“Children, like the rest of us, handle change best if it is expected and occurs in the context of a familiar routine. A predictable routine allows children to feel safe, and to develop a sense of mastery in handling their lives.” – Dr. Laura Markham, Aha! Parenting.com
When I was a teacher, I wrote our daily schedule on the white board every morning. Not only did the schedule remind me what I needed to do during the day, but it was also the first thing the children looked for when they entered the classroom.
Believe it or not, children love routine. It makes them feel secure. Routines give structure to the day and they cut down on behavioral issues because children know what is expected of them and when. In my class, the activities changed, but the order mostly stayed the same.
When my son entered the terrible two’s, I soon realized I needed routines at home, too. I’d already established my own morning, afternoon, and evening routines. After all, I had to write down everything because my mommy brain couldn’t remember details anymore. So, I decided to create a morning, afternoon, and evening routine for my son. These routines soon helped us get out of the house faster, they helped me establish good habits for my son (earlier bed time and regular story time, anyone?), and they cut down on his tantrums.
If you’d like to read more about how a morning routine helped me get a stubborn toddler out of the house in the morning, check out this post: Win the Morning, Win the Day
Today, I’m going to highlight the benefits of routines for children and why they can help make parenting a little easier.
1. Routines Provide a Sense of Security in a Changing World
As our children grow, the one constant in their lives is change. They start walking and talking, eating solid foods, and exploring the world. Curiosity drives them. When they become conscious of all these changes, it can be unsettling.
- The first day of daycare or preschool is difficult for many children. This is a huge change!
- When our kids start eating solid foods, they began exploring new textures and flavors. Some of these will be rejected. Our kids will start to develop their own preferences and opinions. A strange looking vegetables may suddenly seem scary.
- Sitting on Santa’s lap for a family Christmas photo or meeting a character at Disneyland can be traumatic for small children as well. Why is Mommy forcing me to sit on that strange man’s lap?
Our children face new experiences every day. If we establish regular morning, afternoon, and bedtime routines, we can provide our children with a sense of security in this changing world. If they know that story time follows bath time and then Mommy or Daddy will tuck them in bed, they’ll be mentally prepared for sleep, and, as any parent knows, this is a big win!
2. Routines Cut Down on Behavior Issues
When children know certain things are expected of them before they get play time or screen time, they’ll complete these tasks without arguing. My sons know they must finish their homework before they get screen time and they are only allowed screen time while I make dinner. At first, they resisted, but now this is part of our daily routine. They don’t always like it, but there are no arguments because the expectations are clear. No homework = no screen time.
If you find yourself battling with your child over homework or chores, try to see if you can incorporate them into a routine. When your expectations are clear, you’ll soon find you have a more cooperative child on your hands. Give it time.
3. Routines Strengthen Family Bonds
Routines don’t all have to be about completing chores and finishing homework. You can build fun routines into your week.
Maybe you have popcorn and watch a movie every Friday night. Or, perhaps you start a family game night once a week. Special Saturday breakfast in your pajamas is another routine your children will look forward to with anticipation. Maybe you go out on a family bike ride or play Frisbee at the park every weekend. It doesn’t matter what the activity is, as long as you find something fun for the family to do together on a regular basis.
When you create fun, family routines, you’ll strengthen your family bond. Since so much of our parenting time is taken up with making sure our children get school work done and chores completed, having fun family time will ensure we carve out time to just enjoy being together.
4. Routines Help Our Children Establish Good Habits
Having routines for brushing teeth, cleaning up, doing homework, and making beds will help our children develop good habits. Children who make their beds automatically often continue doing this well into adulthood. It becomes less of a chore if it is part of a routine. Hopefully, the habits we build when our children are young will stick with them in the future.
“The act of automation increases efficiency in your life, by enabling you to do things without consciously thinking about it.”
The same is true for children. Believe me, it works. My children have finally reached a point where they put away their clothes, make their beds and complete all of their morning routine tasks without any help from me. It takes time, patience, and plenty of help, but soon your children will be able to do these things on their own. Maybe you’ll even be able to stay in bed a little longer on a Saturday morning!
If our children are used to completing difficult assignments before they get free time, we hope they’ll take this work ethic with them to college or use it when they start their first job. We can help our children establish good habits by making them part of a daily routine. These habits will help set them up for success in the future.
5. Routines Help Children Become More Confident
“Knowing what to expect from relationships and activities helps children become more confident” – Dr. Peter Gorski, assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Mommd.
Children who are expected to complete chores independently or get themselves ready in the morning know they can handle being independent. The more skills they master, the more confident they become. Routines help build confidence by establishing a consistent time for developing independence each day.
Routines also make our children feel secure. Secure children are more confident and more willing to try new things.
Here’s a summary of five important reasons kids need routines. Routines:
- Provide a sense of security in a changing world
- Cut down on behavior problems and arguments at home
- Strengthen family bonds
- Help children establish good habits
- Inspire confidence
I hope this post inspires you to create some family routines if you haven’t already. Or, if you had them, but allowed them to slip, try posting a routine checklist in your child’s room to get him/her back on track. Remember, routines will make parenting a little easier. And…
Happier parents = Happier kids = Happier families!
Here are the the routines I use with my own children. You can download all three routines with a white background in the link below:
Click on these links for the green background.