How to Form Good Habits

Sponsored Content l November 20, 2018

Building Better Habits

by Rebecca McKee, MSED, BCBA

It’s nice to feel happy. It feels good to be in a tranquil mood. Smiling is easy on the fine-lines. Positivity creates all-good moments. Positive behavior supports equals eliminating challenging behaviors and replacing with prosocial habits. Each family and classroom benefits from building better habits.

Having healthy habits is a life-skill. When we are determined, focused and motivated to change useless patterns, results can be rewarding throughout our lifetimes. If your child is developing bad habits there is still hope to replace these.

One potent way to change behavior is through reinforcement. Recognize desirable behaviors when they are hanging around in front of you. Catch those fine fish in your proverbial net. Reinforce! Be present and positive. Analyze undesirable behaviors…this means looking at when they occur and what are the antecedents and consequences. Similar to scheduling appointments, pencil in time for behavior management. “Our daughter has a tantrum every night at bedtime. This week we are going to analyze this behavior. We will look at the duration, intensity, antecedents and consequences”. After, you can proactively prevent these annoying habits from occurring. This is by teaching and rewarding better choices. Small stones build boulders of better habits so be patient and consistent. It takes time.

For those of us trying to support others in their quest to build better habits, like parents with children, use positive words. Notice the difference between “stop complaining” vs. “let’s practice using kind words”. To ensure understanding, follow-up with role play. Make it a fun game with your children…“when I say ‘time for homework’ you practice saying ‘OK’…ready, set, let’s practice” or “tonight when it’s bedtime we are going to practice staying calm by walking to your bedroom and picking out a book”. Practice, practice, practice. Think about how long it took to teach your children to brush their own teeth or write their name. Think of behavior management in the same way. Prepare, set the stage, practice and reinforce. All of a sudden, no more practice needed!

Reinforcement includes labeling healthy habits. Compliments can sound like: “you were so calm during your doctor’s visit…great” or “when I told you ‘no’ you just walked away and stayed so relaxed…that was so nice to see”. Post-It Notes are our friends. A small written note with positive and precise words produce results: “first I take a bath then I watch TV” or “when I calmly do my homework my parents feel so proud”. When behaviors lead to baubles, batted eyelashes and other benefits, habits change.

Reinforcement, whether positive (+) or negative (-), works wonders. Positive Reinforcement is adding something or someone to a situation to increase desired behavior. This appears as giving compliments, stickers, extra time at the playground, money and more. Negative Reinforcement is the removal of tasks or escaping unwanted events to increase desired behavior. We get to exit the dinner table early as a reward for polite manners or we receive zero homework for scoring 100% on our Spelling test and more.

When better habits build, synchronicity develops in the home or classroom and positivity becomes contagious. Practice makes perfect and creates a behavioral momentum in the right direction. Build better habits.

Rebecca McKee

Rebecca McKee, MSED, BCBA
The 13th Child Autism & Behavioral Coaching, Inc.
For more information phone 718-316-8057 or email

Rebecca (pictured) works as an Autism-Behavioral Consultant and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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