I have the distinct pleasure of teaching six classes of highly energetic ninth graders at a local junior high. I say “pleasure” because I truly do love them. They are witty, smart, playful, and eager to be taken seriously. But let’s be honest. In some cases, young teens are little more than glorified toddlers. They act inappropriately, misbehave, and stumble as they try to navigate growing up.
That’s why it’s important for parents to teach their kids good habits from a young age. Then, when they hit the tricky teenage years and beyond, they are better equipped to tackle whatever life throws at them with success.
As I’ve watched several teenagers—my own included—throughout the years, I’ve learned something important. We, as parents, must arm our kids with the tools they need to succeed while they are still young. If we do, we can help them navigate everything from intentionally cutting back on screen time to knowing effective tips to stay healthy. It all starts with teaching them good habits from the beginning.
Here are 40 good habits for kids to help prepare them for success as they grow into adulthood.
Good Tech Habits
1. Limit screen time. Decide as a family how much screen time is enough and stick to the agreement. This applies to parents as well. Take a break from tech daily to strengthen personal relationships.
2. No electronics in bedrooms. Make a habit of keeping all electronic devices out of bedrooms and in high traffic areas in the home. Not only does this help sleeping patterns, but it also avoids potential problems with viewing pornography and other troublesome sites in privacy.
3. Limit or ban social media for young kids. Social media can be dangerous for kids. That’s why it’s important to encourage minimal use while your kids are growing up.
4. Keep the dinner table tech free. Make mealtime a high priority for your family. Encourage social interaction by leaving phones and other devices in pockets or at charging stations. Work, texts, posts, and other instant communication can wait until the meal is done. Your mental, physical, and emotional health will be better off.
5. Only go to the internet with a purpose. Teach your kids to only use the internet with a purpose. Working on a paper for school? Consult Google. Need to find a place to eat? Ask Siri for help. But if your kids don’t have a legitimate need online, encourage them to stay away. Just browsing the internet can lead to wasted time at best and wandering into unsavory sites at worst. It’s best to only go with a specific end goal in mind.
Good Eating Habits
6. Eat breakfast every day. It’s been said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. In nothing else, it kick-starts your kids’ brains and metabolisms and gets them going for the day. And as an added incentive, a couple extra minutes with your kids in the morning is a great way to bond before the day gets going.
7. Eat colorful foods. According to health experts, “Colorful foods, which are generally fruits and vegetables, contain many of the vitamins and antioxidants we need – with few calories. Along with maintaining good health, the nutrients in vegetables and fruits work together to protect against cancer, heart disease, vision loss, hypertension and other diseases. Increasing fruits and vegetables in your diet is a great step to improve your health.”
8. Stay away from processed foods. It just makes sense that foods that come in boxes or cans aren’t as healthy for our kids as whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Knowing where your meat and dairy products come from can also contribute to overall good eating habits. Generally speaking, that can of Easy Cheese is not going to be as good a choice as some sliced apples and peanut butter.
9. Drink water, water, water. Often the high-calorie drinks our kids choose, whether its sports drinks, juice boxes, sodas, or energy drinks, are filled with sugar and other ingredients that don’t promote good health. Teach your kids the good habit of drinking adequate amounts of water every day—especially if your children are involved in athletics. Hydration is key to living a healthy life.
10. Read labels. Teach your kids how to read labels and make educated decisions about the foods they consume. Teach them about serving sizes, calories, sugars, carbs, fats, sodium, and other important details. Help them understand that the more ingredients they can’t pronounce or understand, the more processed a product tends to be.
Good Physical Fitness Habits
11. Move every day. Teach your kids the habit of getting up off the couch every day for some physical activity. As little as 20 minutes a day can go a long way to promoting a lifetime of good physical health. And more than 20 minutes, especially for young kids, is even better.
12. Alternate cardio and strength training. Kids don’t need to worry about pumping iron. In fact, it’s not safe for young kids to lift much, if any, weight. But you can help them on their health journey from a young age by encouraging them to add a few properly done squats or pushups to their playtime routine. If you teach them the correct form, adding a little body-weight resistance to their exercise will not only help their hearts be healthy but will strengthen their muscles as well.
13. Find something fun to do. If your kids love to run (mine don’t), encourage them to run. But if they don’t, there are countless other ways to get fit and have fun. Organized sports are always an option. But kids can also get exercise by organizing a game of neighborhood tag or playing capture the flag in the backyard. Kids are more likely to get and stay active if they are doing something they enjoy.
14. Avoid things that harm your body. Teach your kids to take care of their bodies. Help them say no to drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, and vaping. Help them form these important health habits early by talking about them often.
15. Safety first. Physical activity can be fun. But teach them to be safe in the activities they pursue. Encourage them to wear the proper safety equipment (like when they try rock climbing or water skiing) and always do certain activities with a buddy (like hiking in unknown terrain).
Good Sleep Habits
16. Stick to a sleep routine. Try to go to bed and wake up around the same time each day. It might be tempting for our kids to stay out late on weekends and sleep in until noon. But messing up sleep routines can alter moods and impact energy.
17. Early to bed, early to rise. There’s a reason this saying has lasting power. Our kids do better with good, consistent sleep that starts early and ends early (or at least, earlier).
18. Don’t nap longer than 20 minutes. If your house is like our house, kids come home from school and other activities exhausted, especially if they’ve been up late the night before. And the first thing they want to do is hit the couch and sleep for a couple hours. Unfortunately, these naps perpetuate a vicious cycle of not being able to sleep at night, which leads to more exhaustion. Even though it might make you seem like the enemy (of sleep), encourage your kids to not nap longer than 20 minutes when they’re tired. Twenty minutes will be enough to refresh without robbing them of sleep at night.
