Lots of people spout the benefits of routine, but that leaves many parents wondering “are the routines for the kids or for me?”
a dirty word to some.
a saving grace for others.
There are those who swear by it and others who think it’s just a parent’s ploy to rob a child of freedom to play and explore on their own terms. Ultimately, however, research shows that it’s a win win for everyone in the home. That seems like a big claim, but it is backed up by research and moms around the globe.
“Routines are good. Routines are effective. Routines are adaptive. As a rule of thumb, most parents should use structured routines with their children.
The research about routines is so strong that I feel comfortable breaking this blog’s policy of not providing clinical advice when saying that unless you have specific clinical reasons, most parents of infants and toddlers should use bedtime, mealtime, and other daily routines.” Nestor Lopez-Duran Ph.D.
Before you start thinking a routine would sell your life to the clock master, don’t go down that road. There are many different ways a routine can work. Whether you do a rhythm (one thing before other), a schedule (using the clock to determine your next activity), or a general routine (combining elements of both) there is something that will work for your family.
Why a routine is good for both mother and kids.
It’s not just that both the mom and the kids carry out the routine, but that’s actually beneficial for both.
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1. Everyone has their own time.
Part of why the stay at home mom stereotype is so frazzled is because it assumes we spend the better part of most days spit stained, hair undone, and chasing around toddlers. Yes, well this is probably true for most of us. But still, routine allows daily space for both yourself and your children. Right now, I get up between 5:00 – 6:00 each morning (yikes, I know!) to work before the kids are up.
I’ve found I like this better than working while they nap because no matter what time I wake up, at 1 p.m. my brain is fried and unproductive. I feel so much more focused on the kids this way. In between doing things that must be done around the house, I’ll sit with them and watch them play. I’m less stressed and so are they.
2. It keeps the peace.
Kids truly are better behaved when they’re in a good routine. It’s undeniable. Knowing what’s up next – even vaguely – helps ease transitions (which are hard for firstborns). It helps promote “buy in” because they know and own the different parts of the day. It helps their bodies fall asleep and nap better too, which is what you need if you want all your kids to nap at the same time every day.
When we’ve veered from routine, had too many errand days, or are just going with the flow too often, it shows. I feel impatient and am quick to be angry at the kids. They are whiny and argue with my instructions or run away and try to hide from me. A good routine helps the day go on autopilot.
3. Rest is had by all.
Our bodies rest better when we sleep at consistent times each day. A consistent sleep pattern is how your body begins to recognize when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to wake.
“The timing of your sleep is controlled by something called the circadian body clock located in the depths of your brain. Once your body clock has decided it’s time to rest, it works with other functions in the body to help prepare you for the night of sleep ahead, stopping the various bodily functions associated with being awake. The same goes for when it’s time to wake, where the reverse happens.” (source)
This is how you can have four children (ages 4, 3, 2, and 8 months) and go most nights with no night wakings and most days with quiet sleeping kids from between 1 to 3:30 p.m. or even later! It’s not because they’re awesome – which of course they are – it’s because their bodies are used to it. Of course some days they “fight” sleep, but it’s not enough to get chronically overtired. You want a good routine so that:
- naps are had by those who need them (including you if you want to learn to power nap)
- everyone gets enough sleep to be content during the day
- you have a period in the afternoon when you can work/relax/do household tasks
- the kids are in bed at a good time each evening
4. There is time for “everything.”
Yes, of course everything is relative. I’ve become a lot more balanced in the past year with respect to how much I attempt to get done. This is a very specific and short season of my life, and I won’t steal my own joy by trying to pretend I don’t have a lot of kids running around. However, there are things that simply must be done.
Routine puts time in for eating, sleeping, chores, and most importantly play. I like hours of free play at a time if we can help it. This actually helps them to sit still when they need to, and they usually come away from free play wanting to be alone in their own rooms!
5. Instead of monotony it brings safety.
I know there are certain personality types that prefer spontaneity, fun, and excitement. I get that. Actually, I don’t get that because I prefer to focus on what needs to be done. Ha. But either way, it can be hard for some moms to see the point of routine even if they are living with the disadvantages caused by the lack of one. Research is overwhelmingly in favor of having a daily routine with kids. While it may feel monotonous for you, it’s greatly freeing for the kids because they can live in the present.
They don’t have to worry about when they’ll eat, if they’ll get a nap, or when daddy gets home. They are more secure knowing you meet their needs in an orderly way. And for moms, having the basics fit into your daily routine means you get done what must be done. You’ll also know where there’s wiggle room, time for extras, and if you can just throw out the whole schedule for a fun day! A nice routine allows you mental breathing space knowing that things are in order.
Need some routine inspiration?
I’ve written a book that has ideas for rhythms, routines and schedules that’ll help your children ages 6 weeks to 5 years old. There are over 30 printables (all different routines you can print out) including tips for running your day and figuring out a routine with multiple children!
I’ve created a free email series just for you! If you struggle with creating an easy flowing routine or rhythm in your home… this is it. I’ve gathered all my easiest routine hacks into one free series and, best of all, you can get a big sneak peak into our book that has over 25+ routines for babies ages 6 weeks to 5 years. This series will help you:
- find a routine and rhythm for your child
- learn how to juggle multiple routines (for 2 or 3+ kids)
- know what is and isn’t working so you can make one tweak that’ll change your day
Click here to sign up for my free email series or simply click on the image below.
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