Starting new habits at the beginning of the year can have a dramatic effect on what your year will look like. Many people set new year’s resolutions only to give them up in frustration a few days later. The key to making big change isn’t setting lofty goals and tackling them head on. The key to making big change is starting small.
It’s called the 1% Rule. Just try to be 1% better every day.
“Here’s how the math works out: if you can get 1 percent better each day for one year, you’ll end up thirty‐seven times better by the time you’re done. Conversely, if you get 1 percent worse each day for one year, you’ll decline nearly down to zero. What starts as a small win or a minor setback accumulates into something much more.” – James Clear, Atomic Habits
Considering that small changes can have a big impact, long term, here are 5 habits you can instill in your family setting that can create deeper, more meaningful connections that could last for generations to come.
1. Turn off the television
In most of our homes, the television is the central focus of entertainment and distraction. If you’re like me you heard your mom or dad say multiple times growing up, “That tv is going to rot your brain!” Well, as it turns out, there’s actually some truth to that statement.
“Studies suggest watching television for prolonged periods changes the anatomical structure of a child’s brain and lowers verbal abilities. Behaviorally, even more detrimental effects may exist: although a cause-and-effect relation is hard to prove, higher rates of antisocial behavior, obesity and mental health problems correlate with hours in front of the set.”
With two children under three in my own household, I understand that sometimes it’s necessary to turn on a show for half an hour while you cook dinner or fold laundry. However, if we get into the habit of doing it too often or saying “yes” every time our kids ask to watch something, it could be detrimental to their development. Changing the television habit by encouraging our children to play with all of those Christmas toys or turning on music instead of the television could very well change the course of your child’s life. (Read more about those television studies here.)
2. Eat together
The number of families who eat together has declined drastically in the last three decades. About 59% of families report that they eat together as a family less often than they did growing up. However, simply sitting down together and eating any meal—breakfast, lunch or dinner—can help make you and your kids happier and healthier, save you money, create higher levels of social awareness and self-confidence in your children and even help them make better grades.
It’s a simple habit to change and you don’t necessarily have to do it every day. Even two or three times a week can have tremendous benefit. Read more about it here.
I’m not talking about your kids reading. That’s obvious! You already know that reading is good for your children because it boosts creativity, provides mental stimulation, increases vocabulary, reduces stress, improves memory, promotes stronger analytical skills, heightens focus and concentration and can make you a better writer.
I’m talking about you reading! When you sit down with a book, your children will see you and want to do likewise. Whether you realize or not, your kiddo is always aware of what you’re doing. When they constantly see you on your phone or watching television, you’re training them to be just like you. So for all those reasons listed above and because you lead best by example, sit down every now and then and read a book.
4. Go outside
This one isn’t just for the kids either. Our lives are mainly spent indoors for a number of reasons—our dependence on technology, cultural circumstances that create fear instead of freedom of letting your child ride his/her bike around the neighborhood—but kids that are isolated from nature tend to display attention problems, obesity, anxiety, depression, fear of the natural world and disregard for life. In a very real way, we need to stay connected to the outdoors and so do our children. Read more about why getting outdoors can benefit you and your family here.
5. Talk about your day
Establishing the habit of connecting with your children on a daily basis when they are young can have a huge positive impact on your family bond and it can also create a strong foundation of openness that can last into their teenage years and into adulthood. At the dinner table or right before bed is the perfect time. Maybe it’s as simple as asking, “What did you enjoy most about your day?” That one question is enough to spark a long conversation and keep you and your family connected to what’s going on in each other’s lives.
These 5 suggestions aren’t huge undertakings but even committing to one can have a lasting effect on your children and perhaps future generations to come. How you spend time and connect with your children now can determine how they will spend time and connect with their children years from now.
Other suggested readings for starting new habits and changing old ones:
Atomic Habits by James Clear
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg