Habits

It is important to instill good habits in our children. Habits can either work for us or against us. The flesh will always want to do the wrong thing; but if we are disrespectful, selfish, and lazy in our habits, we will not only have to struggle against the flesh but also against wrong habits. Daniel had the habit of praying three times a day, and that was a good habit. Good habits may encourage us—even when we don’t feel like it—to do things like reading the Bible and praying. These actions may help bring us back to communion with our Father even though they are done simply by habit at times.
Even small children can be taught good habits. Children can be taught to always thank the Lord before they eat, learning that it is God who provides. The Lord Jesus set this example for us (Matt. 15:3636And he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. (Matthew 15:36)). In developing the habits of saying “please” and “thank you,” a child is acknowledging that the care he receives is a gift, and that he is not the center of the universe. A child taught to do chores is learning that he is part of a unit larger than himself, even when his mind is still mostly self-focused. Before a child understands the concept of a work ethic, he can learn the habit of doing a job just because it needs to be done. Through practice, he can also learn to speak respectfully to his elders. Children with good habits will have the framework in place to act appropriately even though their instincts are to be self-centered and demanding.
Children are not born peaceable. Because we are sinners by nature, it is natural to quarrel, but it is not God’s way. “The Dayspring from on high [Jesus] visited us  ...  to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:78-7978Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, 79To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luke 1:78‑79)). It is a challenge in our job as mothers to follow His footsteps and guide our children’s feet into the way of peace. Sibling rivalry may be natural, but God has a better way, and our children can be friends to each other. While daily arguing may feel like an unending and unsolvable problem, good habits can be instilled any time a struggle needs your intervention. Most disturbances will come and go quickly. That is part of a child’s development. But when something minor becomes bigger, and a parent intervenes, there is a chance to reinforce two very important habits. The child or children at fault can be taught to say, “I’m sorry,” as soon as their fault is pointed out; and any child who hears “I’m sorry” can be taught to say “I forgive you” immediately. With practice, these words become as automatic as please and thank you. This is a valuable habit to have, as repentance and forgiveness only become naturally harder over time.
Some children might argue, “But I don’t forgive him. That would be telling a lie!” The fact is that saying “I forgive you” is only outwardly expressing what is already true in our new life. Scripture tells us, “If any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye” (Col. 3:1313Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. (Colossians 3:13)). We forgive because we have a new nature, because we ourselves have been forgiven, not because we feel like it. There is no better time to learn and express the habit of forgiveness than when we face life’s first offences, which will generally be at the hands of siblings.