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We all have a sense that the habits children indulge in will have some kind of significant impact on the course and quality of their lives, either in the short or long term, but people often don’t appreciate just how striking and wide-ranging these hobbies can really end up being.
It’s natural for parents to want to be the best they can for their children; ranging from searching out the best-rated mattress for their bedroom, to diligently checking up on what they’re learning at school. But there’s a whole world of reasons why monitoring your child’s habits — such as how they greet strangers — should be a primary area of focus.
Here are some reasons to be careful with your child’s habits.
A person’s habits literally shape their brain
At one time it was thought that the structures of the brain were largely fixed, with set regions dealing with set functions, and little, if any room for change and variation.
While it was generally thought that the brains of children were somewhat malleable, recent findings in neuroscience have revealed that neuroplasticity — the extent to which the brain can be shaped, physically, by external circumstances, habits, and behaviors — have blown previous assumptions out of the water.
To put a long story short, there’s ample evidence that every habit someone engages in — especially in the formative stages of childhood — literally creates new physical connections and circuits in the brain, which make it easier for those same habits to be repeated, automatically, in the future, and which make them harder to break.
The key point to understand here is that a habit isn’t just something that you keep doing, casually, for no particular reason. The more you allow a habit to take root, the more it affects the literal shape of your brain, and the more difficult it will be to shift.
All the more reason to instill good habits early, and discourage bad ones.
Childhood hobbies can become life-affirming future skills
Childhood hobbies are pastimes which your child has either turned into habits on their own, or which you have encouraged them to pursue until they’ve (hopefully) ended up enjoying them, and formed positively associated habit loops with the actions.
The hobbies your child engages in today can shape their lives in subtle and dramatic ways decades down the line.
Teaching your child to play an instrument, for example, arms them with a skill and familiarity with certain musical concepts, which can open a whole new world of expression to them later on in life.
Habits affect experiences which affect character
The thing about habits is that they are acted out. A child’s habits will, therefore, have a significant effect on the outcome of their overall life experiences and, therefore, on their character.
If your child develops a habit of eating unhealthy processed food, for example, and you don’t intervene, it’s likely they will become overweight and have certain doors closed to them at school (athletics, for example).
If, on the other hand, your child is habitually punctual at all times, their future interactions with others are bound to be much more positive.