Never fear, for there are a million ways to cure bad habits!
Well, perhaps a million is an exaggeration, but it sure got your attention. And that's what you need. You. Lead by example. "Do as I say, not as I do," will get you nowhere. Babies and toddlers cannot comprehend the concept. Pre-teens and teenagers will find their parents hypocritical.
Children are always watching others - their parents, their classmates, their teachers. They emulate what they see and hear. They do what you do.
If you swear loudly and often around your kids, chances are they will pick up those bad words. If you lose your temper easily and frequently, chances are they will become short-tempered as well. If you put your elbows on the dinner table and talk while you chew your food, so will they.
It really does start at home. Maybe you can't control what they hear at recess or on the playground, but you can control what you do. Lead by example - and explain what you are doing and why you are doing it. For instance, when you get into a car, fasten your seatbelt and say, "Buckle up!"
Tell your children how happy you are that they ate all of their vegetables, or how proud you are that tried out for the soccer team. Make up silly songs or sayings about manners and habits that kids can memorize and repeat. Such things are far more engaging than harsh commands and repeated screamings of, "No! Don't do that! That's bad!" Comedy is good. So is honesty. Get your kids to laugh and think at the same time.
Do your kids have chores around the house? Then so should the adults. Make a chore chart that has the adults' names as well as the children's names. Have everyone mark off their chores. Include some fun family tasks on the chart, like going to the library, brushing the cat, and reading. Also work in manners as well as things they are learning or overcoming, like not biting one's nails. Encourage your kids by using gold stars on the chart and handing out allowances after the week's chores have been completed successfully. Have a family outing or game night on Friday or Saturday to celebrate everyone's accomplishments.
When you visit the parenting section of a bookstore, you may find yourself overwhelmed. What one psychiatrist says in one book might conflict with what another researcher says in another book. Where, oh, where shall you start?
You can go the tried-and-true route and stock up on Dr. Spock. You can head over to the reference section and acquire some etiquette books based on the teachings of Emily Post.
Or you can go to the kids' department and get books written by Betty MacDonald about a funny little old lady named Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle.
"Every child in town is a friend of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's but she knows very few of their parents. She says grown-ups make her nervous."
This statement is made in the first chapter of the first book, simply titled Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. Think of her as a magical grandmother. She lives in an upside-down house with her dog, Wag, and her cat, Lightfoot. Her husband, a pirate, passed away and left behind a treasure chest full of magical cures.
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle has plenty of surprises up her sleeves. She has her own magical powers, but not the ones you might be thinking of, like super strength or telepathy. Instead, she whips up a little something special for each kid. She uses a combination of reverse psychology and edible powders to help kids learn right from wrong and stop their bad habits.
There are five books in the series:
Hello Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's Magic
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's Farm
Happy Birthday, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle
Every book has between six and ten chapters. Every chapter has its own cure. Some memorable cures include:
The Won't-Pick-Up-Toys Cure
The Answer-Backer Cure
The Selfishness Cure
The Never-Want-to-Go-to-Bedders Cure
The Tattletale Cure
The Bad-Tables-Manners Cure
All of the books are illustrated by Hilary Knight, whose drawings are seen in many other classics, including the Eloise picture books by Kay Thompson.
Apparently, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's story has also been adapted for a musical.
Related posts at Bildungsroman
Funny Fiction for Kids
Quick Reads and Short Stories