Have you ever thought about how many habits you complete each day that you formed when you were a kid? Brushing your teeth, making your bed, eating three meals a day…. Psychology Today reports that many of the daily habits that stick with us over time were engrained in us by the time we were 9 years old. Teaching good habits early on can have a major impact on your child’s ability to keep those habits as adults.
Recently, I read Rich Habits by Thomas Corley. In it, he shares 10 daily success habits of wealthy individuals through a short story based on statistical findings. While I don’t necessarily plan on myself or my children being America’s next billionaires, it is interesting to see how those who have found financial success have managed to do so.
It has also caused me to think about the establishment of habits in my children now so that they can be successful in the future in whatever avenue they choose to pursue. That said, here are 5 rich habits that can prepare your children NOW for success LATER.
5 Rich Habits Children Can Learn NOW to Succeed Later
Rich Habit #1: Set SMART goals and strive to obtain them one step-at-a-time
Did you know that people who set goals are 10 times more likely to succeed? Learning how to set goals early on is vital to your child’s success, but learning how to set goals is just part of the plan. They need to not only learn how to set SMART goals, but they need to know how to break down their goals into bite-size obtainable pieces.
What are SMART goals? SMART goals are goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. These are not your “New Year’s Resolution” type goals. Those goals are rarely achieved and are often not measurable, realistic, or specific. SMART goals tell specifically WHAT you want to accomplish, WHY you want to accomplish it, and HOW you will do it. They are goals that are physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually possible and you have established a plan to reach those goals.
Successful people create daily, monthly, yearly, and even long-term goals which they have broken down into small bite-size pieces that they work on each day, week, or month. They know success is often not instant gratification. And our children need to know what that’s like.
Not so long ago, my oldest daughter reached a place in her piano skills where she could no longer successfully play a piece of music on the piano in one week. Her music was getting harder and this particular piece by J.S. Bach was giving her quite a challenge. She was getting very frustrated because she could not play the piece after only a few weeks of practice.
It was a great opportunity for her to learn about delayed gratification. In fact, it took her nearly a full semester to learn and memorize this mind-boggling fugue, which is now one of her favorite pieces to sit down and play. But she had to work hard at it, learning the piece small section by small section each week, until she was able to play it successfully by memory. It showed her that some goals take more time to accomplish but the end result is worth it.
This is what we need to teach our children—that the process of establishing and accomplishing SMART goals is worth it. While your kids need instant wins, they also need the opportunity to see the gratification of achieving some more challenging goals over longer periods of time. Help them to create one or two long-term goals this year. Choose it together and help them to think about how they can make their goal specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Create a checklist, if that helps. And then help them to follow through with their game plan so that they too may know the benefits of establishing and implementing SMART goals.
Rich Habit #2: Engage in daily spiritual habits
The second rich habit that can prepare your child NOW for success LATER is the establishment of daily spiritual habits. Corley shares in Rich Habits that successful people “engage in the process of self-improvement every day,” and I can think of no better object for self-improvement than the study and application of God’s word.
As homeschoolers, kids are already learning so much daily. You may even be studying the Bible together as a school subject or reading the Bible together at night. However, while corporate learning is great, in order for your child to establish daily spiritual habits, they need to create the habit on their own through a PERSONAL daily quiet time. Otherwise, the habit you will have created will be just that—yours. And when they leave the house they will not keep it up because, again…it was YOUR habit…not theirs.
So help them to establish some personal spiritual habits. Encourage them to pray God’s word, memorize, and read it. As Proverbs 22:6 says, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it” (NIV). Some of my favorite resources for helping children to establish personal quiet times include Kay Arthur’s Discover 4 Yourself Inductive Bible Studies for Kids, the God and Me Devotion series for Girls, How Great is Our God by Louie Giglio, and for older children, my book And the Word Became Flesh, which is a 90-Day chronological journey through New Testament with prayer, reflection, and memory verse guides included.
