Raising a child is definitely rewarding; however, it could be more challenging than one might have imagined, as there are a lot to think about, in order to raise a balanced and happy individual. Parenting literature suggests that children-and families alike- need to have established routines. That way, children can find it easier to cope with everyday transitions (Bell, 2001 p. 175). Established routines in the classroom are fundamental principles been taught to educators (Butterfield, 2002 p.29-32), who in turns counsel parents on the significance of having a schedule and established routines at home.
In general, routine creates a sense of safety in a child’s life and helps it feel secure (Kohli & Flanagan, n.d). If schedules turn into routines for a family, children are aware of what to expect and what is next in line, in a series of every day events. A sense of stability is passed on to children by setting a daily routine, which helps them gain more confidence as they gradually become more self-reliable and independent, as they step from infancy to about five years of age (Office of Child Development, n.d). When a caretaker sets a schedule, the child slowly builds its trust on the particular caretaker, since he/she manages to learn consistency and knows that he/she will be contented as per his/her basic needs (Kohli & Flanagan, n.d). Being inconsistent generates stressful emotions and when a child does not have consistency around him/her, their cognitive development blocks, as they are overwhelmed by anxiety (Kohli & Flanagan, n.d). Knowing that a specific task will take place at a particular time of the day, helps reduce stress from both the child and parents, and in a “battle of the most powerful”, children know exactly their place and what to expect, while parents become more “consistent in their expectations of their children” (Kohli & Flanagan, n.d). All one needs to do, is simply set a clear and easy to understand and follow routine and allow children bring the best of themselves.
Taking a step back to define family routines, we can say that they are “the predictable, repetitive patterning which characterizes day-to-day, week-to-week existence within a given nuclear family unit, the shared pattern of behavioral rhythmicity that serves an ordering principle in the ongoing process of a family's existence” (Boyce, Jensen, James, & Peacock, 1983, p.194). Of course, depending on the age of the child, family routines and schedules can vary. For example, small children and toddlers are in need of bedtime routine and feeding schedule, while older children usually need more focus on their homework and set a schedule there (Kohli & Flanagan, n.d). In other words, family routines gradually develop and never stay static, nor should they.
An example of a family routine that can have a strong, positive affect on a child are family meals. They are considered to contribute to a child’s psychological wellbeing and better academic performance (Eisenberg et al., 2004 p.792-793), among many others, including healthier habits and less eating disorders (Fiese & Hammons, 2011 p. 15). There are even studies that support that there is less juvenile delinquency among families that insist on having standard routines (Eisenberg et al., 2004 p.794-796), like a family meal with all the family gathered around a table every day. Going into deep, one could clearly see that family routines and schedules are important to a child’s development, in more ways than one. It is suggested that all family members sit and enjoy dinner together every day, while engaging in positive conversations and encourage children share their daily life (healthychildren.org). Raising healthy children requires nurturing both their physical and mental health, and family dinners have proven their worth, as of now.
Despite the fact that classrooms before the age of normal schooling have routines, family routines vary significantly and affect a child’s development; in fact, recent research has shown that low-income families have moderately routinized lives, compared to more risk-factor families that are usually distinguished by low levels of scheduling and family routines (Fiese, 2002 p.10). It is proven that children that come from disorganized families have reduced abilities and means to achieve things in life (Novick, 2012). For example, if there is not a specific time for a family’s meals the child(ren) might end up craving and consuming amounts of junk food or unhealthy food, which might have a negative impact on his/her health, later on (Novick, 2012). “Creating an organized household teaches children when to get things done for a successful conclusion” (Novick, 2012), which definitely reduces stress. However, it is also essential that educators and care takers are not too eager in establishing strictly structured routines healthychildren.org) Instead, they should avoid regimentation, in order to prevent boredom and rigidity (healthychildren.org). Bottom line, when a child is given slight flexibility when establishing a routine, it is always considered best (healhychildren.org).
Having a routine and predictability in a family allows family members feel stability and satisfaction with the life they are living as a family (Jensen et.al, 1983). Is all psychology-related class materials, one can read that people need to feel they belong somewhere, a group or a kind of community that accepts them (Fiese & Wamboldt, 2000 p.405-408). Children that live in an environment run by routines feel a sense of belongingness and connection to the particular group that the specific routines apply to (Fiese & Wamboldt, 2000 p. 410-411). Young children also feel stability when they can adapt to change, which is why routine is considered important (Welley, Cash & Bryson, 2002 p.2). For example, children introduced to kindergarten and first grade learn specific routines, which include but are not limited to what is expected from them while in a classroom and ordering their lunch, among others (Welley, Cash & Bryson, 2002 p.1). with such a structured environment around them, children develop the desired and aforementioned sense of belongingness and competence. When they will need to adapt to change, though, even the most minor one, like new teacher or different seating arrangements in class, there might be unwanted negative reactions from children that refuse to move on and adapt, mainly due to emotional stress (Welley, Cash & Bryson, 2002 p.1). Of course, the same need for adaptability could be asked in a family environment too. A child might find it difficult to transit from the family’s environment and go to the park and then get back home again. However, giving children a notice of what is expected to come, allowing children participate in change and helping them develop coping strategies will make them feel, again, part of the change that is coming (Welley, Cash & Bryson, 2002 p.1). That is why being part of a group that is characterized by schedule and routine is crucial.
