Making changes around the house requires energy.

Lots of it.

And for “do-it-all” moms, let’s not pretend like this is something you’re overflowing with.

Never mind having to deal with the push-back, eye rolls or complete lack of response from your teen.

Even when they’ve come to you with a problem.

“Mom, I’m so tired I can’t concentrate or study.”

“What time did you get to bed last night?”

“Not that late.”

“So, really late then?”

“Noooo, not that late.”

The “how dare you even suggest that” tone is a total giveaway. Suspicion confirmed – definitely late.

Now, you have two options…

Ask, for the thousandth time, if it may have something to do with the habit of going to bed with the phone and getting sucked into a social media scroll hole. But then you have to deal with the explosion that follows.

After the day you’ve just had? Not worth it. What’s option number two?

Empathy. Hmmm… Again? To what end? And with energy levels in overdraft? Not this time.

“OK,” you respond.

But then your teen explodes anyway.

There is a slightly cheeky, cunningly strategic, and rather effective third option. A wildcard of sorts that may help you subtly nudge your young one away from bad habits and towards healthier ones.

It gets better. This ace requires very little willpower and even has the potential to slide past a switched-on teenager’s “Mom’s-up-to-something” detector.

There is a catch though. (Of course, there’s a catch!)

When it comes to supporting healthy changes in your young one, you’ve got to take the marathon approach vs. the sprint approach and expecting big shifts in behaviour overnight.

Still interested?

Tap into the often-overlooked power of 1% changes. Make tiny, barely noticeable tweaks around the house and to your teen’s routine.

 

Tiny Tweaks for Big Changes

Laughable, right? That’s what I thought at first too.

Until I sailed from Cape Town to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The captain gave me a clear compass direction to stick to but not being the most experienced sailor, I would veer off by a degree or two from time-to-time.

No big deal.

Now I’m not one to try to guess at what a person thinks but judging by the captain’s reaction, I was getting a strong hint that this was in fact a big deal.

I managed to catch a couple of creative expletives through his thick Irish accent but it was only when he drew a very simple picture illustrating what a teeny tiny, (not so) imperceptible 1 degree change led to over a few thousand kilometres.

We were no longer heading for Brazil – never mind Rio.

Whoops.

This bit of misfortune did however cement in me the power of 1% changes over time.

#Silverlinings

 

“Small actions made consistently over time lead to great and glorious changes.” R.Sharma

 Not convinced yet?

Imagine for a second that you made a 1% change to your teen’s routine each day for a year. Do you know what improvement you could expect from that small investment of energy?

To work that out, add 1% (the tiny tweak) to 1 (your beloved teen). This gives you 1.01. Then multiply that to the power of 365 because we’re looking at a 1% change made every day for a year. This gives you 37.8. In terms of percentage improvement…

That’s a 3780% improvement!

Consider for a moment what a change like that would look like when it comes to sleeping, cellphone, eating, studying, exercise or helping-around-the-house habits.

*Cut away to Mom’s mind exploding with endless possibilities.

Now, do you see why the marathon approach is so important here?

You won’t be overhauling your teen’s unhealthy snacking, social media, gaming, or bedtime habits overnight. No ma’am. But with tricky teens, evolution often favours revolution.

Make a small change and when that change becomes part of the routine, you make another cheeky, 1% change.

Rinse and repeat.

Yes, this does take some time and a pinch of patience that may be wearing thin. But when you’ve exhausted option 1 and option 2, this may be the only viable and persuasive option left in your arsenal to build those healthy habits in your teen.

 

2 Rules for Tiny Tweaks 

  1. When it comes to inspiring changes in behaviour, the less willpower it requires, the easier it is to perform the new behaviour… and the more likely it will be adopted. Especially by teens who feel like eye contact is asking for too much when you’re talking to them.
  2. We are often a product of our environments. James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, explains that if you want your teen to develop certain habits, make that habit the convenient and easy option within the environment.1 For example, it’s a lot easier to build a reading habit when there are no television sets around.

Let’s put this into action.

 

Tiny Tweaks Using Bioteen’s Five Pillars of Teen Wellness

If the goal is a healthy, fulfilling, and successful life, these pillars are your strongest allies. And when it comes to your teen, these allies will ensure they’re protected from the effects of stress, more resilient to adversity and better prepared to tackle life’s inevitable challenges.

Below are a few examples of how you can use tiny tweaks and Bioteen’s Five Pillars of Teen Wellness to set your teen up to truly flourish and thrive. The sky’s the limit here.

Self: Want to support your young one’s confidence and mental strength? Here’s a 1% change that a wealth of research shows will lead to promising results. Instead of criticising their every mistake, rather use the little bit of energy you have left to point out every time they do something good2. You’ll get a much better return on your investment!

