By Sue Hubbard, M.D.
A few days into 2017, there's no better time to talk about changing some habits. Why is it that habits are certainly easy to acquire, but difficult to change? I saw a book on The New York Times bestseller list about "Habits," and I am committed to reading it this year.
I know that we started many "bad" habits when my husband and I were new parents, and I talk to my patients every day about not doing the same things I did. But, even with that knowledge, there are several recurrent habits that I wish parents would try to change; or better yet, don't start.
1. Do not have your baby/child sleep with you (unless sick).
This is a recurring theme in my practice, and the conversation typically starts when a parent says, "I am not getting enough sleep. My child wakes me up all night long." Whether that means getting in the habit of breastfeeding your child all night or having your 2-year-old "refuse" to go to sleep without you, children need to be independent sleepers. Some children are born to be good sleepers while others require "learning" to sleep; either way, your child needs to know how to sleep alone. I promise you, their college roommate will one day thank you.
2. Change poor eating habits.
Family meals are a must, and healthy eating starts with parents. I still have parents, (with two, three or four children) who are "short order cooks," which means they make a different meal for everyone. Who even has the time? Sounds exhausting! Even cooking two meals (breakfast, dinner) a day for a family is hard to do for 20 years, but enabling your children to have poor eating habits by only serving "their four favorite foods" is setting them up for a lifetime of picky, and typically unhealthy, eating.
Start serving one nutritious family dinner and let everyone have one night a week to help select the meal. Beyond that, everyone eats the same thing. Easy! If they are hungry they will eat.
3. No electronics in your child's room.
If you start this habit from the beginning it will be easy. If you have a TV in your child's room when they are 6 to 8 years old, good luck taking it out when they are 13 to 15. First TV in their room should be in a college dorm. For older children, make sure that you are docking their electronics outside of their rooms for the night. Everyone will sleep better!
Dr. Sue Hubbard is an award-winning pediatrician, medical editor and media host. "The Kid's Doctor" TV feature can be seen on more than 90 stations across the U.S. Submit questions at http://www.kidsdr.com. The Kid's Doctor e-book, "Tattoos to Texting: Parenting Today's Teen," is now available from Amazon and other e-book vendors.
This was printed in the January 22, 2017 - February 4, 2017 edition.