According to research, routines and schedules can be very beneficial to families with chronically ill members (Fiese & Wamboldt, 2000 p. 412). Children with bipolar disorder is found to be significantly benefited from consistent routines (APA, 2008). Those that have their daily routines regulated appeared to have eased symptoms of bipolar disorder, compared to those that have disordered sleep and daily routines (APA, 2008). Also, the National Institute of Mental Health suggests people with bipolar disorder can help themselves by adopting a regular routine, where they would have their meals at the same time every day and go to sleep at the same time every night (National Institute of Mental Health, n.d). Other than that, children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder can be helped if their lives are organized and have routines (Kinman, 2012). Having a daily routine list with clear and understandable order for the child and parent to review every day, until the list becomes part of everyday life that requires no reminder of the things that need to be done and the time they need to be done, is advised (Kinman, 2012). However, not only children with mental health issues need routine on a daily basis. Households where the mother suffers from depression the family’s life is affected; and, parallel to the family, the child’s well –being is affected (Radloff, 1977). It comes naturally that in a household where all members are mentally healthy, routines and schedules are easier to apply and maintain.
Routines may not be so easy to establish, after all. Although, undeniably, genetics play a significant role in shaping one’s distinguishing traits, researchers have concluded that a child’s temperament strongly affects the consistency of a schedule or routine (Rothbart & Bates, 1998). It seems that families with children able to be managed have more routines, when compared to families that are more active and rather depend on emotions and sentiment to apply discipline. It makes sense; if a child is temperamental, the parent’s ability to establish schedules and routines falls apart in its majority. Nevertheless, helping a child establish routines in a world that it would be difficult to handle unless organized, is definitely worth trying, regardless of hazards and obstacles on the way.
As previously mentioned, with respect to a child’s temperament and always depending on the child’s age, there are some routine charts that can be used as examples of routines.
- A Bedtime Routine could include:
- picking up the toys;
- taking a bath;
- putting on pajamas;
- brushing teeth;
- using the toilet;
- reading a bedtime story; and
- turning off the lights.
Bedtime routine could be challenging, especially when the child is over-active during the day and insists on hyper activity during bedtime hours. It is recommended to avoid exciting activities before bedtime hour and focus on more calming techniques, like reading a bedtime story- that again has no over-intense moments- and singing relaxing songs (healthychildren.org).
- A Morning Routine could include:
- Waking up at a particular time;
- Getting dressed;
- Brushing teeth;
- Combing hair;
- Washing face;
- Eating breakfast; and
- Pack bag
Families could also have weekly or daily charts/routines and share chores. Additionally, they can establish weekday routines, like going to the supermarket, shopping, go hiking or bicycling together and attend religious services, among others (healthychildren.org). At this point, it is strongly advised, though, that parents find some time for themselves, as they need to have inner strength, in order to be more effective to their parental roles (healthychildren.org).
However, the secret to make any plan to establish a routine be crowned with success is to put as many things in order as possible from the previous day and, most importantly, to keep all routines positive and cheerful (healthychildren.org). Also, a routine that ends, or includes somewhere on the way, affection, like a hug, definitely help children engage better and more willingly in that routine (healthychildren.org).
Another important factor to consider when trying to establish a schedule is when a child in its middle childhood returns home from school. It is proven that children who return in an empty home have increased levels of anxiety, compared to other children that get back home to a parent of other care taker (healthychildren.org). Moreover, children that have no one waiting for them when they get back from school are more prone to misbehaviors and risk-taking (healthychildren.org). For that reason, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that a child finds an adult, parent, other care taker or at least a responsible adolescent, when they get home from school (healthychildren.org).
Ways to engage children to routines
Creating a “Routine List” with the child’s help is suggested, since it is proven to be an effective way to buy their way in the routine (Kohli & Flanagan, n.d). The more fun the whole “list” procedure is, the better. Once children participate in the process of setting up routines, they would most likely feel they have control, therefore they would be more open to join in the real application of the routine (Kohi & Flanagan, n.d). What is more, when they acquire the feeling of belongingness, they would normally not oppose to familial rules and schedules. On the other hand, allowing children to participate in an activity that the entire family is engaged in, will only do goo, as children develop their initiative and learn how to be in charge of something, especially if it is their own life that they are in charge off (Kohi & Flanagan, n.d).
Routines and schedules are important to help raise balanced children. It is proven that when children live in environment run by established routines, they have better academic performances, reduced levels of anxiety and are less prone to delinquencies, misbehaviors and risk-taking. With routines, children enhance their adaptability and find it easier to cope with changes. On the other hand, children that live in a disorganized environment, tend to have increased stress and feel irritated –and even unable- to accept and handle any change, even the slightest one.
It is important a child knows what to expect and what is expected from them at any given time. That is a great way to build their sense of safety and comfort, plus they get to develop their own organization skills that will be very useful late on in their lives.
Routines also make children feel safe and secure. Supplementary, having an established schedule helps end the “battle of who is the strongest” and children learn their role and place. Establishing routines in a child’s life also increase the child’s self-esteem and confidence, especially if they are allowed to participate in a change or scheduling a routine. Also, children, as any other individual, has the need to feel they belong in a community or a group. By introducing routines in a child’s life, it is like providing a community that is run by specific rules and schedules. A fine example of children living in an organized and routine environment, where they feel they belong to, is a classroom, where children learn what the accepted behavior is, in order to fit and be welcome in the school community. The same, of course, happens within families.
A factor that affects establishing routines is any mental health condition in a family. It is proven that mothers with depression find it more difficult to establish a routine for themselves, not to mention their children. Also, genetics play an important role in setting a schedule, as a child’s temperament can affect the outcome of a routine.
Routines are also proven to be effective to children with bipolar disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, as their symptoms are eased when they live in organized environments. In order to achieve the best results is trying to establish a routine, it is significant that routine is crowned with positive attitudes. Also, it is strongly recommended that children always return back from school and find an adult, parent or other care giver waiting for them. Compared to children that get back home to a parent or other adult, children that have no one waiting for them after school are distinguished by higher levels of anxiety and misbehaviors.
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