A Routine World: Why Kids Crave It

Routine. What would we do without it?

We have routines for the morning. Routines at work, school and for bedtime. We even have routine coffee breaks!

Routine provides order in a complex, often hectic world. Having well-established routines…

  • provides a sense of structure (for comfort!)
  • builds good habits (for life!)
  • increases productivity (for sanity!)
  • builds momentum (for success!)
  • makes tasks easier (for learning!)

So how do we use routines to spur on development?

If you thought routine was important to your life…it’s mission critical for your kids.

Babies, especially, need regular sleep and frequent meals. And as they grow older, having a sense of knowing helps your child think and feel more independent, safe and secure.

It’s the safety and security aspect that is key. However stable their environment, your child is changing every day as they grow from infant to adult. And while we know change is a learning opportunity, humans instinctively fear it.

Kids are confronted by change daily. And the younger they are, the more change they experience as they interact with the world around them. Suspicious animals, environments, objects and foodstuffs are everywhere.  Kids turn to the comfort of routine for confidence!

Why do kids need routines? Because routines give them a sense of security and help them develop self-discipline.

– Dr Laura Markham

Then they go to pre-school, school, and college. They get their first job. And between the  milestones, there are many new experiences along the way. New teachers every year, homework, coursework and exams. They take part in school performances, sports competitions and after-school clubs. And all this in addition to the biological changes occurring in their bodies.

Routine then helps kids take increasing control of their lives. And as their routines evolve, routines let them take on more and more responsibility.

In fact, the benefits of good routines just keep growing!

  • Reduces confrontation: Routines can help avoid arguments and anxiety as everyone knows what they should be doing and what happens next.
  • Looking forward to things: Kids know when to expect things at certain times, and the regular things they enjoy they can look forward to.
  • Empowerment: Routines give kids a sense of purpose and allow them to take charge of some aspects of their lives, helping to build their confidence.

Top tips to encourage good routines

So we now know the significant importance of good routines, but what should we do to encourage it? And when do we start?

In the early months, kids tell us what they need and when. But over time they begin to get into a routine, a natural rhythm, all by themselves. When kids have mastered this natural rhythm can we begin to introduce routine, but only tasks which are suitable for their age. For example, brushing their teeth or getting dressed.

For young kids, dinnertime is a great place to start setting a regular routine. Sitting together at the dinner table is great quality time and gives your kids the opportunity to share their day and talk about their feelings. (Trust us, this will really pay off when they are teens and may be less inclined to tell you anything!)   This is also a brilliant time to include some responsibility in your child’s daily routine, such as helping to set or clear the table or washing the dishes after supper.

I LOVE this sample routine as food for thought.

And regardless of how exhausted you or your child may be, don’t be tempted to skip winding down for the day. This is part of an evening ritual which allows you and your child to unwind. It also helps make bedtime run more smoothly. This is usually the time of day when parent and child can spend some quality time, so fight the urge to start YOUR individual chores (such as work emails) until your child has gone to bed.

Boy playing in bubble bath

If this isn’t possible, consider trading off these duties with your partner to ensure your child has quality time with each parent on a regular basis. Take the time to find out what wind-down strategy works best for your child. Some children are actually energised instead of relaxed by a warm bath, so if that’s the case with your child, do bath time earlier in the evening and use another wind-down ritual.

And for older kids, a screen time routine is a good place to start. This sets out when your child is  allowed to use their devices and for how long each day. Creating a screen time schedule is the first step in taming your kids’ screen time, and helps them learn self-restraint (which gives them more time for non-screen activities).

Whatever routine you agree, ensure there is some room to be flexible. You might be out late at night on a family outing, have unexpected guests arrive, or need to run some evening errands. In these instances, it’s important to keep your cool. If you express frustration or anger about disrupting the routine, your child will too. Prepare kids for such unexpected events and show them that though it can happen from time to time, the routine will return the next day.

Lay the groundwork for simple routines and you’ll smooth the path for both you and your kids!

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