The simplest definition of habit is that it is a behavior pattern that is automatic.  That is, the behavior starts manifesting itself, without any provocation or guidance, as a matter of routine. 

The simplest of good habits is to put one's hands together and pray to God, at any point in time, and not necessarily, in temples.  In fact, such a behavior is not only common in India, it becomes infectious -- when we see strange people pray in trains for instance, we feel that we should do the same.

However, formation of early good habits is the essence of life.   A good and socially relevant life -- a life that makes meaning to not only the individual, but to others too.

It has to be appreciated that habits that get formed before the child is just three or five years old, tend to become life habits.  If the child gets on to good habits, it repeats the same when he or she grows old.  However, the influence of something that is bad, takes the child to a very bad route in future.  

There is a saying in Tamil, "Aainthil vilaiyathathu aambathil vilaiyuma? " which literally translates into s habit that does not get formed before the age of five, never becomes a habit, at the age of fifty.  The forefathers have formulated many sayings like this in Tamil, and possibly in every other language.

The simplest of messages is that the mother has a big role in formation of good habits.  Respect to elders, touching the feet of elders, taking kindly to all, most importantly to the poor, and the servant maids, helping others in need, empathy, doing good to the poor, and enabling others to also live through generous help and so on, gets formed at a very young age.  The opposite is also true.

In an excellent  Tamil film called Sigappu Rojakkal, a small boy, just three years old, goes on to see the sufferings of his mother.  Her husband and the father of the boy has an illicit relationship, which makes life miserable for the mother.  In his later years, the boy goes on to murder women, after having affairs with several women.  This film by the noted film actor, Kamal Hasan, won him the National Award.  

This film had a superb impact on several men, who gave up their illicit affairs and concentrated on their children.  Many a story started circulating in Tamil Nadu.   

When a good habit is formed, it starts bringing harmony to others.  For instance, there are many young people, who like to help others, when they are just seven years old.  Their parental upbringing is such that this good habit gets into place at such an early age.  In fact, such children bring out transformation in several other children as well.  This author has seen a child, studying in the best English medium school in Chennai, taking lessons for the servant maid's child, who studies in a Government school.  The children are both eight years old, but the good habit is solid, in terms of reaching out to someone who is not as lucky to be rich, or is not rich due to force of circumstances.  In fact, the Government school teachers drop in and share their word of praise for the child.

The parents of the girl, do not speak about the money they have.  They take their children, that is, this girl, and her younger brother, who is just five years old, to orphanages every week, to help them understand the other side of life.  The donate liberally to good causes, and are ever willing to be of some good use to others.  

When parents and teachers are good role models, good habits get formed very quickly.

However, we live in very difficult times, and the times are really bad.  We have a trust deficit in society.  The rich are aloof, and have huge consumption patterns, with the junk food menace as the worst ever problem that can affect children before the age of ten.  This needs to be looked into.  We need to address this issue urgently.

This author has seen some families where they try to educate their children on the harmful effects of this bad habit, with some measure of success.  The teachers also have a big role to play in putting an end to this rather unhealthy habit, that lands children in obesity, at a very young age, of just fifteen. 

The most important aspect of formation of good habits is role models, and it is here, that the parents need to watch out.  If the father is a smoker and also takes to alcohol, the child who observes these behaviors, does not have a very good opinion of the father.  No amount of advise by the father will hold water, even when the father tries to intervene in habits such as punctuality.  The child tends to quote what he sees or what she sees, and confronts the father or mother or both.  When this happens, the children are not controlled, and bad habits get formed.  

Worse is to follow, when the children confront their friends in school.  If any reference is made to bad habits of the father, by any other child, the child starts to feel guilty, and even starts to hate the father, if the fun continues unabated.  The mother is helpless.  This often happens in slums, where the father almost takes to alcohol, as a matter of routine.  

The parents of the lower middle-class families thus have a real problem.  On the one hand, they cannot afford the cost of good English medium education for their children.  They end up putting their children in Municipality or government schools, with inadequate facilities.  The bad habits of the father or mother tend to get discussed among children, with disastrous effects.

The Government should take the help of private counselors, who can counsel such children.  They should be told to just concentrate on studies, and wherever possible, intervention to help the father to get over the bad habits can also be tried out.  

In fact, the Schools of Social Work, do have the services of counselors and would-be counselors in the form of Post Graduate students, who can chip in, with their advice. The Government has to just reach out to such services.

Habits should be formed early in life.  Needless to add, only good habits can have a good effect of transforming society.  The bad habits have to nipped in the bud.  The role of parents and teachers is very crucial indeed, and they need to act together, to bring about good habit formation.


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