Parenting lesson #42: 21 anythings to make or break a habit.


The idea just popped into my head.

My dad, ever the supportive one on the phone this weekend, was listening to me rant about how my kids don’t clean up after themselves. “You have to make them,” he said. Thanks, dad. Then it just came out of my mouth. “I’m going to make the kids go out the front door, walk in and over to the boot tray, take off their boots, put them on the tray, and then put them back on and do the process over and over again in a row, like 20 times. Maybe that will work.” My dad laughed and said, “Maybe.”

So I did an experiment.

I started with my daughter because she’s the oldest and thus gets to shoulder the most responsibility and highest expectations. (#birthorder) She shrugged, and about every three trips outside asked, “How many more do I have to do?” And I said, “I know you can count, but you’re at 9.” “No way! I’m, like, at 12.” “Fine, 11,” I said. “Nine more.”

She finished. And do you know what happened when she came home from going out with a friend for the afternoon? She walked in the door, went right over to the boot tray, took off her boots, and put them there.

It was glorious.

I know this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be a habit or will stick. But just last night, she proudly said as we came in the door, “Look, mommy, I’m putting my boots where they go.

“Aren’t you proud of me?”

“This is amazing. Of course I’m proud. Do you think the experiment worked?”

“I think so,” she said.

Time will be the judge of that. But I’ve always heard that it takes 21 days to make or break a habit. What if it’s the same with muscle memory for tasks such as clearing a plate after eating, hanging up a coat, or washing hands after going to the bathroom? If this truly sticks, I’m going to use it over and over and over again. At least 21 times.

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4 thoughts on “Parenting lesson #42: 21 anythings to make or break a habit.

  1. Minutes before I read this I proclaimed 2019 the year when the kids learn to shut off a light when they leave a room!
    Maybe I’ll make a checklist to 21x they did it! 😊

    1. That’s TOTALLY on my list … maybe I can combine the training into one: walk into the bathroom, turn on the light, use the toilet (sit down without doing anything), FLUSH, WASH HANDS, then turn out the light on the way out of the bathroom … This could solve three issues in one!

  2. You may have something with this method. Now I’ll have to try this technique with your father. He likes to toss his winter jacket on the sofa instead of hanging it up in the coat closet. Wish me luck!

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