How important is it to establish good consistent routines for your child and what exactly are the benefits?
As adults, we have consistent routines and a series of patterns in our lives which we perform everyday without even thinking much about.
It could be your daily ritual of stopping by the kopitiam on the way to work for your morning brew and then eating a light breakfast at your desk while you go through your Inbox on the computer.
Or turning off all the lights in your house, bolting the main door, brushing your teeth and watching an episode of your favourite TV show in bed before calling it a night.
As simple as it may sound, having consistent routines is good for not just parents but young children too and it can even help them to thrive in the long-run.
What are the benefits?
Whether you’re a parent who enjoys sticking to your favourite pattern of doing things, or one who prefers to just “go with the flow”, it is important to introduce routine and some structure in your child’s life, particularly in early childhood.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children need consistent routines to feel secure and parents are strongly encouraged to provide their kids with structured daily routines but also remaining flexible depending on the situation.
So what exactly does your child gain by starting a good routine?
Sense of security
If your child is able to see that there is a predictable routine in place, it will give him the assurance of how things are supposed to pan out throughout the day, thus giving him a sense of security.
For example, if he has just started preschool, knowing the day’s series of events will ease the transition as he is made aware that after mummy drops him off at school and he goes about his day there, you will then pick him up again after his nap time to bring him home, give him a bath and have dinner together with the whole family.
Once your child knows what his daily routine is, he will begin to understand what is expected of him for certain events, such as how he is supposed to put away his toys after playtime and then wash his hands for snack time.
Instead of giving rewards, you should set up a consistent routine for him which has positive end results — for example, after clearing his toys away and washing up, he gets to eat a delicious snack (which is not exactly a reward, but a positive result of completing this particular routine).
This will allow him to be more responsible and follow through on the daily tasks he is supposed to complete.
If your child’s daily events are predictable, such as when they happen around the same way at roughly the same time every day, he will feel confident and in control of his world.
Take for example his bedtime routine — he knows that he will have to brush his teeth, take a bath, get dressed in his pyjamas, then you will read him a story book before turning out the lights for bedtime.
However, if his daily routine is inconsistent and is quite random, it may cause him anxiety and he may feel a little apprehensive about things around him.
If your child demands to eat dessert before his dinner, having a consistent routine will help him to remember that dessert only comes after dinner, once he has finished eating all of his food — instead of him just getting his way and having instant gratification.
40 years of Standford research has found that children who are able to stay patient and have self-control will eventually grow up to achieve higher exam scores, lower levels of substance abuse, lower chances of obesity, better abilities to cope with stress, better social skills and generally fare better in a range of other life measures.
Since your child knows what his daily routine is, he might take initiative to carry it out without even being told.
Once your child gets home from preschool, he knows that he is supposed to take off his shoes, put them inside the shoe cupboard, put his bag in his room and go wash his hands.
If this routine is set in place from the beginning, he will remember to do this on his own without having to be told as kids tend to do well when they know what to expect.
Minimises power struggles
We’ve all been there — your child wants to watch tv but it’s already his bedtime, so a little argument breaks out.
If he has a proper routine, this kind of power struggle can be avoided because he knows that after watching one or two episodes of cartoons after dinner, it’s supposed to be bathtime and then off to bed.
Another good way to avoid power struggles is to let your child be involved in creating the routine and listen to some of his suggestions, such as whether homework should be completed before or after bath time.
This will allow him to feel like he had some say and power in planning out his routine too and he might be more willing to follow it consistently.
Go to the next page to see how exactly you can start consistent routines for your kids to follow