A routine is a sequence of actions or tasks that are regularly followed.
Benefits of having a clear routine at home:
Routines have huge benefits for us and our child but the main thing is that having an agreed pattern and schedule can ease stress and save time in the family as everyone knows what each family member has to do and when.
- Teaches children to follow a schedule which can be useful when out in the ‘real world ’ i.e. school, university, work etc.
- Reduces your negative voice in the home – you can refer to the agreed routine – which makes you safe company to be with.
- A routine helps your child understand the balance between enjoyable tasks such as playing, and functional tasks such as brushing their teeth.
- Children who have a predictable daily routine thrive better as it reminds them they are in a secure and loving environment.
- Eliminates the power struggle: since you agreed to the routine you’re not ‘bossing’ the child around, you are simply ‘reminding’ him of his tasks.
- Makes them responsible and independent – they know what they need to do and are more likely to take charge of their own activities instead of waiting for you to tell them or scream at them! They learn to manage their own time and tasks.
Here’s how it works:
- Do it together: nobody likes to be told what to do or have fingers pointed at them. So for routines to work you need to set them up as a team. Try to let them have a say in what their schedule will look like (when and how they do what they need to do) and control what they can. Of course there are things they cannot control i.e. IF they need to brush their teeth but maybe they can be part of the WHEN and HOW.
- You can have several routines: one for ‘getting out of the house’ in the morning, one for ‘when you get home’, the ‘bedtime routine’, ‘homework routine’ etc. The shorter they are the easier it is to follow for your child since they include fewer tasks. Start with the one that stresses you out the most i.e. the morning routine.
- Together make a list of all the tasks that need to be done in the particular routines i.e. ‘bedtime’: walk up the stairs, put on PJs, brush teeth, bedtime story etc. Then put them in an order and add times to them i.e. 7.30pm go upstairs, put on PJs etc.
- According to age you can even have the steps as images, just be sure to make the routine workable for both of you.
How to implement:
- Reminder: start by reminding the child about his routine, ‘Sam, in 20 minutes it is time to XX’ etc.
- Do it together: if the routine and the tasks are new to the child you can do them together in a step-by-step way. You can first show him, then do it together and slowly let him do it by himself.
- Let go of control and perfectionism: bear in mind it is not all about just getting it done, but that by doing it together you teach your child how to live in a community where everyone sticks to a plan and does their part to make it work. And keep the long term goal in mind i.e. independence, co-operation, respect etc. So accept that it might not get done to your standard but settle for OK, i.e emptying the dishwasher, setting the table, tidying the room etc.
Dealing with resistance to following the routine:
- Be consistent: every time you give in or give up you will make it so much harder for yourself next time. You teach the child that he just has to try harder at getting away with not doing what was agreed.
- Things take time: accept that they might need some time to get used to the routines.
- CONTROL YOURSELF: before you deal with your child’s resistance, behaviour or request STOP, BREATHE, check in with your emotions, accept them as they are and let them go. Remind yourself it is normal that kids try to get away with not doing things, i.e. going to bed, doing homework etc. – and you just need to stay firm, measured and consistent. Remind yourself also that the measurement of a good routine doesn’t just depend on the child’s behaviour but on ours and how we feel, i.e. that we stay calm and consistent and feel we dealt well with it afterwards without losing it or giving in.
- Allow them to have a reaction: when your child is resistant to following the routine STOP, BREATHE and THINK, ‘It’s not my job to control how they feel, I can only control my own emotions.’ It’s OK for them to say NO or that they don’t want to etc.
- Listen, even though you don’t agree: once you have allowed them to have a reaction try to show them that you hear them. LISTEN: ‘I can hear you are angry right now, I understand that you are angry because you don’t want to go to bed, and that is OK.’ But that doesn’t change the fact that he needs to do it. Sometimes listening is all it takes to get your child back to co-operating with you. So don’t see it as a failure from your side or theirs – accept it and then deal with it.
- Less is more: words can be dangerous. Say what you agreed to and STOP there.
- Don’t get into negotiation – this sounds like you are trying to convince the child about what you are saying, plus opens you up to further negotiation.
- Give positive directions: tell them what you want to see NOT what you don’t want i.e. ‘it’s time to go to bed’ instead of ‘STOP screaming’.
- What is behind the resistance? Stay curious, not furious: are they tired, upset, sad, hungry etc.? Is the plan not realistic or understood, do we need to re-evaluate and change it? Remember that it is only a trial and there should always be room to go back and say, ‘Right that didn’t work! OK, so how might we do things differently?’
- And you can agree to the consequences IF your child doesn’t stick to the routine i.e. less screen time, loss of privileges etc. CLICK here to read about consequences
Awareness question: What part of the day is stressful for you? This is when you might need to set up agreed routines.
Quote: We have a plan till we have another – there is always room for change and improvement.