As we approach the beginning of a new school year, many of us have school aged kids and toddlers at home. This often brings the challenges of starting and keeping everyone on a schedule and routine. Setting routines for kids at this time can help them in a variety of ways.
Seven Benefits of Routines for Kids
1. Routines eliminate power struggles
Routines eliminate power struggles because you aren’t bossing the child around. This activity (brushing teeth, napping, turning off the TV to come to dinner) is just what we do at this time of day. The parent stops being the bad guy, and nagging is greatly reduced.
2. Routines help kids cooperate
Routines help kids cooperate by reducing stress and anxiety for everyone. Consequently, we all know what comes next, we get fair warning for transitions, and no one feels pushed around, or like parents are being arbitrary.
3. Routines help kids learn to take charge of their own activities
Over time, kids learn to brush their teeth, pack their backpacks, etc., without constant reminders. In truth, kids love being in charge of themselves. This feeling increases their sense of mastery and competence. Consequently, kids who feel more independent and in charge of themselves have less need to rebel and be oppositional.
4. Kids learn the concept of “looking forward” to things they enjoy
…which is an important part of making a happy accommodation with the demands of a schedule. For example, your child may want to go to the playground now, but they can learn that we always go to the playground in the afternoon, and they can look forward to it then.
5. Regular routines help kids get on a schedule
Regular routines help kids get on a schedule, so that they fall asleep more easily at night.
6. Routines help parents build in those precious connection moments
We all know that we need to connect with our children every day, but when our focus is on moving kids through the schedule to get them to bed, we miss out on opportunities to connect. If we build little connection rituals into our routine, they become habit. Try a snuggle with each child when you first see them in the morning, or a “recognition” ritual when you’re first reunited:
“I see you with those beautiful gray eyes that I love so much!” or a naming ritual as you dry him after the bath: “Let’s dry your toes…your calf…your knee…your thigh…. your hips….your belly …”
Rituals like these slow you down and connect you on a visceral level with your child, and if you do them as just “part of the routine” they build security as well as connection and cooperation.
7. Schedules help parents maintain consistency in expectations
If everything is a fight, parents end up settling: more TV, skip brushing teeth for tonight, etc. When routines for kids are set up, parents are more likely to stick to healthy expectations for everyone in the family, because that’s just the way we do things in our household. The result: a family with healthy habits, where everything runs more smoothly!
Does this mean infants should be put on routines as early as possible?
NO! Infants tell us what they need. We feed them when they’re hungry, change them when they’re wet. Over time, they learn the first step of a routine: We sleep at night. But forcing an infant to accommodate to our routine is not responsive to your infant’s needs. She is not capable of adapting to yours yet. If her needs aren’t met, she will simply feel as if the world is a place where her needs don’t get met, so she has to resort to drama to try to meet them.
As your infant moves into babyhood, she will establish her own routine, settling into a schedule of sorts. Indeed, most babies settle into a fairly predictable pattern. We can help them with this by structuring our day around their needs, so, for instance, we make sure conditions are appropriate for her nap at the time she usually sleeps. Gradually, over time, we can respond to her natural schedule of eating and sleeping by developing a routine that works for her and for the whole family.
Seven Benefits of Using Routines from Aha! Parenting website. Seven Benefits of Using Routines with Your Kids (ahaparenting.com)