10 Negative Habits Your Family Needs to Kick

changing habits

It’s a funny thing about habits—they have consequences whether they’re good or bad for us. Form a good habit and it pays good dividends. Drag around a bad habit, though, and you’ll eventually reap some bad outcomes. Changing habits is rarely easy, but many times ends up being the best thing a person or family can do.

There are lots of not-great choices families can make once in a while with no major consequences. But when those things become habits, you’ve got a problem. Such is the case with most of these 10 negative habits to kick—if you see them making regular appearances in your family’s life, act fast to correct them.

1. Fast food

Sure, drive-thru windows are a blessing when you’re on the road with a car full of hungry kids. But save that convenience for when you’re traveling or other unique circumstances. Why? Because the nutrition you get for the calories, sodium, and fat grams you consume is a bad deal. If you find yourself feeding your family from a paper bag with a grease stain every few days (or more), it’s time to cut back.

2. Bickering

Some families—especially those with teenagers—find themselves in tense, argumentative conversations over and over, all day long. But it doesn’t have to be that way, nor should it be. Make a conscious effort to curb the sarcastic or argumentative comments you make as a parent, and demand that your children speak to one another with love and respect, too. iSpecialist Greg Smalley shares 5 Ways to Stop Sibling Rivalry.

3. Disorganization

Check, Check, Done Checklist

When my nephew’s grades were slipping in science, his teacher told my sister-in-law that he knew the information very well, but his lack of organizational skills were costing him points on lost or late assignments. For a busy family, organization is not a luxury—it’s a must. It starts with mom keeping a great calendar for everyone’s activities, and should trickle down to kids keeping their own work and assignments in order.

4. Wasteful spending

It’s funny how thousands of dollars tend to creep out the door unnoticed–usually about $5 at a time. But making everyone aware how those little expenses add up can turn the family budget around substantially. Help your kids break habits like buying bottled water or soda when out and about by bringing a reusable water bottle along; eat at home more and dine out less (see #1); teach your kids to take care of expensive sports equipment and school shoes so they don’t have to be replaced as often. It all adds up!

5. Over-scheduling

It’s tempting to let your kids participate in lots of extracurricular activities because there are so many quality programs available these days. But an over-scheduled family is a stressed-out family where survival—not intentional living—becomes the rule of the day. Choose carefully and wisely in terms of which commitments you take on or allow your kids to take on. You may find that you all get greater joy out of doing fewer things, but under less pressure.

6. Failing to eat together

This bad habit is a close cousin to fast food and over-scheduling! Busy families often find that the family dinner table is the big loser when we get caught up in the rat-race. But it’s worth it to schedule 3-4 (or more) true family dinners each week where every member of the family is required to be around the table to spend time together and eat well. Statistics show that families who do this have happier, healthier kids and parents!

7. Screen time overload

If you or your kids are spending more than an hour or so a day in front of a screen (TV, computer, video game, etc.), you’re probably spending too much. Families who have major electronic addictions have higher rates of obesity and other health problems, plus, they’re missing out on countless other worthwhile things like: reading (remember books?), outdoor play, games together, and great communication about the things that matter.

8. Skipping church

It’s very easy to miss a couple of weeks of attendance at church and then a third, and pretty soon you haven’t seen the place in 2-3 months. Make worship and family church activities a priority! We promise this will pay greater dividends in the life of your family than anything else you can do, and will establish a good habit for your children that will be important to their own spiritual growth and health long after they leave your care.

9. Hiring out all the tough chores

For busy suburban families, there’s a great temptation to simplify things by hiring help for all major tasks: housecleaning, yard work, etc. But if your kids never have to pitch in to get these everyday jobs done, how will they ever know how to do them well, or appreciate what goes into them. Do your kids a favor by reserving some key jobs for them that help develop a work ethic and sense of responsibility. This can also be a great relief to your budget!

10. Keeping up

Admit it: you do it, and your kids sometimes do it, too. We’re all prone to compare ourselves with others and try to keep up with the Joneses. But doing so can create a host of other problems. For starters, you don’t know if the Joneses share your values and priorities, your practical limitations, or your budget. For those reasons, it makes much more sense to set your own pace for life by intentionally choosing what’s best for you and your family, and not worrying too much about everyone else.


Tell us! What habit have you broken that benefited your family?