Freedom in Routine
In these unprecedented times, most families have had their daily schedules and routines turned upside down. And because no one is really sure how long this will last, or exactly what the future looks like, we are all feeling a wide range of emotions as we navigate the uncertainty. If it's hard on us, think of how much harder this is for a child.
I'm a control freak✅, with our big move I realized how much our kiddos are creators of habit as well. But so many people have a negative connotation for words like "control" and "routine", so I thought I would take a moment to share my experience here.
We were all thrown into this "new" normal and have been in survival mode. But one thing we can do to support our children, is to create the most predictable and responsive routine possible. (Note: not reactive, but responsive because we all have needed to be flexible and go with the flow).
However, consistent routines and rules help create order and structure to your day. Things go more smoothly when you and your child (spouse/ family members/ pets/ co-workers) know what to expect. When we all have correct expectations of each others, we build stronger relationships or trust and respect.
I'm always looking for ways to reduce stress in our day. I have found when life is busy, routines can help you feel more organized and in control, which lowers stress. A routine helps our children understand the balance between enjoyable tasks such as play, and functional tasks such as brushing their teeth. We have found when a child has a predictable daily routine, they feel more in control and empowers them to be more self directed, which builds self confidence. This routine also helps to remind them that they are in a secure, loving environment, with a balance of fun and functional things to do. They start to understand that they sometimes have to do things (work) they don't want to do, to achieve the things they do want to do.
So I quickly realized that words like "routine" and "control" weren't as bad at they sounded. It's all bout balance right, and the more flexible you are and able to adapt when needed the more successful you can be. But that doesn't mean that it's bad to create a routine for the things you do have control over.
It's about balance right, you can have control and not be a helicopter mom. You can set your kids up with a routine, allowing your children develop a sense of responsibility and some basic skills like the ability to manage time. As they learn that the more efficiently they can complete those chores the more time they have free to play, relax, and be creative. These are skills children can use for life. And when children can do their parts of the routine with less help or supervision from the parent, it also helps them become more independent and self confidence. So I soon realized our routines were critical for our children's growth.
Routines can be a way of teaching healthy habits, like brushing their teeth, eating healthy, getting some exercise, or washing their hands.
This means that routines can be good for children’s health. For example, children who wash their hands more regularly might be less likely to get colds and other common illnesses. Also, routines can reduce stress, and lower stress is good for children’s immune systems.
Daily routines help set our body clocks too. For example, bedtime routines help children’s bodies ‘know’ when it’s time to sleep. This can be a big help when children reach adolescence and their body clocks start to change.
So I have people ask me all the time, how do you even get started? How can you create a new routine? My answer is always the same.... start really small, make it doable (something so easy, you can't make an excuse to not do it), and be clear on why this new routine is important to you.
Tip 1: Be consistent! Consistency is doing the same thing every time. Again, if you start with super small and doable tasks, you are more likely to actually stick to it, and the more you stick to it the more you get into the routine of doing it. The more routine the takes becomes, the more second nature it is to complete it and the less energy it takes to do it. So the easier and easier it becomes. Thus to start, it's all about breaking inertia, taking action, and gaining momentum. Remember nothing changes without movement. A single step forward allows you to open the door to limitless possibilities and gets the momentum ball rolling. Being consistent over time is how you make radical change. The same applies with children: consistency means that you respond to your child’s behavior the same way every time no matter what is going on or how you’re feeling. Misbehaviors are less likely to occur again if you always use the same consequence, like ignoring or time-out. Good behaviors are likely to be repeated if you let your child know you like them or praise them.
Tip 2: Make It Predictable! Predictability is expecting or knowing what is going to happen. For our family this was best with visuals. We made a list of each step of the routine, this will help provide predictability and give a sense of control. Each of you will be able to see what needs to happen next in the day which will provide a sense of security and comfort. When you know what to expect and what's to come you are less likely to react negatively. The same is true for your child, predictability means your child knows what will happen and how you will respond. When your daily routines are predictable, your child knows what to expect for the day. When your rules are predictable, your child knows how you will react to her behavior.
Tip 3: Follow-through! Follow-through is enforcing the consequence (“say what you mean and mean what you say”). What you do is so much more meaningful than what you say. If you tell your child a behavior will be punished, you punish it every time it happens. If you tell your child he will be rewarded for a behavior, you give him the reward after he has done what you asked. To be consistent and predictable, we need to follow through. Follow-through is important for ALL behaviors. This includes behaviors we like and don’t like. So make sure you are setting the example and you are showing up and participating in the routine too. This includes debriefing and talking out when met with resistance. Why is this routine important. For kids they need to hear it's because you care about them, and you want them to be healthy, comfortable, and have time to enjoy the fun things in life. And for a new routine for yourself it's the same tell yourself you are going to give your body what it needs to feel good, that your health is important, that you want to feel good enough to enjoy life and have time to do the things that matter most to you. But connecting to your personal reasons WHY are so important to your success.
Tip 4: Take Time to Celebrate! Be sure to use that extra time wisely when you efficiently complete the routine make time to reward yourself (& the kiddos). Do something fun, be creative, spend time connecting, etc.
Hopefully you find this helpful.
Check out other blog posts of ours with other ideas for setting clear expectations with to do lists, motivating the kids to form healthy habits and parents to get going in the mornings?
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