Why a routine is important for your child’s health and self-discipline
While you may be an impulsive and adventurous kind of person who likes to do things spur of the moment, it leaves your child with an unstructured environment where they never know what is going to happen next. This can cause undue anxiety and stress as they learn to navigate the world.
Growing up is hard
Children have a lot of fears. They fear the dark, the monster under the bed, the new vegetable on their dinner plate, a new teacher, talking Elmo…and that is just one day in the life of a child. Add new fears to that every day along with learning new skills like how to get dressed by yourself, how to get along with others, how to have patience, and it doesn’t get easier as they get bigger.
Many children do not live in the same home throughout their growing up years and often attend several different schools. Babysitters may come and go leaving a child to wonder who will be taking care of them at any given time. These changes dissolve the child’s sense of safety leaving them anxious and less able to cope with their daily life. It is easy to forget just how tough it is to grow up.
How then does a child make sense of the world around them when it is in a constant state of change? Somehow, they must learn to grow and manage the stress of growing while they are in the process of growing. It’s a lot to ask of a little kid. Some change can’t be avoided, which is why you must set a solid foundation and structure your child can rely on when life goes haywire.
Routines are like security blankets
Part of a parent’s job is to ease stress and build confidence whenever possible. Children do not have a lot of control over their own lives and not knowing what will happen next often cause children to be unruly and difficult to manage. Kids act out because that is the only way they know how to express their discomfort and fear.
Research has suggested that parents who encourage routine and structure in the child’s life typically have children that are more confident and well-adjusted than their unstructured peers.
Routines offer the child a sense of security. They know they get up in the morning and eat breakfast, brush their teeth, get dressed and go to school. They know after school they have a snack and do homework. They play, have dinner, take a bath, brush their teeth, spend a little time with mom and/or dad and go to bed. That knowledge is what allows them to feel secure enough to handle the stress of the things that happen in between those times.
Other reasons routines are helpful for children include:
- Assists with understanding time management.
- Establishes important habits like getting up on time and hygiene.
- Strengthens relationships with caregivers.
- Helps them understand the need for organization.
- Helps build confidence in self and environment.
- Teaches them how to control themselves and their environments in a healthy way.
Consistent routines make happy children. There will be times when the schedule is interrupted and that is to be expected in a normal household. Just get back on track as soon as you are able.
Routines don’t have to be boring
The “fly by the seat of your pants” individuals we mentioned above may be wondering how they will survive such a boring, mundane existence. Structure is important, but it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. There are times when breaking the rule is as important as the rule itself.
You don’t want your child to be rigid and inflexible and you don’t want a change in routine to cause them intense anxiety. Flexibility allows you to teach your child that sometimes there are special circumstances and reasons to do things a little differently. For example, staying up late to see a red moon eclipse, or eating dinner on a blanket in the living room like a picnic, or watching TV a little longer to see a special event, are all things that are learning experiences in and of themselves and can be important lessons.
Establish a routine for each part of your day. Morning, lunchtime or after school for older children, mealtime, and bedtime. Your routine will reduce the amount of stress on your child and give him/her the security and comfort of a safe environment in which to learn and grow.