Christian Home & Family: Bad Habits Start Early, But So Do Good Ones

Christian Home & Family: Bad Habits Start Early, But So Do Good Ones March 26, 2015

From Carey Green, author, blogger, speaker, coach and pastor:


When I was a kid, I had a terrible habit. I bit my fingernails. It doesn’t sound like such a bad habit, but it wasn’t just the nails themselves, I bit the skin surrounding my fingernails. I even nibbled the skin on the tips of my fingers. My fingers looked like trees after a beaver had gotten a hold of them, little tooth marks everywhere.

I remember trying to break that habit. It was extremely hard. Why? Because it was long-standing. I had begun my finger nibbling, probably around the time I was six years old, but I didn’t try to break it until I was in my mid to late teen years. I was fighting ten years of physical repetition, psychological conditioning, absent-mindedness about the habit, and it wasn’t easy.

I tell you that story to illustrate the power of a habit. But you probably didn’t need the illustration at all. Every one of us has been challenged by the need to kick a habit of one kind or another. Smoking, drugs, cursing, anger, criticism, pride… the list goes on and on, doesn’t it?

When we think of habits, we tend to think of the negative side of the subject, but I want to suggest to you that just like a bad habit starts young and becomes incredibly hard to break – a good habit can be built early, in the life of your children, and can serve them positively for their entire lives.



Our family has been blessed by God to have the determination to build this habit into the lives of our kids, from the start. I see the fruit of our efforts in their lives. At the time of this recording, my three oldest children are young adults, one of them already married and a father (that makes ME Grand-pop!). The LORD led us to integrate daily time with the LORD into their lives from the time they were able to hold a book. The results have been nothing short of amazing. Today, each of them engages in their own relational time with the LORD in a genuine, life-giving way. It happens at least in part, because they started the habit of setting aside the time to be with the LORD, early in life.

If you’d like to hear more about that, from their own lips, you can


The scriptures are full of attitudes that are supposed to be true of believers in Christ. From generosity, to kindness, to humility, the scriptures make it clear that all of us are fully dependent on the Spirit of God to produce those things deep down in our souls. But as parents, we can have a significant impact on our children’s growth in those areas from before the time they are born.

Yes, I said from before the time they are born. So the first thing you should do is begin praying for God to fill them with His Spirit, so that they can then demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit. We began praying for each of our children the moment we knew my wife was pregnant. Once we knew if they were boy or girl (yes, we did find out), we gave them a name and began praying for them by name… all before they sucked in their first breath of oxygen. I believe it had a significant impact on who they are and God’s work in their lives.

Once they were born, we did a number of things to encourage godly attitudes.

First, we made sure that we, the parents, were working on improving those attitudes in our own lives. If you preach one thing and do another, you’ll find rebellion rising up in the heart of your kids. For more on that, see episode 70 of this podcast, at

Next, we worked hard not to underestimate our kids’ capacity for absorbing the truth of God. We read scripture to them, found scripture-filled children’s music for them, and talked about what the songs and stories were saying. Parent’s, don’t underestimate the Spirit’s power through the word of God. He is able to drench your child with Himself from an early age. John the Baptist was filled with the Spirit in his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15). Why couldn’t your child be significantly shaped by the Spirit from an early age, too?

Once our kids were old enough to carry on a conversation, no matter how elementary, we started practicing a number of additional things…

  • We talked about desirable godly attitudes in positive terms.
  • We pointed out people who were doing a good job at allowing the Spirit to produce His fruit.
  • We read them stories of admirable Christians who could serve as role models.
  • We discussed desired traits repeatedly, covering why the trait in question was so important and what God thought about the issue.
  • We worked as a family to memorize scriptures that taught about the godly traits we were encouraging.
  • Once they were old enough to understand the word “no” and what it meant (around 1 year old), we began requiring them to behave in godly ways, even applying discipline when needed, as the scriptures encourage parents to do.

Now don’t misunderstand, we weren’t heavy-handed or stern with our kids. Everything was drenched in love and acceptance, and taught in a spirit of dependence on God to help them do what they were expected to do.

All of this was based on the belief that God will use our efforts as parents as some of the means by which He develops them into the people He wants them to be. My belief is that part of the effectiveness comes from getting our kids started down a path of thinking rightly about godly attitudes and actions, early in life. We’re helping them, guiding them, with the help of the Spirit of God, to develop their own godly habits in the areas of thinking and behavior.

Parents, take this issue seriously. Just like my nail biting, your kids are GOING TO DEVELOP HABITS. Why wouldn’t you want to proactively help them develop powerfully good ones?

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