Each time they help out around the house, persevere with a difficult task, show courage, use one of their strengths, step out of their comfort zones, wake up on time or make their own breakfast, acknowledge them. No matter how small or seemingly insignificant it may seem to you.

We all love a little recognition, and your teen isn’t immune to the feel-good rush that comes with it. You know that one that makes us say, “That feels good!”?  That one. Your positive appraisals will motivate them to do more of those behaviours, each time reinforcing the habit.

 

Movement: Is your teen struggling with their mood or stress but recoils at the idea of exercise like a vampire to light? Did you know that a 30 minute walk three times a week can have a similar effect on mood as common antidepressants without some of the unwanted side-effects3?

A tiny tweak could be inviting them on an evening walk (even if it’s only for 10 minutes) around the block, on the beach, in the forest or on the mountain once a week – whichever will elicit the least resistance. After a little time when this becomes the new norm, make another tiny tweak. Walk for 10 more minutes or add another walk to the week.

 

Nutrition: Remember the two rules to tiny tweaks? I) Make it easy to move away from the old behaviour and adopt the new one and II) design the environment in a way that supports the formation of the new habit.

If your child is a total snackaholic but makes a beeline for the biscuits or chips instead of something healthy, a tiny tweak can be replacing the junk food with tasty but healthier options. This could be putting out a snack platter with a selection of fruits, nuts, biltong, and even small sandwiches and leaving it somewhere so obvious the three blind mice wouldn’t have a problem finding it – like the kitchen counter. And if baking is something you both enjoy, why not whip up a batch of choc-chip cookies made from whole ingredients with no refined sugar or artificial sweeteners?

Once this becomes the new norm, another 1% change could be replacing sugary soda drinks and sports drinks with sparkling water, coconut water or delicious homemade chocolate milk and flavoured waters with chopped fruit such as raspberry and lime or pineapple and mint.

Rest: If banning digital devices from the bedroom before sleep time isn’t an option, remember you’ve got an ace up your sleeve. Use tiny tweaks to gently build up to it!

The aim is to help calm your teen’s revved-up nervous system and begin priming their “body clock” for bedtime. Here are some tiny tweaks you could keep on standby and ready to deploy:

  • Turn down the lights around the house after the sun goes down.
  • Switch the TV off 30 minutes before bedtime.
  • Hide the coffee and caffeine-packed pre-workout after 2pm.
  • Make them a cup of relaxation-inducing chamomile or passionflower tea after dinner.
  • Download a blue and green light blocking app on their phone that switches on automatically after 7pm. Artificial light mimics day-time light tricking the brain into thinking the sun’s still up.
  • Switch the Wi-Fi off after a certain time.
  • Introduce a 5-minute family stretching routine.

Once you’ve successfully made a tiny tweak and it’s become part of your teen’s routine, you know what to do next.

 

Support Structure: When it comes to your young one’s resilience this is arguably the most important pillar.4 If you feel they could do with a bit more support or positive interaction, what small change to their routine could you make to help them feel more connected?

Could you drop them off somewhere fun once a week for adult-free time with their best friend if they have one? Maybe at the beach, for a treat at their favourite restaurant or even the movies? No best friend? Consider getting them a life coach. Research shows that the presence of just one mentor figure in a teen’s life can significantly improve resilience.5 I’ve been fortunate enough to see this first-hand with my younger coaching clients.

Other than the positive interaction and role modelling, there’s the added benefit of your teen learning emotional regulation and social skills, making it easier for them to begin building new, healthier relationships in their life.

Having excess energy as a busy teen mom is both a privilege and a luxury – maybe even a long-lost dream. That’s why when it comes to spending it you want to make sure you’re getting some serious bang for your buck. A decent return on your investment.

Making tiny tweaks around the house and to your teen’s routine – harnessing the power of 1% changes over time – is one of your greatest allies and energy investments when helping them build healthier habits. Small actions made consistently over time lead to great and glorious changes.

 

References

  1. Clear, J., 2022. Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones. James Clear. Available at: https://jamesclear.com/atomic-habits.
  2. 2. Young, K., 2018. When Our Kids Get it Wrong – Why Criticism Won’t Work, And What to Do Instead – Hey Sigmund. Hey Sigmund. Available at: https://www.heysigmund.com/kids-and-criticism-heres-what-happens-and-what-to-do-instead/.
  3. Duke University. “Exercise May Be Just As Effective As Medication For Treating Major Depression.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 October 1999. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/10/991027071931.htm
  4. Suttie, J., 2017. Four Ways Social Support Makes You More Resilient. Greater Good. Available at: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/four_ways_social_support_makes_you_more_resilient.
  5. Cigna Resilience Index – 2020 US Report. Cigna. Available at: https://cignaresilience.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Cigna_ResilienceReport_FINAL.pdf