Monday, November 18, 2013

Parenting: Why Kids Need A Routine

One topic that I blog about is my family life at home. Being a stay at home mom, I'm always tweaking and adjusting our home life so that it's the best it can possibly be given any circumstance. After all it's my work, and I want to enjoy what I do.

That doesn't mean that we don't have hard and trying days, it just means that we have an understanding of each other and we enjoy life together. That being said, when we have hard and trying days that turn into weeks we obviously aren't as happy as we can be. I put on my thinking cap and try to figure out the inputs that are causing such imbalance in our home life. I want happy children. Children that are growing and learning. Children that are respectful and full of joy.

Lately we have had quite the imbalance. I have been noticing lots of calls to my husband during the day. Lots of "HELP ME" phone calls. Everyone experiences being at the end of their rope, needing a break, needing a change. That was me. I had enough. I was exhausted trying to reason with my three year old. Trying to convince my three year old it was time to get dressed, time to eat, time to brush his teeth. Anything and everything was a battle. I tried to pick my battles, but it seriously felt like a war zone. Even though I tried so hard not to let it affect me, it did. My days were being ruined before they even got started. It didn't help when the issues lingered all day long.

I sent my husband a text....

A simple "I'm with ya" and I knew the hubs was on board. I was grateful for his support. That day I made a plan. We discussed it at dinner and implemented it immediately. The next day it was just me and the kids at home, and I stuck with the plan. And you know what? We had a good day. And the next day we had a good day too.

Let's talk about the plan. I decided we needed a routine. Now I know that seems like an obvious thing to have, but we are a laid back family. Yes, we have a general flow to our days... we eat around the same time, leave the house around the same time, have structured learning time, and all of the normal elements that you would put into a typical "routine". We just were really relaxed about it. Sometimes, if we didn't have anywhere to be we wouldn't change out of our jammies until 11:00 or so. My kids would play after breakfast rather than brush teeth and get dressed. Which isn't that big of a deal, right? It's not until it's time to stop playing and get the serious tasks done. Turns out it was a bigger deal than I thought. At least for our family.

I didn't even tell my son that I was "changing things" or enforcing a strict routine. He was out of the loop, but I felt like this was best given his age.

Since mornings were a part of our headaches, I decided that was an area that needed more structure. We needed to get the hard parts of morning crazies out of the way immediately before we did anything else. Bam, bam, bam. I enforced this order of events: go potty, eat breakfast, morning chore, brush our teeth, and get dressed. And only AFTER all of that was done did my son get to have free time or play time. Did you read that? I even had a morning chore thrown in there. Yep, unloading his dishes from the dishwasher. He DID that without complaint.  At that point, my boys were ready for the day and occupied playing together. I was able to focus on getting myself ready and packing up anything we would need if we left the house. There were no battles, and a lot less stress. Routine matters.

On the days when we stay home... well, even on the days when we don't... toys and messes become a slight issue. Honestly, I've overlooked the messes for quite sometime saying things like "Oh, it's just in the playroom. That's what a playroom is for." However, I want to instill discipline and hard work in my boys, and letting them leave a messy room all the time isn't benefiting anyone.

When my husband and I volunteered in a church Sunday school room (for toddlers), they had all of the kiddos help clean up before snack time. Snack time was in the middle of service, and there was a good half hour or so left of playing, but we still cleaned up. Every toy. Then after snack we would bring every toy back out only to put them away again when service was over. At the time, I thought that was strange and kind of pointless. Now, I think it's genius! If the kids practice this EVERY TIME then it becomes a habit, a good habit of cleaning up after themselves. So, this became part of our plan... mid-day clean up before snack time. Surprisingly, the boys cooperated.

The last part of the plan had to do with dinner. We try to eat together as a family as often as possible. This means home cooked meals, which also means dishes galore. I suggested that after dinner, before play time with Daddy, that my husband and son would handle clearing the table and doing the dishes. This meant that they were either unloading or reloading the dishwasher, sometimes both. I suggested this because I know it benefits my son to see his Daddy helping Mom, but it's also something they can enjoy together even if it's a chore. After the chores were done we could all enjoy family time, because no one was left behind to take care of the kitchen. A win-win in my book!

