Read an expert’s advice on dog training, and you will discover that the two keywords are “repetition” and “patience.” This is also true for raising children. Children learn through repetition, just like our pets. Children learn best practices for a productive, healthy life through an adult teaching them how to do things correctly, and then by repeating those actions every day. Creating an easy-to-follow, consistent routine will be one of the best things you can do as the parent of young children.
Having a household routine will help establish expectations. If a child knows that part of the routine when finishing a bath is to put the bath toys in the bucket, he or she will be less likely to fight you on picking up. After all, it’s just part of the routine of taking a bath. Of course, this isn’t a foolproof system. It’s only natural for children to push back every once in a while, but if you keep things light-hearted and fun instead of heavy-handed, this will prevent the pushbacks from happening too often.
Having a household routine will help your child feel independent and therefore, more confident. Starting at a very young age, children love to do things by themselves. Having a routine allows them to achieve that independence. Even toddlers can learn to get pajamas out of a drawer and pick a book off the shelf to read. For older kids, having a task chart enables them to check off their tasks for their routine as they complete them. If you use a reward-based task chart like Cadily’s, your kids will love completing tasks on their own.
Having a routine can help you create a calmer household. If you have children, the idea of having a calm household can seem just a fantasy, but routines allow kids to know what comes next. This can give your household a sense of order and structure.
How do you form a routine?
- Start by setting up a simple bedtime routine, and making sure your children get to bed on time. Children cannot be successful in school if they don’t have enough sleep. Life happens, but do whatever is possible to get your child into bed at a reasonable time. Even if you are a night owl, your children cannot be. During the school year, school start times dictate your child’s schedule.
- Give your child a task list for the morning. Instead of repeating the same orders to your children each morning, see how they perform with a task list. If your child is not a morning person, he or she may be hearing you just as Charlie Brown hears his teachers. For non-readers, make sure the task list includes icons, so your child understands what is expected.
- Have a more flexible schedule set for when your child gets home from school. Your child needs to complete homework, do household chores, and prepare for the next day, but keep this time of day less rigid than the morning and bedtime routine. Kids need downtime. They need time to explore and daydream.
- Organize their space. Get your house organized as well. Show your children where they will place their next day’s clothes that they will pick out the evening before. Purchase the supplies for the kids to make their own school lunches, and keep them in a place where the kids can reach. Hang a series of hooks by the back door to show the kids where they will place their jackets and backpacks at the end of the school day.
- Set an example. Model good behavior by getting into a routine for yourself. Figure out which nights will be difficult to prepare dinner, and plan crockpot meals or “sandwich night” for those nights. Schedule your time to work out. Schedule date nights with your spouse, because we all know that if we don’t plan those ahead of time, they don’t happen. Share your schedule with your children so they can see you following good habits as well.
- Use parenting resources. At Cadily we offer products to help you and your child keep track of your child’s routine or daily tasks. Have your child keep track of his or her household jobs and the rewards earned upon completion with the Cadily job chart.
No matter what age your children are, you can give them the gift of providing structure and routine – even if you start small. Perhaps you can create a task list of what your child needs to accomplish independently in the morning. Begin with two or three tasks and reward the kids for following those by themselves. Award them more if they do those jobs without being reminded. Add to the task list each week.
You may have resistance. Your kids may have become dependent on you to clean up their messes. Stay strong, Moms and Dads. You are not being mean when you have high expectations for your children. It is not unreasonable of you to establish some order or routine in your household, regardless of your children’s ages.
Remember, parenting, just like dog-training, requires repetition and patience. And love. A whole lot of love.