Is it a struggle to get your child into bed at a decent hour without tantrums? Does your child refuse to cooperate when you need to go shopping or take them to school? If you have a hard time getting your child to do things without resistance, developing a daily routine will help.
Routines give children the stability and security they need to feel okay. When your child has a daily routine, it’s easier for them to regulate their emotions and behavior. Without a routine, kids don’t know what to expect. There is a sense of uncertainty, which is felt as anxiety or fear. Younger kids don’t know how to communicate this feeling, so it looks like they’re just being defiant. However, it’s often just a lack of security.
Why do kids resist doing so many things?
To understand how a daily routine can help your child, it’s important to understand why they’re being resistant in the first place. The friction is rooted in how children perceive time much differently than adults. Unlike adults, who keep track of time by days, hours, and minutes, time is meaningless to kids. When you tell your child, “it’s time to go to the store,” they feel like it’s an arbitrary decision that came out of nowhere, and complying threatens their desire to maintain autonomy over their own life.
Having consistent daily routines can avoid the power struggle that comes from trying to get your child to do things throughout the day. Here are some benefits you’ll see when you implement routines in your child’s life:
- Predictability. When your child has a set time for eating meals, waking up, taking naps, and going to bed, they’ll feel less anxiety during the day. Predictability creates a feeling of safety and security for your child.
- Self-regulation. Kids continue developing the ability to regulate their emotions and behaviors well into adolescence, and having a routine gives them a solid foundation for this need.
- Stronger family bonds. When your child’s routine includes spending time with family, like taco nights with a good movie every Saturday, they’ll develop stronger bonds with everyone in the family.
- Less fighting. Once your children know what to expect at specific times, they won’t feel so disrupted when you tell them what to do next. If they know bedtime is 8:00 p.m., after a few days, most kids will stop fighting you on going to bed when they realize it’s a positive thing.
You also won’t have to tell your child to stop doing things, like watching TV or playing video games. When you have a set time for their activities, you’re less likely to catch them playing games when it’s time to play outside or take a nap. With a dependable routine, your child will know they can play games again tomorrow, so they won’t put up as much of a fight.
How to create a routine for your child
Now that you know the benefits of establishing a reliable daily routine, here are some pointers for creating a routine that works for your whole family.
1. Condense their routine to your home as much as possible
There are many aspects to your child’s routine that happen outside of the home, like going to school and attending extracurricular activities. If possible, try to move some of these to your home.
For example, if you have a child on the autism spectrum who receives ABA therapy, consider having their sessions at home to make them feel more comfortable. When you can eliminate one instance of having to get ready and leave the house, you not only save time, but it’s less stressful for your child.
2. Build your child’s routine around your needs
Do you workout at home, or need time to relax in the day? Put your needs into a daily schedule first and then create your child’s routine around them. For instance, schedule your child’s nap for the time you plan on resting. If you need to do a workout and can’t be interrupted, schedule your child’s TV or screen time simultaneously.
3. Be flexible
Every child benefits from a routine, but be flexible. A rigid routine might create chaos when circumstances change. For example, if your child wakes up late and eating breakfast at the table will make them miss their bus to school, give them a cereal bar or something else they can eat on the way to school.
Do what works best for your family
All families have different needs, so create your child’s routine in a way that works for you. Things won’t be smooth all the time, but as long as you have some dependable points throughout the day, your child will benefit from their routine.