. Parents without LD children don’t attend support groups or do research on the internet to find out why their child acts differently.

But I think we can change this. We can let other parents and schools know what it’s like. It won’t take much time but it might do a world of good. Letting other parents (teachers and schools) know that we exist and how we feel and what our life is like could make them understand that we aren’t really that much different. We just need a little more time, and a little more effort to get things done. A little compassion always helps too.

My proposal is to print out Marianne’s post and read it at a PTA meeting. Or if you prefer, put it in your own words – from your own perspective. Either way, it will educate other parents about the sacrifices that are made by some families at school. It will let them know why we don’t always attend all the meetings. And why it’s important to show a little understanding for some kids at social situations.

A little education is needed for parents just as it is for children. We can’t expect them to know unless we tell them.

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Top 10 List of Most Controversial Books of 2009 – Infographic

There have always been controversial books and “Catcher in the Rye” is usually tops on the list. Come to think of it, so is “To Kill a Mockingbird.” It’s a great read and the film is every bit as good.

Some of these books made sense to be on a “banned books” list in the 50s and maybe 60s but times have changed. Most kids have access to way more controversial content on their phones today than are contained in these literary works.

Personally, I think we should spend more time examining the style, quality, and literary merits of books more than the content, although clearly some content is just plain rubbish. Controversial material can be used as a teaching moment. Kids are pretty sharp today and they don’t want to waste their precious time reading something they don’t like.

On the other hand, if you specifically try to keep kids away from something because it is considered “bad” they will chase after it to see what all the fuss is about. This is true of most kids, today, as well as going decades back in time. It’s human nature.

Today’s infographic illustrates the 10 Most Targeted Books of 2009 as sourced by the American Library Association. Some of these I’ve already read, and like a big kid, I’ll probably try to grab copies of the others. You know, just to see what all the fuss is about.

Top 10 List of Most Controversial Books of 2009 - Infographic

The Top 10 List of Most Controversial Books of 2009:

1. TTYL, TTFN, L8R, G8R
2. And Tango Makes Three
3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
4. To Kill a Mockingbird
5. Twilight
6. Catcher in the Rye
7. My Sister’s Keeper
8. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things
9. The Color Purple
10. The Chocolate War

This full-size infographic is available at Daily Infographic here:
dailyinfographic.com/most-targeted-books-infographic

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Easy IEP Help News on May 26, 2011

  • iPad Apps to meet *IEP Goals*
  • May 26, 2011
    - The above link is a good article from Tech & Learning outlining some useful iPad Apps for IEPs. We’re just beginning to scratch the surface of the potential for tablets in education. As more developers come on board and work with parents, teachers and learning specialists, we may see a whole new world of help for the children that really need it.

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Mindfulness Can Help With Attention in School

There are quite a few interpretations of Mindfulness and I won’t pretend to be an expert or even offer a precise definition. I liken it to the various religions around the world. It’s not so much, which is right or wrong, but more of believing in and practicing your chosen flavor. By practicing Mindfulness, you will be more productive, better focused, and you’ll enjoy the heck out of life.

I first heard about Mindfulness at a learning conference years ago and was fascinated by the process and potential for living, or “being,” in the present moment. I’d been practicing it myself for years without knowing it’s name – every night while drinking in a sunset.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness shows up everywhere in eastern religions and cultures but is almost a no-show in the west. That is changing now that so many have discovered how the virtues of yoga and meditation can bring peace to a frantic life.

I found it intriguing that a neuroscientist, Dr. Shanida Nataraja, posits that in the western world, people rely on the left hemisphere of the brain too much. When you think about it, he’s right.

The left hemisphere of the brain is logical, analytical, and rational, which focuses on Math, Science, Writing, Language, and Logic. All of these fit squarely in the middle of what we’re teaching in schools, doing at work, and even playing with if you count how much time we spend texting.

The right brain functions in the realm of spatial, visual, non-verbal and abstract thought. Its playground is in activities involving Music, Creativity, Imagination, Dimensional places and Emotional expression. Sorta sounds like the Arts to me and we don’t spend nearly enough time in those areas in school or work let alone play.

Dr. Nataraja is correct in his statement that westerners spend too much time in the left brain by “doing” and not enough time in the right brain by “being.” Hey, we can’t help it, that’s just our way of life. We have bills to pay and homework to do and it all takes time, something we never have enough of in a seemingly short day.

But here’s the rub: all of this “doing” puts our minds in frantic mode and we feel pressured and stressed to get through it all. Our brains have so much to think about, and so many distractions that we never really focus on the task at hand and our minds wander to everything else we forgot to do earlier, or we still need to do later in the day. Instead of focusing our attention on the task at hand, like working, listening to a teacher’s lecture, doing homework, or even driving a car, we live our lives on auto-pilot, haphazardly thinking about too many things at once. The result is inefficiency and stress.

Enter Mindfulness.

I said I wouldn’t get into a formal definition, but my own personal take on it is “being in the moment” or focusing all of your attention on whatever it is you are doing at the time.