Look through some resources together and let your child choose a devotion or Bible reading plan that excites them and makes them WANT to spend quiet time daily with the Lord. Then talk together about a time when they can complete their devotion alone on a regular basis, whether that is first thing in the morning, during a school break time, or right before bed. The point is, you will be paving the way, for your child to continue to make personal time with the Lord a priority long after they have left your home.
Rich Habit #3: Exercise daily.
This is a habit I still struggle with as an adult because I didn’t establish a self-initiated habit early on. When I was a kid, exercise was associated with an activity—biking to school, PE classes, sports. However, as an adult I don’t always have the option to participate in regularly scheduled classes or sports. I have to get creative with exercising on my own time.
For kids, exercise is often a part of their daily life. However, as homeschoolers, we often have to get more creative since physical education is not automatically scheduled for us during our school day. The upside is that this provides our kids the opportunity to establish a regular exercise habit they can claim for themselves.
The Mayo Clinic suggests that kids spend a minimum of 60 minutes exercising every day to grow up healthy and strong. At this age, it’s all about making it fun. Some of our favorite activities include biking, scootering, swimming, and playing tag with friends at the park. We have also signed up for a local homeschool PE class so our kids can have fun learning about other sports and physical activities as well.
Help your children find physical activities they enjoy and schedule time for them to do those activities daily. This will not only help them as they grow now, but will establish a habit that will be engrained in them as they get older.
Rich Habit #4: Establish a gratitude mindset
Unsuccessful people tend to be critical of themselves, players of the blame game, and envious of other people. On the other hand, successful people tend to be grateful, advocates for others, and giving. Following the release of the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp in 2011, homeschool and Christian markets exploded with gratitude journals and thankfulness printables as people realized the life-changing power that comes from being thankful.
Being thankful is a habit that can be developed easily during the childhood years. Creating opportunities for your child to be thankful on a daily basis doesn’t have to be hard. Provide them with a gratitude journal geared towards kids or a composition notebook where they can write down three things they are thankful for each day.
Or, create a thankfulness jar by providing strips of paper for them to write down one thing they are thankful for each day to fill the jar. I’ve heard of several families doing this year-round and then emptying and reading the contents of the jar on Thanksgiving Day.
If you are not into physical helps, consider making the question “What are you thankful for today?” a daily discussion around the dinner table. As 1 Thessalonians 5:19 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (NIV).
Although there are times when it is hard to be thankful, by encouraging a heart of gratitude you are dispelling selfishness, encouraging compassion, and bringing God’s goodness to the forefront of your child’s life.
Rich Habit #5: Having a saving and giving plan.
My middle daughter has been saving for yellow car since she was 2, and each of our children have known what it means to tithe since they earned their first dollar. I have been fortunate to have come from a family where both saving and giving were engrained into me at an early age. As a result, I don’t even think about whether to give or save or budget each month. It is just something I do.
However, that is not the case for many. Some have never known what it is like to save a penny or to give a dime, but both are very important.
Did you know that giving says more about your heart than any other singular act? We want our kids to grow up loving the Lord and sharing that love with those around them. With that as our goal, we are constantly using things like the Financial Peace Jr., Kingdom Code Entrepreneurial Curriculum, and the Money Savvy Piggy Bank to establish these character traits and habits early on. As reported by PBS, a recent study showed that money habits are established by the age of 7 so teach them to your kids NOW.
Let’s recap. Five rich habits that you can teach your children now that will continue to benefit them long after they have grown up are: the establishment and implementation of SMART goals, the creation of daily spiritual habits, the implementation of daily exercise, the opportunity for thankfulness, and the formation of long-term money habits.
That being said, don’t try to tackle all of these at once. Research shows that it takes an average of 66 days to form a habit so be realistic. Choose which habit you would like to help your child form first and go from there. Who knows…in a year, you may have had time to tackle all 5 and thereby potentially change your child’s life forever.