Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Ready, Set, Routine!!

How many times have you heard that kids need routine?  Your pediatrician, your mother-in-law, your child’s teacher, your best friend, your child care   provider--  all these people may have mentioned to you or your partner the importance of routines in your child’s life.  So what’s the big deal?  Are routines really that necessary for children? Simply put, yes.  Routines involve repetition. Repetition involves predictability. Predictability involves stability. Stability involves security.  Kids crave routines because routines make kids feel safe and secure.  On a very basic level (keeping in mind that is how young children function) routines reassure children that their needs will be met. Routines also provide opportunities for children to experience success in what they are doing, which then promotes self-control and self-esteem.
Dr. Laura Markham, on her website www.ahaparenting.com outlines the following “benefits for using routines with your kids:
1. Routines eliminate power struggles because you aren't bossing them around.  This activity (brushing teeth, napping, turning off the TV to come to dinner) is just what we do at this time of day.  The parent stops being the bad guy, and nagging is greatly reduced.
2. Routines help kids cooperate by reducing stress and anxiety for everyone.  We all know what comes next, we get fair warning for transitions, and no one feels pushed around.
3.  Routines help kids learn to take charge of their own activities.  Over time, kids learn to brush their teeth, pack their backpacks, etc., without constant reminders.  Kids love being in charge of themselves. This feeling increases their sense of mastery and competence.  Kids who feel more independent and in charge of themselves have less need to rebel and be oppositional.
4. Kids learn the concept of "looking forward" to things they enjoy, which is an important part of making a happy accommodation with the demands of a schedule.  He may want to go to the playground now, but he can learn that we always go to the playground in the afternoon, and he can look forward to it then.
5. Regular routines help kids get on a schedule, so that they fall asleep more easily at night.
6. Schedules help parents maintain consistency in expectations. If everything is a fight, parents end up settling: more TV, skip brushing teeth for tonight, etc.  With a routine, parents are more likely to stick to healthy expectations for everyone in the family, because that's just the way we do things in our household.  The result: a family with healthy habits, where everything runs more smoothly.

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