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I had the absolute privilege of meeting James Clear in person recently at my Thought Leaders Business School. Here’s a pic of the two of us. 

I know I am small and James is also VERY tall….:)

James is the author of New York Times Best Selling book, Atomic Habits, An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones. (I highly recommend the read). 

Grabbing the opportunity with both hands, I asked James what his thoughts were on when is the best time to instill habits in children, before I let you know James’ answer, here are some of the key learnings I took from his talk and how they can apply to leading your family:

“I had to start small”
With every successful habit, it starts with a small, minute step. If you want to go to gym first thing in the morning, lay out your clothes. No need to put them on to begin with, just laying them out is enough. Here are some examples with children; if you want them to cook a meal, let them start by peeling a vegetable. Then once they’ve established that, help them chop a vegetable. One they’ve mastered that, they can place vegetables in a pot, ready to steam and so on. For each step, allow approximately 66 day to establish the habit. Cooking the first meal may take 8-12 months, however it will be a habit for life. 

“Success is the product of daily habits, not once in a lifetime transformations”
How often do want a child to win a game or get an award for a great performance? Whilst these big events can seduce you into thinking it demonstrates success, James suggests real success comes from the daily training or practicing a skill daily, more than these one-time events. My son had acting coaching this week in preparation for an audition next month. The coach gave him a series of daily practices, voices exercises, body stretches and line strategies to practice. All small habits, to practice daily – no ONE big intervention is going to get him to be awesome on the day.  I’m sure this coach has been reading James’s book!  

“You do not rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of systems”
I’m deeply passionate about family systems for modern day families. When both parents are working outside of the home for long periods and census data tells us women are still doing the lion’s share of the work at home, it is no wonder women are burning out. I encourage parents to create systems around the parenting responsibilities that address more than the financial and physical responsibilities. They include the mental, social and spiritual responsibilities – my own research has shown these contribute more to the mental load than paying the bills or driving children around to activities.  Without this system to fall back on, mild stress of meeting all the responsibilities simmers daily. No matter your intention (goal), it is the system you have that determines how stressed you are (aka how far you fall) on those busiest days.   

“A habit must be established before it can be improved” 
I’m guilty of wanting to improve things before they are even established. I’ve wanted my children to unload the dishwasher without  them first knowing where the dishes go. I’ve wanted to grow my business before establishing the foundational habits. I’ve wanted to improve my singing without starting a practice. How many habits do we wish our children would be better at, when it fact the first step is yet to be established?

And last but not least, the question I asked James’s about when is the best time to instill habits in children. He replied, children establish habits by their social environment, so more than the habits you deliberately instill in them, it is your habits as parents and those habits that they are surrounded by in their social environment that will influence them the most. The Parent as Leader model starts with leading yourself first. Leading yourself with good habits and your child will follow.

PS – Whenever you are ready, here are four ways I can help you thrive as a parent:

1. Download the Parent as Leader whitepaper
Increase your presence, connectivity and quality time. Claim back up to 10 hours per week, every week for you, your family and your child. – click here

2. Grab a copy of my book
Order here and receive a signed copy. It’s called Smart Parenting – How to Develop Your Child’s Mindset, Resilience and Courage for the Future of Work. I like to think of it as practical guide for moment to moment parenting to raise awesome kids.

3. Come to a live webcast 3 Biggest Mistakes Busy Parents Make (and how to avoid them)
Click here to register.

4. Work with me one-on-one
If you’d like to work directly with me to rediscover presence in your relationships, be more productive at work and create a life you love, book in a time to discuss your situation and see if we might be a fit.