The 3 Step Plan to Break the Cycle of Unwanted Behaviors in Your Home
All behavior and all choices – both good and bad – stem from one process. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrases, what goes around comes around, you’ll reap what you sow, or even karma’s a ____. All these phrases are rooted in one powerful principle that drives all behavior – our children’s behavior and our own behavior.
It’s the Principle of Sowing and Reaping. If we don’t understand how this principle works, we’ll end up letting the cycle of negative behaviors go unchecked in our lives and families.
So how do we use this principle to put a stop to selfishness, bickering, and other destructive behaviors?
We first need to understand the cycle and pattern of all behavior.
All behavior and decisions start with a seed. The seed of a thought. If that thought-seed (whatever it is) is allowed to lounge around and chill – chances are, it’s going to stay and grow.
As that thought hangs around for a while, it’s going to eventually force itself out of our mouths. Have you ever had a new idea pop in your mind and after you thought about it for a while you started talking about it to everyone around you?
That’s when the real fun begins!
That’s because our words, whether we realize it or not, are extremely powerful! I can’t emphasize that enough.
Our words have creative ability and have the power to shape our world. In other words, we’ll have what we say. The Bible says, “life and death are in the power of the tongue.”
Sadly, most of the time we don’t even pay attention to our thoughts or the things we say. Words today are so loose and unintentional. But in reality, our words are everything.
And the combination of our thoughts and words together are the building blocks of all behavior and habits. If we learn to understand this, we have the ability to have mastery over bad habits and choices and create good ones.
The goal is to teach these principles to our kids and help them also develop a lifestyle of good, healthy behaviors.
Related: 2 Super Easy Ways to Teach Your Child Personal Accountability
Good Behavior Starts With Us First
The culture of our homelife largely depends on the type of seeds we sow as parents. We are setting the tone for our family every day. In order to experience the family life we really want, we must first plant the seeds of the right thoughts, words, and actions. And then watch them grow.
Seeds of selflessness instead of selfishness.
Seeds of encouragement instead of doubt.
Seeds of presence instead of busyness
Seeds of compassion instead of condemnation
Seeds of respect instead of contempt.
Seeds of affirming instead of judging.
We all have good intentions of thinking the right thoughts, saying the right words, and doing the right things. But before we realize it, we’ve already dropped some bad seed in our fields. And too often, that seed has time to remain, fall into the soil, and gets watered. Then we look up one day and wonder why we have weeds in our fields… choking the life out of our precious harvest.
So what does that mean in our busy, everyday lives?
How to Stop Unwanted Behavior Before it Starts
If we keep with the planting example of reaping what you sow we can come to a reasonable conclusion that we should be planting with the end in mind. For example, if a farmer wants to plant more apple trees, he’s going to plant apple seeds. He’s not gonna to be throwing around the wrong seeds!
We need to decide what kind of life we want to live. What kind of marriage we want to be in. What kind of children we want to raise. And then start planting the seeds that will produce the harvest we want instead of the ones we don’t want.
Basically, it all starts with us as parents. We set the ultimate example and show our kids what is acceptable. “Do as I say and not as I do” is a really bad parenting philosophy on so many levels.
When parents do things that they tell their kids is bad, it sends a very confusing message that rules don’t apply to everyone. That we can simply pick and choose which rules we want to obey and which ones we don’t. And ultimately one that’ll backfire on you as a parent when they decide your rules no longer apply to them.
What To Do When Unwanted Behavior is Already Happening
So we talked about how to set the stage for the family life we desire and how to plant and nurture positive behaviors. But how do we handle unwanted and even destructive behaviors that pop up anyway?
Let me just be clear before we move on and address this issue. All children and all adults for that matter, exhibit poor behavior and make bad choices from time to time. It’s normal and you shouldn’t feel guilty when it happens in your home.
It’s how we choose to handle it that makes all the difference.
The first thing we need to do is offer grace… heaping amounts of grace. We ALL need grace because we ALL make mistakes. Adding condemnation, yelling at your kids, or making them feel guilty fuels more negative behaviors.
The next thing to do is sit down and calmly have a face to face conversation with your child. Ask them questions about what they really want and desire in that situation. For example, let’s say they are constantly fighting with their sibling. Ask them to think about and describe the type of relationship they really want with their sibling.
Allow them time to speak freely and form their own thoughts and feelings. Once they’re able to create their own picture, ask them how their current behavior is either positively or negatively impacting their vision. Have them think about what behaviors can more effectively create that dream relationship.
Kids are super smart and they’ll naturally see that going into their sister’s room and taking their stuff without asking permission isn’t creating the relationship they really want. They will begin to create their own sense of accountability and start little by little changing their behavior over time.
Remember that change is a process and one that takes patience and time. Please don’t heap condemnation on your kids when they don’t change fast enough or when they keep reverting back to the same old behaviors. Don’t we do that too in our own behaviors?
I can’t count how many times I’ve committed myself to exercise and eating healthier only to sleep in and grab a hot n ready pizza on the way home.
3 Simple Steps to Change
What our kids need more than anything is our support and encouragement to keep moving in the right direction. Think about what you desperately need at the moment you’re considering moving in the wrong direction. You need loving support and a gentle reminder of what you really want… your end in mind.
The reminder that you’ve worked so hard and lost those 13 pounds and how you’ve got what it takes to keep going even when you feel like giving up!
To keep the process of change super simple and make it easy to teach our children, I’m using an acronym – S.O.W. to give you a simple framework.
S – Start with the End in Mind
If you decide upfront what type of life, relationship, or home life you desire then start sowing that kind of seed. If you want more patient children, start sowing patience with them. If you want a more intimate relationship with your husband, start sowing intimate seed. Start flirting in subtle ways.
When helping your children work through this process, remind them of the picture they want. Help them draw the connection of how their actions are either bringing them closer or further away from that picture.
See where I’m going with this?
O – Offer Heaps of Grace
Change is hard but in order to reap a new harvest, it’s necessary. And in that process of change or children, our spouse, and we WILL mess up. Forgetting our new habits, in the moment, and reverting back to the old way is human.
Calmly (take a break if you need to) get down on your child’s level and remind them of their big positive change. Say something like, “Sammy, remember we don’t hit your brother anymore. You stopped hitting all by yourself. Let’s go back to your good choice.”
If you have older kids say something like, “Jaden you were doing so amazing with remembering to use your planner at school for a whole month. It’s OK to forget, but let’s not let a bad habit form. Starting tomorrow remember to stay on track with your new good habit.”
W – Wait for the harvest
Seeds require time to grow. It’s not an overnight process. The step in between seed and harvest is – TIME. Whether it’s you making the change or your kids, change won’t be evident right away. Old habits are hard to break.
Another thing to be cautious of is bringing up old behaviors in a shameful or joking way. It doesn’t matter what the intent behind is, bringing up the past when someone is trying to make a change is a huge stumbling block for change.
If you are working on making a change in your own behavior, put on courage and be prepared to push on to change even if others still see you the same way you were. Trust me, if you stick with your decision to do the right thing and don’t give up – you WILL reap the harvest. And harvests are ALWAYS visible to others.
So keep at it, and they will see and your life will be better because you didn’t give up.
Share with us, what new seed are you committing to planting in your life? Share in the comments below!