19. No tech right before bed. Encourage your kids to put down their devices at least 30 minutes before lights out. Better yet, have them check their devices in with you for recharging so they aren’t tempted to spend hours scrolling aimlessly when they should be dreaming away.
20. Encourage a nighttime routine for better sleep. For younger kids this could include bath time, story time, snack time, etc. For older kids this could include some quiet conversation before sending them off to brush teeth, wash faces, and turn in for the night.
Good Study Habits
21. Set a time to study daily. Just like with sleep, routines help with good study habits. Encourage your kids to pick a time to study and complete homework each day.
22. Set a place to study daily. And don’t forget the location. You are probably not surprised to learn that studying in front of the TV is not as effective as studying at a desk or the kitchen table with no distracting noise. Together, a set time and place for studying each day. This will help your kids succeed academically.
23. Study before play. As tempting as it might be to put off homework until late at night, it doesn’t usually go well. If your kids just need a break when they get home from school, encourage them to go outside for a few minutes. But set a time to return and get homework done. Then, when the tasks are complete, they’re free to play without the waiting assignments hanging over their heads.
24. Don’t procrastinate. Help your kids learn from a young age not to put off things until the last minute. Help them organize assignment due dates and make a schedule to get things done. Everyone in the house will be more at ease if things are complete long before their due dates.
25. Learn on your own. Help your kids understand that school isn’t the only place they can or should learn new things. Help them discover new skills and information on their own. Now that we have the information highway at our fingertips, help them explore things they’re interested in. Encourage their curiosity.
Good Downtime Habits
26. Read every day. Teach your kids the joy of reading just for fun. Help them discover new worlds and spark their imagination for all things fiction and non-fiction by giving them good books to read.
27. Get active. Your kids don’t have to exercise to get active. But encourage them to get up and move around during the day. Too much time with eyes glued to the screen isn’t good for anyone. Even going to a friend’s house and visiting in person is better than having a conversation on a device.
28. Try a new hobby. If your kids struggle with boredom, that’s ok. Boredom, if done right, encourages creativity and ingenuity. When your kids are bored, help them develop the good habit of trying a new hobby. Here are some ideas to get them started.
29. Serve others. Help your kids realize the benefits of serving others. If they develop this habit early, it will become a part of who they are for a lifetime.
30. Learn a new skill. Teach your kids to use their downtime wisely by learning new skills they are interested in. In this case, tech can be a great tool for discovering what’s out there and how to become more proficient at it. Check out these ways to use tech to learn a new skill.
Good Money Skills
31. Track spending. Your kids are never too young to learn the importance of tracking their spending. When they are very young, help them record what money they earn/receive and where they spend it. Then, as they get older, introduce them to spending registers. They may not want to go old school with a check register, but there are many apps online that track income and expenditures to help kids account for their money.
32. Pay it forward first. Teach your kids the importance of prioritizing where their money goes. In our house, whenever money is earned, a cut comes out for charity and savings first before any other expenses are met. Then, once all the necessitates are covered, the kids know how much is left for discretionary spending.
33. Spend less than you make. Help your kids create a habit of spending less than they make. Help them understand the principle of limited resources for unlimited wants. If they learn to pay it forward first, this habit becomes easier to build.
34. Avoid debt. Start talking about avoiding debt with your kids long before they qualify for credit cards. If possible, share your own debt avoidance strategies with them so they can learn by example how to live within their means and only purchase what they have money to buy.
35. Don’t shop on credit. As a companion to avoiding debt, teach your kids not to shop with a credit card unless they have the cash in hand before the purchase to pay it off. According to MarketWatch, “In the second quarter of 2021, credit-card debt increased by $17 billion quarter on quarter to $790 billion….” That number alone should encourage parents to teach their kids the good habit of not shopping on credit.
General Good Habits
36. Put God first. Societies, in general, lack a reverence for or even acknowledgement of a higher power or influence in their lives. Regardless of your religious leanings, teach your kids the habit of putting God first in their lives. Just as the Pledge of Allegiance recognizes that America is “one nation under God” and the dollar bill states, “In God we trust,” we should teach our kids the habit of honoring Deity.
37. Be respectful. Help your kids develop the habit of respecting others. This useful skill can and should be applied everywhere, from the classroom to the boardroom and everywhere in between. It should be employed online in comment sections and social media posts. Even if your kids don’t agree with others, they should always show respect in how they interact. As a teacher, I always appreciate students who have developed the habit of respect. And believe me, I can tell instantly which parents have made it a priority.
38. Work hard. This simple habit seems to be losing value. With the ease of technology and an instant-gratification, entitlement mentality these days, many kids don’t know the value of hard work. Help your kids develop a habit of working hard, whether in sports, academics, after school jobs, or chores around the house. That is one habit that will never go out of style.
39. Be positive. It’s amazing what the habit of looking on the bright side can do. Help your kids be grateful for the things they have and not dissatisfied with the things they don’t. Help them give freely to others so they can recognize their own blessings. Above all, help them choose to be happy regardless of the circumstances. This skill can become a habit with consistent practice.
40. Watch out for the underdog. Encourage your kids to keep their eyes open to the world around them. Help them get outside themselves and see the needs of others. And when someone needs a helping hand, teach your kids to develop the habit of stepping in to help out. No matter what struggles your kids might face, there is always someone else in need. Guaranteed. Help them learn that as they reach outside themselves, they will become the best kind of people.
With a little gentle guidance from mom and dad, our children can develop these 40 good habits for kids that will shape their future and help them succeed for a lifetime.For more ideas on how to help your kids be amazing, check out these articles on empowerment at Troomi.