7:30, 7:30, 7:30, my seven year-old-self used to say in a sing-songy voice with resigned indignation as a traipsed off to bed. Everyone in the family knew that this was my official bedtime. As the youngest of four kids, I didn’t like going to bed earlier than my siblings. Did that matter? Not particularly. Regardless of what I said or did, when the clock struck 7:30, it was lights out.
The fact that I had an unvarying, official bedtime was my mom’s secret weapon to getting me to bed without too much trouble. On school nights, I knew there would be no budging on this point, so I gave only a few halfhearted gripes about it now and then. I knew I had to get to bed at the designated time because the routine was set. After dinner, it was bath, teeth, story time, and then bed…at 7:30.
I recently shared this memory in a parenting workshop to illustrate the power of creating rituals and routines. Once a routine is in place, children know what to expect and what is expected of them. It gives a rhythm to the days and nights, as well a sense of comfort and security to children. Routines can be created around anything with a little thought and creativity and they provide parents support in gaining cooperation from children. Some parents devise morning routines to help everyone get up and off to school, in a good humor and fully dressed! Sometimes a parent creates a special good-bye ritual at preschool to help a child let go of Mom or Dad. Putting a routine in place can smooth whatever situation may result in distress for you and your children.
Getting a new routine started isn’t necessarily easy. Here are a few ideas to help you put a routine of your choosing in place:
• Decide exactly what the routine will involve
• Make sure all parents and parent figures living in the household agree to uphold the routine
• Sit down with the kids and let them know about the new plan
• Invite their suggestions and incorporate their ideas into the plan
The children will be much more interested in following the routine, if they help to create it. Give a visual representation of the routine. This could be a checklist, pictures, or photographs of your child in poses demonstrating the routine. Go ahead and let them ham it up! Creating this together can be fun stuff! One mom of a three-year-old had the idea of using a felt board with cut out felt figures of the morning routine. How cool is that?
Whatever ritual or routine you put in place, it may become your BFF in providing parenting support!