Most parents are very worried because their children do not have good habits for school and life. Last week, a mom wrote to me: “Teacher, I don’t know what to do with my son this vacation. She spends all day in her bedroom playing video games. He sleeps until 2 or 3 in the morning, gets up at noon, eats something, and locks himself in his room again to play video games. She tells me that it’s his vacation and that he should take advantage of it, since going to school he won’t be able to do it.
Indeed, the boy is creating and strengthening his habit of video games. The problem will present itself when he returns to school hours; it will be very difficult to change his impulse to play video games because the game habit of technology was formed. Our children will feel good and satisfied while they play, but in the medium and long term they will present a resentment because they wasted their time playing in front of the screen. Our daughters will suffer something similar for so much time invested in social networks, such as TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat or WhatsApp.
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Sooner or later our children will feel guilty, since they will realize that spending so much time in front of the screen instead of making them happy will make them feel a great emptiness and disappointment. Here is the most important point because they can trigger serious emotional problems such as low self-esteem, anxiety, loneliness or depression. They may feel pleasure, but it will be short-lived and afterwards they will feel guilty for not being in the right place. They want to change their life, but how can that happen?
If your child plays video games for 8 hours a day and is consistent in doing so, his body will adapt to that activity. Every time you want to play video games, it will be much easier to start playing. After playing for 8 hours, you won’t feel guilty or bad; you will feel good or enjoying. On the other hand, if your child reads for an hour a day and perseveres in doing it daily, his body will adapt to that activity. Every time he wants to start reading, it will be much easier to sit down and read. After reading for an hour he will feel pleasure and further and further away from guilt. We must accustom our son to having a productive life, since the human being bases his happiness on significant achievements obtained with effort, work, sacrifice and perseverance.
Forming productive habits is one of the most important missions of parenting, and it will only be accomplished by doing it repeatedly. If your son tidies his bedroom every morning he will be careful with his things all his life, or if he reads every day he will be a good reader. Therefore, your brain and body will help and support what you do repeatedly. It will be hard in the first 14-21 days, but after that, your body and mind will help you form the new habit you want to form. I recommend that you eliminate your bad habits for 21 days. After 21 days, you can find something wonderful in life. The key is to empower our children with good habits so that the mind does not make them feel guilty when they waste their time and life spending so much time in front of a screen. It’s because my body starts to support what I do repeatedly.
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Miyamoto Musashi, a 17th-century Japanese philosopher, wrote: “It may seem difficult at first, but everything is difficult at first.” Of course, it is not easy to eliminate bad habits and that every beginning is difficult, but which one is not? If we want to decrease an unwanted and habit-formed behavior, I recommend using the “fading technique.” Fading is a technique from the psychological theory of Behavior Modification and consists of slowly eliminating unwanted behavior. A desired activity or stimulus is presented to slowly decrease the old habit and be canceled by the new habit.
If your daughter or son spends six hours a day in front of the screen, you will tell them: “Starting this week I will allow you 5 hours and 30 minutes a day of technology use and 30 minutes of reading.” You already made it for 4 or 5 days. Now you will tell them: “Starting today you will be able to use your cell phone daily, one hour or 30 minutes of reading and 30 minutes of help at home.”
In conclusion, you are repeatedly what you do. Start building good habits and your body and mind will keep going. And after a few years we will be able to hear our children say: “I used to play video games or chat with a friend, but now I get more pleasure when I open and read a book. He feels much better and the price of doing productive activities is like an investment that I will enjoy tomorrow.”
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