Do Routines Really Work?

I have a confession to make. My family has to think I’m a tad bit nutty. No, they would never admit it. I’ve asked them point blank before if they were concerned about my mental state. They have always denied the accusation. Why would they think I was loco, you ask?

Because I put my children to bed at 7 pm. Okay, I see it now. You are internally rolling your eyes. This lady is cray cray you are thinking. Apparently that is now a word. My 14-year-old sister informed me of this fact several weeks ago, then looked at me like I had three heads, because I had no idea.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand. Why yes, I put my children to bed at 7 pm. Actually the last few weeks we have been sliding our oldest daughter’s bedtime down to 8 pm, since she is almost done with kindergarten. Regardless of the times, I make sure my children go to bed early 98% of the time. Why?

Because children thrive on routine. They also need a certain amount of sleep every night to function. Just like adults, but their tiny bodies need more. That is a different topic for a different day. Since B was a baby I have had her on a routine. Not a schedule. Those are two entirely different things, breeding from the same concept. I have always made sure her meals and her sleeping routine were the same. Sure, there are times that we do not adhere to the routines. Mainly on holidays and vacations, occasionally on family movie night. Those are fun days. They are fun for my kids, they are fun for the other family members involved. Do you know who it is not fun for the very next day? Mommy and Daddy. The following days are days I can only describe as days made up of nightmares. Misery. Agony. Torment. Okay you get my dramatics I’m sure. However, we can manage those days because 98% of the time our girls have a routine.

A few months ago I notices B was struggling a bit on her day-to-day. She has sensory processing issues. We are also adopting another child. With all the changes I could tell her SPD was flaring up and the changes were making her anxious. She fought me on everything. Getting dressed. Doing school. Going anywhere.

I first became frustrated. Then I realized that change is hard on everyone. Why shouldn’t it be just as hard if not harder on a little kid. One whose world can make her anxious anyway? It was my job as her mom to help her cope and make it a little bit easier. Kids are not in control of anything, if you truly think about it. Yes, some parents give their children choices, like the snacks they eat, what activity they take part in, etc. Like we do. However, in the bigger picture, children are at the liberty of the adults in their lives. If you have a child who already feels like they have no control over anything, plus they have no sense of routine in their lives, you will have yourself a recipe for disaster. This disaster typically manifests itself in the form of a tantrum or defiance.

So I decided to add two more sets of routines into B and S’s life. A morning routine and an evening routine. These routines take less than 10 minutes to accomplish but the turnaround I saw in B just that first day made a world of difference. Why? Because she knew what to expect and she realized that these activities, such as getting dressed and doing school were nonnegotiable.

Here are the routines we use.

Morning Routine

  1. Go Potty
  2. Wash Hands
  3. Make Bed
  4. Get dressed
  5. Eat breakfast
  6. Brush teeth
  7. Get ready for school

Evening Routine

  1. Clean up toys
  2. Go potty
  3. Wash Hands
  4. Take a bath
  5. Brush Teeth
  6. Get dressed into pj’s
  7. Read a book
  8. Say prayers
  9. Go to bed

You may be thinking, well these are things they need to do anyway. You’re right. But if they are not done consistently, children may begin to fight doing them at all. So I printed off these lists. Added clothespins with the girls names, that they could move, and the most important part, we go through the list consistently, in the same order, every single day. Even on days we don’t feel like it. Days we are out with family. Even on Holidays.

It has made a world of difference. I have always been a believer in routines. These new daily routines have made me more of a believer. B no longer fights me on the must-dos. Sure she still grumbles every blue moon. But she doesn’t pitch a fit and dig her heels in. Which has made her calmer, and me calmer. Because she knows what to expect. She can wake up and know exactly what is going to happen. I can tell her it’s time to get ready for bed and she knows step by step what will happen next. Children need that sense of knowing and calm. It makes their world make sense and less chaotic.

So if you were to ask me, or most people who are with children on a daily basis, do routines really work? YES. 100 times over YES.

Start one today. You may be surprised at the results.

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