Fighting the Urge to Fall Into Old Habits

Even for adults, breaking a habit is often a challenge of personal willpower and openness to change. Despite having the added benefits of time, experience and perspective on our side, resisting the urge to fall into old habits is never easy, no matter what your age.

Take the opportunity to consider what resisting these urges will be like for your teen, especially when social interactions and pressure from friends and family are at their most influential and vulnerable periods. From here, you and your teen can begin to work together to shift damaging habits into more positive behaviours, as well as current and future opportunities.

Change Your Language

Instead of categorising your teen’s habits as simply good or bad, start to think of habits as useful or wasteful. Brushing your teeth every morning and taking out the trash on certain days of the week are useful habits, while mindlessly scrolling through your phone when there is a pause in the conversation or procrastinating completing projects and homework on time are wasteful.

Identify the Repercussions & Opportunities 

Negative – or wasteful – habits are most commonly self-destructive and self-defeating in nature, including common habits like lying, cheating, quitting and fighting. Negative habits often contribute to an existing interest likely to decrease a person’s level of happiness, and to make matters even more difficult, are sometimes done without much thought at all as part of a natural progression of a daily routine.

While they’re still living under your roof, breaking old habits of your teen is not only doable, but highly recommended before the distractions that come along with moving out and living on their own present.

To end a habit, some suggest that instead of trying to stop it altogether – for example, not allowing your teen to meet up with friends at all – you present an alternate behaviour to resort to instead, like hosting new friends at your home or joining appropriate school-related social activities to attend after class.

Set Reasonable Goals

It’s unreasonable to expect perfect behaviour when learning to change practiced habits, and slip-ups may happen. Instead of setting seemingly unattainable goals, work step by step together to come up with a list of healthy goals that you can all agree on. Don’t accept defeat; change the behaviour moving forward.

In adults it is said to take roughly 66 days to form a new behaviour that is automatic, so count the small achievements along the way.

Reward Successes

To this same effect, reward successes whenever possible. Positive reinforcement not only encourages them to continue practicing these adapted behaviours and avoid falling into old habits but is likely to make them more self-confident in the process. Win-win.

Find a Better Way to Achieve the Same Effect

By identifying when your teen is inclined to participate in old habits – such as when they’re feeling bored or anxious or are with a certain friend or family member – you can work to find an alternate way to deal with the issue that has a similar effect on the brain. While sometimes a challenging task to identify and carry out, you’d be surprised at how creative you can get in these instances.

To help this process, we encourage you to learn more about our Junior Leader Program online, as well as read success stories from some of our recent graduates of the program in our news section.

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