How consistent routines can benefit your child
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
How to establish consistent routines
Now that you know more about the benefits of having a daily routine, how exactly can you arrange an effective one for your child?
Here are some tips and examples for you to consider:
Example: Wake up, potty time, brush teeth, have a bath, get dressed, eat breakfast, put on shoes, and wait by the door to go out with mummy or daddy to preschool.
To make things easier for everyone (especially sleep-deprived parents!), it’s a good idea to prepare certain things the night before.
Setting aside which clothes to wear, making breakfast and helping your kids pack their school bags every night instead of rushing about the next morning will cut down on stress for everyone.
Example: Eat lunch, wash hands, play time, keep toys, read a book, naptime.
Give your child countdown reminders as to how much time they have left before the next transition in the routine.
Such as telling him he has ten minutes left of playtime before having to keep them away for naptime — or if he doesn’t know how to tell time yet, show him on the clock that when the big hand gets to 12, time’s up.
Example: Brush teeth, have a bath, put pyjamas on, read a book, bedtime.
It’s good to have a night time ritual with your child to help him wind down at the end of the day and go to sleep without much fuss.
This can include storytelling, reading to him from a book, having a conversation, or singing songs — but just try to avoid any exciting play or activities before bedtime as it will get him too worked up to sleep!
Print out routine charts
It’s helpful for children to have a visual reminder of their daily routine for them to refer to (and settle any minor disputes or disagreements).
You can create one together with big colourful pictures and decorate it any way your child wants, or you can even print it out from free templates available online.
Stick it up somewhere that your child can see (perhaps up on his bedroom wall, or on the fridge) so he can easily refer to it as a reminder of the next step in his daily routine.
Make sure that the tasks you include in your child’s routine are something he is capable of accomplishing for his age.
A two year old can feed himself at breakfast time, a four year old can dress himself after having a bath and a seven year old can make his own bed after waking up in the morning.
However all children develop differently, so just evaluate what your child is capable of so that his routine is suitable for him.
Flexibility is key
Although a consistent routine is important for young children, there is no need to be too rigid.
Children also need to learn how to be flexible with any small changes that may arise, because life itself is unpredictable!
If you find that maybe some parts of the routine are not working well, it’s fine to make some adjustments and try to figure out what works best for you and your child.
Remember that a daily routine is not a fixed regimental schedule, it should be a guideline to the order of events which happens daily so your child will know what to expect.
It’s never too late to start
If you don’t have consistent routines set in place for your child yet and you’re unsure whether it’s too late to start now, don’t worry because even though it might take a short while for your child to adjust, he’ll get the hang of things soon enough.
Although it’s good to be open to adjustments and to remain flexible, you must be firm in sticking to a routine and just tell your child that it’s the new way of doing things now.
He might need some time to adjust to the new routine and may try to break out of it, but try to keep him on track and understand that consistency is beneficial to your child in the longrun and will help him do well later on in life.
Have you established consistent routines for your children? Do you have any personal tips for other parents that have worked for you? Share your comments with us below.