Last week I shared with you in detail about one of my favorite parenting strategies, Be Kind and Firm (Click here if you missed it). This week we'll discuss the importance of establishing routines.
Imagine if you woke up at a different time each day, then sometimes you took a shower and sometimes you didn't, some days you ate breakfast and some days you didn't, when you start your work day some days you started at 9 and other days at 12, then every single day you were expected to perform a different job but you never knew which one until you started doing it, when you get home a few days a week dinner is ready, but on other days it's not and you are expected to cook except you never know ahead of time...ok I think you get my point.
Living this way would be extremely chaotic and cause us a lot of stress (especially if you have the Gate 5-Gate of Waiting in your Human Design chart, which holds to fixed patterns and rituals). All humans need to have a general feeling of what to expect each day, this is especially true for little humans who don't yet have all of the coping tools that adults have. (Some of you may even be thinking...wow that would be so exciting...to never know what to expect each day.) For a child/teen this chaotic way of being can cause them to feel overwhelmed and stressed out; resulting in tantrums, meltdowns, power struggles and YOUR world being a lot more stressful.
The solution? Establish a daily, weekly, and situational routines so that your child always knows what to expect, especially at the most stressful times of the day. When they are little (3 and under) YOU make the routine but once your child is communicating and has preferences it's time to get their input. Clearly there are certain things that they need to do every day. Get ready in the morning, go to school, do homework, eat dinner, and get ready to bed are the most common activities that having a routine can be a life saver.
Top 3 Reasons to Start a Routine Today
1. Routines take YOU out of the dictator role so there is no longer a need for your child to fight with you. (most of the time)
2. Routines build your child's confidence by allowing them to be in control of their day and they feel good when they know what to do without you nagging them.
3. Routines reduce the stress in your life. Habits (aka routines) free up mental space that we can then use to focus on more creative pursuits.
Where do you start? Think of one time in your day that feels really stressful for you. Is it getting ready in the am? Homework? Bedtime? Just choose 1 to start to experiment with.
If your child is 4 and older start a dialogue about creating some routines in your family. If they resist talk with them about how they would feel if you stopped making them dinner every night, or that every day the rules in the house changed, or if sometimes they were able to play with their favorite toy (aka Ipad) while other days they weren't. Would they like that?
Tell them you want to come up with a routine for ______(bedtime, homework, etc) and come up with the steps that everyone is going to follow. Let them know that it can just be an experiment to see if it helps their day go smoother and that you are open to moving things around.
For example: Regular AM routine
1. Wake up and come downstairs between 6/6:30
2. Spend 10 minutes waking up and deciding on breakfast
3. Eat breakfast
4. Go back upstairs, wash face and brush teeth
5. Pick out clothes (if not done already)
6. Come back down, get on shoes
7. Pack up backpack and lunch
8. Head out the door by 7:45 (or whatever time allows for 10 minutes before school bell)
For younger kids you can even take pictures of your child doing each activity and then have it posted so instead of you saying to them, "Did you do such and such yet?" You can say, "What does your chart say to do next?"
Use the sample AM as a framework for building in other routines into your child's day. Make a note of how your family functions when you do this and allow yourself to be flexible on weekends and when there is a change in the schedule. There is such a thing as being too rigid so the key is finding the healthy balance for your family.
Stay tuned for next week when we'll discuss a new way to view mistakes made by our children (and ourselves).
Jennifer Bronsnick, MSW, LCSW is passionate about supporting moms to be resilient. As a mother of three daughters under 8 and a survivor of postpartum depression and anxiety Jennifer knows exactly how challenging motherhood can be. She also knows that there is hope for all of us and with accurate information, support and inspiration that mothers and families can thrive.
Jennifer’s years of clinical experience as a social worker and her own personal journey gives her the unique ability to guide other moms on their path to health and wellness. You can also learn more about Jennifer, the services she offers and purchase her books on maternal self-care at www.themindfulfamily.com/jennifer.