When you run into a friend who you haven’t seen in a while, the question, “What’s new in your life?” is usually bandied about. A new job, a new house, a new anything really are often hoped for to move the conversation along. If you say that you’re up to the “usual routine,” you may leave the interaction feeling as though you’ve somehow gypped the other person. And if your roles are reversed, you might feel like your friend has gotten boring since you last saw them.
‘Routine’ has never been a sexy word. For many, it sounds like a slow march toward an inevitable demise. It is said to be the killer of creativity. As adults, we are taught to fear it. But for children, it is one of the more important aspects of their daily lives.
‘Routine’ has never been a sexy word. For many, it sounds like a slow march toward an inevitable demise. It is said to be the killer of creativity.
The #1 reason for routine is because our bodies have a schedule to them. We tend to get hungry and sleepy around the same times everyday. We’ve all experienced waking up early on a weekend because that’s our routine during the week. We were built to follow a schedule. Kids are no different. And in fact, they are much crankier than adults (usually) if they’re not fed or if they are lacking sleep. In order to keep a modicum of calm in the collective life of a family, these basic needs should be met in a routine fashion.
As children develop and grow, they start to flex their independent muscles. They vie for control over their lives with their siblings, friends and their parents. Mine! Me first! I want to wear the orange shoes! No! These assertions are simply exercises in control. This is one of the reasons that giving a child a simple choice often motivates them toward action. I don’t want to go to the store! Mom asks, “Are you going to bring your dinosaur with you or your teddy bear?” Hmph. Teddy. Children will not often pass up the opportunity to show you that they have some control over their world.
Eventually we want children to take responsibility for their own lives as much as possible. Routines can help them achieve that. If the expectation is in place that everyday after school homework must be done prior to going outside to play, then the child should be able to take responsibility for him or herself in completing it. If there is no routine in place and parents find that the “only way” to get their kid to do their homework is for the parent to nag and worry over it, then there is very little impetus for the child to take responsibility for this chore.
For some kids, not knowing what’s coming next is really anxiety provoking. Without routines, they feel like they’re flying blind. If mom and dad implement even just a general agenda, it can help kids (again) feel more in control and know that they needn’t worry. They won’t be taken by surprise by something unpleasant. Phew.
If you are planning on being a role model for your kids (and who isn’t?), then getting the important things done on a daily basis is part of that job. If you have a routine that you try to stick to in your own life, then you will show them the value of managing time and resources well. And again, that’s eventually what we want them to be capable of doing for themselves.
Wearing a suit to work everyday can get old. But if once a month, you can wear…khakis(!) to work instead, then that one day can sometimes feel like Christmas. It can be the same for your kids. As it gets more difficult to “impress” worldly children, who have more access to cool toys, electronics, etc., mixing up a routine can be the way of making something fun. Growing up, my family would always eat dinner at the table. Every night at 6 pm. Like clockwork. But I still remember the occasions when we would have a picnic in front of the fireplace in the living room. It was so cool and, more important, different that I felt like I was doing something really special.
Following a routine doesn’t always sound very appealing, but it can help life run more smoothly. And when that happens, there’s always more time for adventures, learning and fun!