One simple fact is that children thrive on routines. There is so much going on in their world, so much that is new and different, and so much to learn, they need something that is reliable and predictable in their lives to deal with it all.
Routines help support a child’s development and give parents a structure on which they can approach each day.
It may not be the easiest thing to get started, and your children might be a little resistant at first (depending on their age and if they’ve experienced a solid routine before), but the benefits for children and parents are worth the effort.
Every family will find different benefits in their established routines. This is likely because every family is looking for different results from their efforts. However, there are some great things that we have seen over and over again. These include:
- Daily family life can run much smoother
- Families can spend more time together
- Children feel safer and more confident
- Children start to recognize that they belong to (and contribute to) a strong family group
- Parents and children can feel like they’ve accomplished more in a day
- Parents feel less stress because routines help bring more order into a busy, hectic life
- Children start developing life skills and healthy habits
This is, of course, just the start. However, we know that all these benefits are possible if you take the time and follow some guidelines for building good routines at home.
How Does a Routine Make a Difference?
A home routine for your children provides predictability and consistency – two things which are critical for the development of young minds.
Routines make a difference at home for a number of reasons. First, they help children build self-regulation skills, which are critical for a good mental state. Slowly but surely, kids learn how they can control their own behaviors and feelings. They learn how to recognize those feelings and they discover new ways to manage them.
Second, routines give children a strong footing on which they can make the most of their day. Even something as simple as a bedtime routine tells a child what to expect during certain times and throughout different interactions with their family members.
When a child participates in these types of routines, they begin to build new skills and understand more about their own responsibilities. For example, helping to set the table at dinnertime or choosing the book they want to read, or the game they want to play during family time can help them feel like they’re an important part of process and encourage them to take an even bigger role in the routine.
A Routine That’s More Than Routine
When we talk about having a home routine, it’s important to specify that we’re not just talking about having a schedule.
For a routine to be effective, it has to be more than a calendar that says what to do and when to do it.
In other words, a routine shouldn’t be, well, routine. (We’ve said the word “routine” enough now that it should have lost all meaning in your head, anyway.)
It’s important to make sure that your children understand the importance of these daily interactions and activities.
If you make the routine more “special,” it actually becomes more of a ritual – something that just feels like it has more weight and more importance. A ritual has more of a sense of purpose and helps create a family identity.
Tips for Starting and Maintaining a Routine a Home
When you begin developing your home routines, you might experience a difficult day or two. It may take some time, and there may be a little pushback, and not everything will go like you home, but stick to it and it will be worth it in the end. There are a few simple tips that may help you out.
- Don’t be afraid to modify the routine if it doesn’t seem as effective as you initially expected.
- Involve your children in the entire process of planning and carrying out the routine. If there’s a choice between doing A or B during a certain point in the routine, ask them which they would prefer. (If A and B have roughly the same value. “Would you rather do playtime or schoolwork?” for example, is going to have an obvious answer. “Which book would you rather read?” increases their involvement and accomplishes an important task.)
- Consistency is probably the biggest key to making this all work. Give consistent attention, be consistent in how you offer praise and how you correct their behavior.
- Be consistently flexible. You should always react the same way in the same situations, but it’s also important to consistently be open to the unexpected. Sometimes things are going to get in the way of your routine, or new opportunities to do something better or more fun may appear. Be flexible enough to recognize these opportunities.
Children thrive on routines. Whether that’s a bedtime routine, dinnertime routine, or just getting ready for after school daycare programs, a special routine can help your children feel more confident and safer as they continue to grow and develop.