“Nivaan! Wake up, Nivaan!” Meera, his mother, shouted. “You are going to be late for school!” She had already switched off the fan, drawn the curtains and tried everything to wake him up. Meera now shook the six year old, calling out, “Brush your teeth and come for breakfast.” Then she disappeared into the kitchen.

Rati, Nivaan’s nine-year-old sister, had been awake for a while and was sitting all dressed and ready for school. She was humming her favourite song, lost in her own thoughts. “Rati, go check on your brother, see what he is doing. Breakfast will be ready in five minutes. Make sure he brushes his teeth!”

Rati hopped off the chair and marched to the bedroom. “Nivaan come on. Get up!” She dragged him off the bed and all the way to the bathroom. All the while, Nivaan was protesting, yelling, “I want to sleep!”

“Come on, splash water on your face, take that toothbrush, brush your teeth and come out.”

After some time, a sleepy-looking Nivaan appeared at the dining room table and sat down for breakfast. Suddenly, he could smell the yummy food being prepared, and his eyes opened wide! He was properly awake and ready to gobble down his breakfast. Meera laid out the breakfast on the table and sat down.

“Nivaan, you have to change your morning habits. I cannot be running after you every single day, shouting at you to get ready for school. This habit will be very difficult for you to change later on! You have to start changing your habits now.”

Without putting down his food, Nivaan asked, “What is a habit?”

Meera thought for a second and then said, “A habit is something that you have to do every day.”

“It is an activity that we keep repeating every day of our lives. Like waking up on time is a habit, brushing your teeth is a habit and eating your breakfast is a habit. All these actions are habits.”

“But why are habits important, Mumma?” Rati asked.

“You see, Rati, when you choose the right kind of habits, your life becomes easier. You are able to do more with your life, instead of being sad or unhappy. For example, if you don’t brush your teeth every day, you will get toothaches and cavities. Do you want toothaches?”

“Noooo!” the kids screamed.

“If Nivaan is not ready in time for school, he will miss the bus, then Papa will have to go drop him at school and he will also get late for work. He will be upset and his boss will be angry.”

Nivaan paused his eating. “Oh! I did not know this. So how do I make better habits? I don’t want Papa to be upset.”

“So, when we start developing better habits, all these problems disappear. We get to spend more time being happy.” As Meera said this, she got up and went to the craft drawer. She took out a sheet of chart paper, pens and some golden star stickers. She drew four columns on the page, one each for Nivaan, Rati, Meera herself and Avi, her husband.

“Okay Nivaan, let’s choose two new habits for you. The first is waking up on time without me having to remind you again. And the second is brushing your teeth every morning without me telling you. Can you do these?”

Nivaan thought about them and finally agreed. Meera wrote them down on the chart paper. Rati quickly replied, “I don’t need new habits, I am always ready for school on time!”

“Rati, what new habits do you want?” Meera asked.

“No Rati, we can always improve our habits, we can always make them better and better. See, I am also aiming for a new habit of practising my dance lessons regularly. If I make it a habit, my dance will improve very fast.”

Excerpted with permission from The Book of Good Habits For Kids, Ashdin Doctor, illustrated by Vibha Surya, HarperCollins India.