Routines… Sounds complicated. Yet, once set, it’s simple. Help kids feel secure, grow life skills, and accomplish healthy practices. Patterns help parents feel ordered, and it also relieves pressure. So what can parents do to make this a wholesome and fun experience for their young ones?
Repetition of certain activities continuously and constantly help us build a routine. It is a fact. As a grown-up, you have a system. You have a pattern of doing things. For example, close your eyes for a minute and think this through. ‘I wake up, and then I ____,’ fill in the blank with the activities you do till you reach your workplace.
Excellent! While you thought about this and were recounting or tracing your steps, did you realize there was or is a method to that madness? A structured approach or a systematic plan to get those things done in a specific order. Many of those, by now, is second nature. Most of which were taught to you by your parents or mentors. Routine, unlike a schedule, means a flow of activities in a sequence, while a schedule will pin this down to a set time for an activity.
The same is valid for children. Help a child build a routine, and you will have a child who can function independently. Well, at least when the child is old enough to do their tasks with zero supervision! An ancient Chinese proverb says, ‘give a man a fish; they will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and they will eat for a lifetime.’
Let’s take this as literally as it is and apply some of that to building routines for our children. Habits are formed by repetitive action. A 2009 study by European Journal of Social Psychology showed that it takes anywhere from 18 days to 254 days to form a habit. That’s why the greats follow specific routines, and all put on repeat day in and day out. That ensures they know what systems or structures will help them build their success stories. It never is an overnight success. Follow a routine that matches your need; for example, when your child is very young, you might want to base your routine around the baby’s needs. Things like feeding times, bath time, nap time, playtime, and a little fresh air will revolve around the little one’s timing. Usually referred to as attachment parenting or baby-led parenting. And essential in the early years of your child’s life.
The second form of routine will change as your little one grows up. Here the routine will now revolve around the parents’ schedule. So, technically, meal times, outings, waking up, etc., will now focus more on the need of the parent to give their child/ children the much-needed time and attention in the best way they can.
So how do you create a routine that will work for your family?
First, you will need to analyze your day and a typical week. Then, consider which family member needs to do what during that day or week. For example, how many meals are required at home, work, or school? Who will clean the dishes or do the chores at home? Are there any extracurricular activities for the children? Do you, as parents, have date nights or child-free time to yourself? Considering all this will help you create a chronological list of who needs support or help at what task. Remember, while trying to get our children to build or follow routines, it is crucial to lead by example. Face it. We are our children’s superheroes. What we do, they do too!
Next, think about the priorities from that list you made. Define the ones that are non-negotiable and must be done daily. Once you have a precise list (Yes, write this down, too), you can create an easy-to-follow routine. Have the children pitch in and make it more of an adventure/ discovery activity rather than a tedious chore or to-do task. Now for a pattern to fall in place, you will need a schedule in the starting phase. That helps you get used to how things are done and in which order. As mentioned, some things will have a specific time to be done, such as getting ready for school or work. And some will be flexible, like playtime or picking up their toys. Maybe even sleep time on weekends.
Next comes the litmus test. No routine, schedule, or plan is foolproof. A test run or trial period is mandatory. It will help you smooth out any crinkles in the plan. Do this for a week or fortnight. Create a snarliest of sorts – iron out the crinkles. Then stick to the routine. And as you get better at it, make sure to revise the process as you refine the flow of the practice. Repeat the process until you and the children know it, like the back of your hand. Have fun, as mentioned earlier. You could create a chart. Write down all the actionable for the day. Track completed tasks by giving each other stars for a good job done. Allow the kids to earn brownie points for chores, even if they are small and manageable. Reward and recognition work wonders, especially during the learning process.
After your litmus test of sorts, here comes the all-important part while teaching your children to set and follow routines and set expectations for them. And while doing this, do not set them up for failure. Set them up to achieve success by giving easy tasks first and slowly making them complex. They were patient, loving, nurturing, and an accurate guide to your young ones. Show them grace if they fail. After all, tomorrow will be a new day, and they can try again! Most of all are flexible with the children as they learn.
Remember, this is a routine, not a schedule. If it does not go as planned, no dramas. Re-evaluate, re-plan, and re-do the activity or task. Make it as fun as possible. And watch your little ones glow as they grow!
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