Routines, routines, routines

Starting a new school year means starting new routines.  And like anything with kids, setting developmentally appropriate expectations is imperative.  Remember: clear boundaries are good for kids.  Kids feel safety knowing what is expected of them (yes, even teenagers).  You children’s teachers (whether it be pre-school or high school) use the first few days of school to set their classroom expectations and you should definitely capitalize on this transitional time and use the first few days/weeks to establish your new home expectations now that the school year has begun.

Other benefits of establishing routines: they enhance collaboration and cooperation within your family, they decrease power struggles, they foster task completion, they foster independence, and they help kids stay on task.

I recommend writing down a list (adding pictures for kids who are not yet reading) so that you can simply refer to the list as the year progresses and add or delete things as necessary.  It is good for kids to see that you are making an intentional and conscious choice to make routines a priority.  The choice of routine items and the order are dependent on your child’s age, abilities, and needs.

Think about what would make you mornings, afternoons or evenings run smoother and define those as expectations for your routine.

Morning routine suggestions: wake up, go potty, brush teeth, get dressed, make bed, put dirty clothes in laundry basket, make/eat breakfast, put shoes on, pack lunch, check backpack.

Afternoon routine suggestions:  put coat/shoes away neatly, empty backpack, do homework, eat snack, set table (or other chores), and play*.  Put it in the order that makes sense for your family. Some kids really need to just run around after a day of being at school whereas others might want to come home and do their homework to get it out-of-the-way before relaxing.  It is imperative that your child has some play or free time as part of their routine.  They are humans and need to let off steam so that they don’t explode with energy or emotions at an inappropriate time later in the day.

Evening routine suggestions: clean up from dinner, make lunch, shower/bath, pajamas, brush teeth, brush hair, layout tomorrows clothes, read, lights out (set a time).

*If TV is part of your routine (at any part of the day) I would strongly encourage you to put a time-frame on that  (30 min is reasonable for school age kids).  It is OK to say no TV during the school week, too, you make the decisions that are best for your kids and you set the conditions for them to rise.  (It is also ok to use TV as a reward for completing their list of routines…but be careful using rewards too much or too often.)

Their will be times when the routine needs to shift because of something out of the ordinary happening in your day.  Consistent use, not strict use, is the goal.  You want to show your kids how we flex and bend to meet the needs of our lives but still go back to the routine when it is possible because, again, routines give kids comforting boundaries and structure.

Kids will have the opportunity to cooperate and even behaviorally thrive if they know what the expectations are and are able to meet those expectations.  Remember: set yourself (and your kids!) up for success.

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