Every so often, inspiration strikes and we feel motivated to swallow the “bitter pill of change” and improve ourselves. However, all too soon, we find ourselves slipping back into our old routines. The new parenting skills and ideas fall away, and we return to parenting on auto-pilot – with raised voices, punishments, threats, etc. What can we do, we say dismally. We’re creatures of habit. We cannot change!
Indeed, we are creatures of habit. Habit – in action and preconceived thought – is one of the most powerful forces in human nature. Its strength washes away the impact of the most brilliant inspiration and most stunning resolve.
If so, how can we better ourselves? Through capitalizing on the power of habit. One act of greatness does not create a great person. Rather, a person who consistently repeats small positive actions becomes a real giant. For example, a philanthropist is not built through a one-time donation of one-million dollars, but rather, through one-million one-dollar donations. If one gives a one-time lump sum, he acts upon his inspiration. On the other hand, when one gives again and again, he becomes a giver. The positive habit establishes a behavior and emotional pattern that become intrinsic and eternal.
Every action, feeling or thought creates an imprint on the subconscious memory, even after the incident has left the conscious memory banks. Every time this action or feeling is repeated, this impression is strengthened and deepened. Therefore, repetition and habit adds momentum and strength to even the weakest action, feeling or thought. Eventually, this build-up alters ones personality and behavior. For example, when a person trains himself to form a habit to think positively about others, then he will communicate positively towards them.
Even a simple act can change human nature, if done repetitively. In our parenting, we develop many habits. We adopt many positive routines, such as sending children to school with a kiss, or listening actively to show them that their feelings are important. We also assume negative patterns, such as giving in to children’s whining, or disciplining with threats.
So, how do we stop negative patterns? We replace them with new positive ones.
New habits are formed by developing new perceptions and new actions. When a person changes his perception, he can translate that new information into action. As the person repeats the action, he reinforces it in his subconscious until this action becomes second nature – or a new habit!
For example, Theresa was a screamer. She felt guilty for yelling at her children so often, but resigned herself that this was her way of enforcing discipline in her home. Then she attended a parenting class that taught her to view communicating from a new perspective. This struck a chord, and Theresa decided to change her course of action. She decided to keep her voice tone down and use the skills she learnt at the workshops. At first, she found it exceedingly difficult. Every time she caught herself about to jump to the next octave, she took a deep breath and reminded herself of the new insights she had learned. Finally, after a considerable amount of time had elapsed, she noticed that she no longer found herself about to yell so often. She congratulated herself on a new habit attained.
Indeed, habits are cyclical and recurring. However, new information can be a circuit-breaker and give the person the impetus to begin a new pattern. Still, this inspiration must be followed up with practical application. As the person reinforces both mind and action, the habit becomes a true part of him.