That's it! We enforced a strict routine during those three simple areas: mornings, mid-day, and evenings. And magically we had balance again, and happy kids. All families are unique, so one method might not work for everyone. You might need a strict routine for bedtime, learning time, or even screen time, but you get the idea.

I know for half of you reading this, you are probably thinking well duh. But I'm sharing anyway. I learned a lot about my kids by taking a step back, reflecting on the behaviors caused by a casual routine.

Either directly or indirectly, not having an enforced, strict routine created the following behaviors in my kids (and I imagine in other children as well): 

They wanted to do what they wanted, and when they wanted, thus creating power struggles.
They were less likely to listen.
They were less likely to do what's asked of them.
They were more likely to tell me no to any requests.
They were much less agreeable and much more defiant.
They were more likely to throw tantrums.
They were upset often.
They whined often. 
They were disappointed often. 
Transitions were rough.
They began to talk back.
They started to tell others what to do (even adults) since they were being disciplined so often.

*I say "they", but most of these applied to my oldest son.

Basically we had a whole lot of whining, power struggles, and frustration. Now, it's night and day difference. Not only are all of the above negatives so much better, there are a few extra positives that were lacking before. 

With an enforced routine, I also learned of these benefits...
My authority as a parent was respected more often.
It was easier to teach them chores and good habits.
It teaches them that life does not revolve around them and momentary feelings.
Kids are happier knowing what to expect.
It makes surprises better.
Routines are a part of life (school day, work day, etc), so it's important that they have them at home too.

Anyone have any other routine tips to share? I'd love to hear!

Happy Parenting!


  1. Lindze, you totally read my mind! We are having the same struggle with my son, who is also 3. I definitely do a more relaxed routine, but I can see how that is causing some issues. Kids thrive on routines, so I think I need to set up more strict routines so he knows what to expect and when to expect it. So glad I just read this, I am seriously hoping that this simple change will get rid of those crazy battles! (Sorry that was so long, and awesome website!)

    1. Aww, thanks! So good to know that I'm not the only one out there with these struggles. Three year olds can be challenging! Hopefully the more strict routine will help you guys. I'd love to hear how it goes! :)

  2. I just came across this after a very ROUGH afternoon/evening with my 2 yr old son. He is so defiant right now and we are struggling! I thought about doing a little picture routine for him (since he's really young) and seeing if this might help a little. I'm sure I'll be tweaking it a but I think he'll thrive on a certain routine. Good to hear it works well for your little one.

    1. Oh, I feel for you. Those rough times can get to us Mommas. Structure has helped us tremendously, so best wishes on finding a routine for your family! :)

  3. Thanks so much for this post Lindze. As a brand new stay at home mum( after redundancy) to two little girls I know I need to be in charge or I will get walked all over. Seems so simple yet our 'sort of' routine has just resulted in chaos. This post makes perfect sense to me. Much love x

    1. Oh, I'm so glad that this post is relevant for you! What a blessing to be with your little girls. It's tough at times, but can always get better. Best of luck towards smooth, fun, and playful days at home! Glad you stopped by! :) xoxo

  4. I really needed this. The last few weeks, months even, have been so full of the negative behaviors that it leaves me beside myself with frustration and guilt. My 4 and 3 year old boys have been really hard to handle, and on top of trying to be ready for baby number 3 who is arriving any day now, I have been reduced to tears every night wondering how in the world am I going to survive? Structure is my biggest downfall having adult ADD, but I really think I need to buckle down and do something drastic in changing my ways to make our days better. Thank you again, and I'm so glad that I stumbled upon this post at 5 in the morning!

    1. I'm so glad you stumbled upon my post too! Best wishes for baby #3! We are in a similar situation, as my boys are now 4 & 2 and I'm expecting a little girl in the beginning of December. Parenting is tough, no doubt! The structure has definitely benefited us. I'd recommend looking at the hardest parts of your day and starting there with a few changes. Good luck! And I hope you continue to visit! :)

  5. Would you be willing to share your routine to give a jumping off point? Our flexible schedule is not working! Thanks for this post, my 3 boys will benefit greatly from it I am sure!

