Excellent Parenting is a Habit

As I sat in my doctor’s office yesterday waiting for blood to be drawn, I noticed a quote on the wall.  My doctor’s office had won an award for being a “2012 Top Doctor,” and on the plaque was the following quote by Aristotle, the Greek Philosopher:

“We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”

I instantly thought of how that applied to raising children and parenting.  It’s not enough to say or do the right thing with a child just once or every so often.  The positive energy we give them, the love, the discipline, and the age-appropriate language we use with them must be habitual.  It must not be every day in every way, but for children to reach their full potential, the adults in their lives must be consistently appropriate.

There are countless examples of how consistency during the birth to 3 year old period pays off in the long run, but, of course, there is not enough space here to list them all.  But, one sure example is the way that consistently using repeating strings of sounds (e.g., ba-ba-ba-ba, ko-ko-ko-ko-ko, etc.) with a 0-6 month old child causes his brain to light up like fireworks as he hears your sounds and sees your mouth moving.  Hearing your sounds paired with watching the way your mouth moves is of direct benefit to his speech development.  Telling a 2-year old every single time he speaks in that grating “whiney” voice “I’m sorry.  I don’t understand that voice” (or something along those lines), is the quickest way to extinguish whining.  A child wants to be understood, so he will not continue to speak in a voice for long that people around him can’t understand.  A final example is the way consistent use of a wide variety of vocabulary words with a child from birth to 3 leads directly to school readiness and success.

The best thing about consistency is that the more consistent we are, the more what we’re doing becomes a habit.  Once something is a habit, then we don’t even have to give the act conscious effort.  Our brains are amazing that way.  So, if being consistent is hard in the beginning, find comfort in the fact that eventually you won’t have to think about it at all, like the way you sign your name or the way you speak. It’s the quickest way to excellence both as a parent and as a child!

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