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Start Off the Year by Establishing Good Habits

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

At this time of year, we are all starting to think about our New Year’s resolutions.  The biggest problem with a New Year’s resolution is keeping the resolution for more than a few days or weeks, at least that is my problem. I start off with a bang but after I get to February I am already trying to remember what I resolved.

The subject of resolutions came up today during one of my routine checkup.  I was seeing a 9 month old and her 2 year old sibling and discussing typical behaviors for these ages. I think checkups are one of most important times to talk to your child’s pediatrician about behavior.  So, the mother of these two adorable little girls said that she had gotten into the “bad habit” of picking up both of her children whenever they were crying, and that it seemed to her that they were only crying more often now to get her attention.  She now found herself holding two little girls while she also tried to do laundry or fix dinner or even while just trying to get dressed.  Obviously she was having a hard time getting anything done.

As we talked, she (like many of us), thought that picking up her child, whenever they were crying for her attention, was the easiest way to stop the crying. But in reality, it had only served to reinforce the crying and now she had “created a monster” and was having a hard time deciding what to do. That is when we started talking about our New Year’s resolutions.

We adults have all sorts of “habits” that might need to be changed, but fortunately small children really don’t.  Luckily for this mother, her children are young enough that their behaviors are easier to change than say an older child who is still getting their way by crying.

The longer a habit has been going on the harder it will be to break or change. She vowed to start letting her children cry at times as she explained to them that she “couldn’t pick them up if her hands were full of laundry” and that they would have to wait, hoping that over time the crying would lessen and they would learn that crying was not always going to get them instant attention. I bet when I see her back the habit has been broken.

Many times as parents we try to take the “easy way” and then realize that we have only started a bad habit.  We all do it, whether it is picking up a crying child, or relenting and letting your child watch TV during dinner, or giving into your teen who wants a later curfew.

Many times, unfortunately after the fact, we realize that the “easy” way only turned out to be the “harder way. “ Human nature I think.

So my New Year’s resolution is going to be to work on setting up good habits and then I don’t have to worry about breaking those bad habits! Let’s see how long this will last. Wish me luck.

That’s your daily dose.  We’ll chat again tomorrow!

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