Heads Up

Welcome to Heads Up, your one-stop source for news about your son’s upcoming activities and events.

Message from Naheed Bardai, Head, Middle Division

Naheed Bardai Over the past three weeks, I thought I’d try something new, something I had never really thought of doing before. I was going to go on a “diet.” I’ve been doing a lot reading and listening to podcasts about healthier ways to eat, including things like nutrient density, our microbiome, inflammation in the body due to food and lots more. So I committed myself to try a wheat-free/modified Paleo diet for a month. At first, it was really difficult to change my routine and habits. However, as time as progresed, it has become easier (I’m not missing bread any more and am enjoying the taste of clean and simple foods) and I’m growing to really enjoy my new habits. At present, what started as a diet will likely continue in some adjusted form to become a lifestyle change.

With it being spring and a time for renewal, I was thinking about how boys (and by association, families) change habits and routines for their own eventual betterment. Do you often wish your growing boy would spend less time on his phone? Do you want him to go to bed earlier? How about eating more healthy? While I don’t have all the answers on how to change habits, we can look at some research on some ways to shift habits.

At its most basic level, a habit is a regular pattern of behaviour that follows what behavioural psychologists would call a “stimulus-response association,” where the brain has been conditioned to receiving a particular response based on a specific cue. This habit-making behaviour, when done often enough, becomes unconscious and almost automated. This can relate to anything from brushing teeth to studying (or procrastinating) routines – or in my case, eating a wheat-rich dessert every night.

Behavioural psychologists say that to break or change a habit, one has to break the stimulus-response association and replace it with another. According to Charles Duhigg in his book The Power of Habit, one of the best opportunities to alter a habit is when on vacation in a different environment because most of what is familiar to you on a day-to-day basis has changed. While this isn’t practical for our boys at this time of year, shifting the environment at home could be a way to initiate a behaviour change. For example, the family could agree to eat dinner together every evening and that no one will use their phones during that time.

Motivation is another important factor when trying to shape habits. When a boy is 11, parents are arguably more able to influence their daily studying routines than when he is 17. However, if he understands and appreciates the reason for a particular study routine, he’s more likely to internalize it and continue it into the future (making the motivation intrinsic as opposed to extrinsic). Talking to our boys regularly about the habits they are forming and continuously helping them to understand why some habits are more beneficial than others is important in helping to build intrinsic motivation.

With three-way conferences taking place next week, this could be an ideal time to engage your son in some healthy discussions around their habits. Furthermore, with exams taking place later this term for Form 7 students, building healthy study habits now will go a long way in helping our boys learn how to prepare for exams.

I look forward to meeting you next week during our conferences. When we have a chance to speak, please keep reminding me how healthy it is to not eat that daily cookie or piece of cake – you’ll help me shape my new habit!

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