Avoid bad habits that your kids may pick up

UNTIDINESS: Children must be taught at an early age to pick up after themselves to prepare for later in life when they have to share space with others PHOTO: ISTOCK
UNTIDINESS: Children must be taught at an early age to pick up after themselves to prepare for later in life when they have to share space with others PHOTO: ISTOCK

In Bessie Head's novel Maru, Margaret Cadmore coined the phrase "environment everything; heredity nothing".

This was said in relation to raising a child and that being a good parent and raising children in a conducive environment supersedes hereditary habits.

That said, could there be bad habits you are inadvertently passing on to your children? Experts agree that children are very impressionable and that parents are their leading role models.

This easily means that whatever bad habits the parents have, the children are more than likely to have them too.

Educational psychologist Nombulelo Nzama says that 90% of the time children emulate their parents.

"Parents need to remember that kids are blank pages, ready to be written on. Parents on the other hand are permanent markers. Their job is to write the chapters of their children's life books," Nzama says.

"If they write wrong or bad habits, those will be part of that child's psychological make-up for life."

Nzama says these are the top six habits parents should be careful not to pass on to their children:


While many people may think that being a slob is not a big deal, Nzama cautions that this bad habit can affect your child's interactions with other people.

"Untidiness and not generally picking up after themselves may not raise eyebrows when done by infants, but become a big factor when your child is a teen and has to go off to varsity and interact with their peers, entering the workforce and ultimately when they settle down.

"No one likes a slob. It's imperative to teach your child to pick up after themselves from a very young age. Failure to do so will affect their image and how people generally perceive them," Nzama says.

Being late

There are people who are generally always late. These are people who have time management issues. Believe it or not, you can pass this habit on to your children, and Nzama explains why this is a bad thing: "Not everyone tolerates late-coming, and there are places where it simply will not fly. It's important to teach your child time management skills and that being on time shows respect and courtesy."


Research shows that people who generally overspend do not necessarily have the means to do so.

Nzama says that parents should not be naive to think that children cannot see their sloppiness with money.

"Definitely, your children can see if you are a reckless spender. Usually, people who are spendthrifts splurge on useless material things, and children can notice when dad bought expensive gadgets last week, but argues with debt collectors on the phone this week. There is usually an imbalance with over-spenders and children can pick it up," Nzama says.

"This is probably one of the most dangerous habits to pass on to your children as you'll be giving them the gift of recklessness and a life of debt."


"Of course parents do lie. Everyone lies once in a while. The problem is your kids witnessing your deception," Nzama says.

"This can be from lying about stupid things like sending your child to go and tell a certain unwelcome guest that you are not home to where your child witnesses you lying about your whereabouts.

"Teaching your child how to lie also teaches them to avert responsibility for their actions. It teaches them that it is okay to dupe people and be sneaky and manipulative. You are teaching your child to be a distasteful person no one wants around."

Being a pushover

"This is a serious one. Parents need to be cautious about it," Nzama warns.

"Being a pushover means being too submissive and allowing people to walk all over you. This can range from a partner to peers and even colleagues. Being assertive on the other hand does not mean being a bully or refusing to listen to reason.

"It's important to teach your children the correct assertion, where they know how to stand up for themselves to avoid being a pushover to other people. Children who witness their parents being walked all over are most likely to become pushovers themselves, much to their detriment."


Hoarding is the habit of hogging on to piles upon piles of unnecessary things and not being able to let go. Nzama says this is a serious condition that has serious implications for your children.

"Parents who are hoarders definitely teach their children how to hoard. As insignificant as it may seem, hoarding has serious consequences apart from cluttering the house, in that it teaches the child the inability to let go. This will impact on them in later life when they may find it impossible to let go of a dead-end job or even an unsatisfactory relationship."