I learned how to practice it by using the example of a raisin, but I prefer to practice the Mindfulness of Pizza. You can use anything you want, I just happen to have a pizza fetish so I’ll explain it that way.

Mindfulness of Pizza

Take a slice of pizza with pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms. Focusing all of your attention on the pizza and nothing else, pick it up and truly examine it. How does it feel? Is it hot or just warm? Does it flop and need to be folded or is it rigid and able to be held in one hand? Can you see all of the ingredients or are they buried beneath the cheese? What does it smell like? Can you smell each ingredient? If it simply smells like pizza you aren’t focusing enough. That’s better, now you can smell the pepperoni, and there’s the sausage. If I’ve offended any vegetarians just pretend your pizza has mushrooms, tomatoes, and artichoke hearts.

Now take a bite but don’t eat it yet, just let it sit in your mouth taking in everything. Slowly begin to chew it. Is the crust soft or crunchy? Is it spicy or sweet? Is the cheese greasy? Can you pick out the flavors of each topping? How does it compare to other pizza you’ve eaten? Now swallow it. Is there an after taste? Did anything stick to your teeth?

Did you notice anything about that bite of pizza that you never noticed before? Maybe it was a certain spice used in the sauce. Or the crust was crunchier than you thought before eating it. Focusing all of your attention on the pizza and ONLY the pizza, it makes the experience of eating pizza more enjoyable. You are experiencing it in a way like never before. You are AWARE of the pizza and maybe think more about how it was made or where the ingredients came from. And without even thinking about it, you are probably more relaxed than before this experiment because you put everything else out of your mind. This is Mindfulness.

Certain professionals use Mindfulness in their daily lives without even thinking about it. They just do it. A professional baseball player takes batting practice and his only purpose is to hit a fastball speeding 90 miles per hour directly at him. Without Mindfulness, he would fail. He must be completely centered on only the ball and his bat. He doesn’t hear the other players around him, or his coach. He doesn’t feel the 80-degree sun baking him, and he certainly isn’t thinking about forgetting to pay his car insurance. He is one with the ball. If your son plays baseball, you’ve probably taught him about the same thing at the batting cages. If he can hit the ball, he knows what it’s like to be in that moment.

Teaching kids about Mindfulness is easier than you think. Take note of their state of mind next time they’re playing a video game or watching their favorite TV show. Their entire focus is on the moment. Mindfulness is something they will use the rest of their lives. They already know how to do it. Making them understand what Mindfulness is and how to practice it with everything they do will make them more focused, productive, and hopefully live a happier and more fulfilling life.

Understanding Mindfulness is easy. The hard part is transferring the knowledge into practice that they can use at school while listening to the teacher, or at home when doing homework. This will make them more successful not only in school but in everything they do in life. They will be better at sports, driving the car, or just hanging out with friends and paying attention. When they get really good at it, have them practice it while cleaning their room.

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Helicopter Parents Lighten Up With a New Book

Helicopter parents take note – there’s a new book out that just might rattle your flight pattern. It’s called, Fifty Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do), and although I haven’t read it yet, I hope I’m not too late to learn a few things before my oldest daughter graduates next month. I found out about it from an article on The Atlantic’s website.

Fifty Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do)

I think we’re all a little guilty of being too strict with our kids but it’s for their own good, right? Maybe it is, but as the book ponders, it might turn them into adults without confidence or a sense of adventure.

Maybe this is a societal problem in general. Maybe we’ve become to PC or safety conscious and it is stifling independence and creative problem solving. It’s one thing to be safe but are we going too far? When I was a kid, we didn’t wear bike helmets, sit in car seats, or in the back seat of the car for the matter. We walked to school, explored the woods with pocket knives, climbed trees – and I’m still alive and so are all of my friends. A few bumps and scrapes might still be visible after all this time but they’re worn as badges of honor that accompany great stories that have been told many times over the years.

We’ve been permissive enough to allow our children to grow up, solve problems, and be independent while remaining safe. But did we go far enough in either direction? I don’t know. Hopefully Fifty Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do) will shed some light.

It isn’t easy being a parent, especially a permissive one. The world has become so competitive and it sometimes “feels” like it has become awfully dangerous. With sexual predators, Amber Alerts, kidnappings, bullying, and school shootings, it’s no wonder we as parents have clammed-up.

You feel like time stands still for 17 years and there’s plenty of time to teach your kids about being an adult, living independently and surviving on their own. But it doesn’t sink in that they’ll be leaving until the last semester of high school. That’s when the real panic sets in. Where did the time go? Did I teach them enough? How will they survive without me? Can they make it alone?

And in an instant you feel like a failure for not being a better parent. For not being better at preparing them for life. For coddling them and treating them like children as they grew up right in front of you without noticing the change.

As a parent your gut tells you one thing but common sense and other parents say otherwise. In the end, you have to stick with what feels right for them and throw in a dose of what you went through when you were their age. Hopefully, Fifty Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do) aren’t so dangerous after all.

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