    1. I'd love to answer this request in a longer post in the near future. Just to give you a quick idea, this is a general outline of our schedule these days (on days when we are at home)...

      7:30 - 8:00 Breakfast
      8:00 - 8:15 Kitchen clean up (boys can help with unloading the dishwasher)
      8:15- 8:30 Brush teeth, get dressed (I encourage my oldest to do this himself so sometimes this step takes a little while)
      8:30 - 9:30 We have learning time in our basement playroom which has a "school area". I just try to be intention with them. We talk about shapes, colors, do puzzles, color, practice writing, etc.
      9:30 - 10:30 The boys have free time and play together (usually because they are getting restless and need to run around). I finish getting myself ready and tackle a few chores. *Also, the boys have snack time around 10:15 in the playroom.
      10:30 - 11:00 We tidy up the playroom & basement.
      11:00 - 11:30 I let them watch an educational show on Netflix (leapfrog or magic school bus usually) while I make lunch
      11:30 - 12:00 We eat lunch together.
      12:00 - 12:30 We get ready to send my oldest off to school (gather his back pack, review his folder, get an item for show and tell, etc). If we have any spare time, I read to the boys on the couch.
      12:30 - 3:45 My oldest is at school, my youngest naps the entire time. I work on my blog, my business, or my house! Or sometimes I will even nap if I'm really needing it.
      4:00 - 4:30 We are usually back home by this time (unless we had to run an errand). We kind of just have free time or rest time depending on everyone's moods and how their days went.
      4:30 I start making dinner. Sometimes the boys help with this, but if not they just play together or do an activity at the table nearby.
      5:30 - 6:00 Our family will eat dinner somewhere between this time.
      6:30 Typically we are done with dinner by this time. The boys clear the table / handle the dishes. I tidy up the rest of the kitchen.
      6:45 -8:30 We have family time, bath time, and they are usually in bed by 8:30.

      It sounds flexible when I write it, but really being consistent with getting ready time, learning time, and enforcing the chores is what is important for us during this stage. They transition pretty well because they now know what to expect.

      Hope this helps you! So glad you stopped by! :)

  6. What great advice! I will have to be more disciplined about creating a dependable routine for our 3. Think of it-God does the same for us. Morning comes every, well... Morning! Lol and then night, and then the seasons follow in order... Just a thought I had. We depend on the schedule of the life rhythm God set into motion. So, it just makes sense that we desire routine and thrive when we have a well established one! This is my first look at your page! I'll be back! And come visit me sometime if you want! 馃槉
    @christylouhoo on Twitter (if you do that, I'm a newbie and don't do too much on there)

    1. You are so right -- God does the same for us! I like that thought. I must admit, part of the benefit of having the dependable routine is for my sake as well! Glad you found my page. I DO hope you come back. And I'll be sure to check out yours as well. :)

  7. Wonderfully, wonderfully written and said. =) Love it. Erika of

    1. Erika, bless you for your kind words and sharing my post on your facebook page! I really appreciate it! Can't wait to check out your blog. :)

  8. I have a question - if your kids "get ready" every morning, did they ever get upset if you stayed home? My 3 year old assumes if we put real clothes on, we must be going somewhere, and every once in a while If we get ready but just stay home, he gets SO UPSET that we're not leaving. Is that just something that would work itself out the more you stuck with it?

    1. I have not experienced that too much, but I imagine over time it would work itself out. You could always go for the comfy clothes approach, and tell him that he gets to wear sweats or comfy clothes today since you are staying home. I do this a lot on Fridays because my oldest does not have school. Hope that helps! :)

  9. I have a 1 year old daughter. Our schedule is really relaxed and flexible. Do you think it's too early to start a structure schedule? I think it's something I may have to play around with.

  10. I didn't realize this was a controversial issue til I moved to areas where people don't believe in it. I began acquainting my kids with the concept of mealtimes as soon as they made the transition from needing middle-of-the-night bottles to eating "real" food. And, as soon as they were finished with those waking up for feedings period, I acquainted them with the concept of bedtime and naptimes. They saw it as completely natural, and there were never any problems. I believe it's the best approach, and a lot healthier for kids.