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Secrets from a Teacher: Routines Work

I think I should retitle this series. Instead of Secrets from a Teacher to Make you a Better Parent, I’m thinking it should have been Secrets from a Teacher to MAKE PARENTING EASIER. Because we all need that, right?

And routines can make it easier.

routines work

I am, admittedly, not good at keeping up on routines at home. But at school, it was a MUST. With 20+ kids in a room, it was generally best if they knew what to do when. And routines made that happen.

In one of my elementary ed classes in college, we were given a list of 40 different scenarios that we needed to prepare a routine for. What will the kids do when they come in the classroom in the morning? What about after recess? After they finish their spelling test? Routine, routine, routine.

Routines help in several ways.

1. Predictability. Kids just function better when they have an idea of what’s coming next.

2. Cooperation. Routines cut down on so many battles. The kids know what’s expected of them from the start.

3. Self-sufficiency. Kids can become more self-sufficient when they know what to do without asking a grown-up.

Let’s apply this to a classic parenting battle: getting out the door on time in the morning.

For the past couple of years, we’ve had willy-nilly mornings. No real routine, until it was really time to go, and then I’d end up stressing out and running late, fighting the kids to turn off the tv, get dressed, and leave the house. I timed it once…it took 17 minutes from the time I first said, “Put on your shoes” to the time they were actually on his feet. Oh. My. Lanta.

But this year is different. Adam gets on the bus at 7:05 and doesn’t have time for tv or 17 minutes of fighting shoes. Instead, we have a short, tight routine and it gets the job done. Adam goes to bed and wakes up knowing exactly what is going to happen first thing in the morning. He knows what he needs to do and has a timeline for getting it done. (We set a timer on my phone that rings when he needs to brush his teeth and put on shoes.) He doesn’t fight about it and he can easily get himself ready for school on time.

(Isaac, on the other hand, doesn’t have to be at preschool until 9. Which means he has plenty of time to avoid having a routine.)

We need more routines at our house. A laundry routine, a room-cleaning routine, a supper routine…while I understand the value of routines, I also understand that life is unpredictable and hectic and it can be hard to eat dinner at the same time every night, or make time for a lengthy bedtime ritual.

But when things start to feel out of control, ask yourself if a routine would help.

(This post is part of a Secrets from a Teacher to Make You a Better Parent.  The best way to keep up with this series is to subscribe via email here.)

Would you like to comment?

  1. I'm sure you won't be surprised, but I'm a big believer in routines. My husband comments from time to time that he didn't really grow up with routine or a schedule and now that he has lived his life that way for the last seven years he can't imagine living any other way. So routine is nice not only for the kids, but Mom and Dad too!