Though routines don’t come naturally to me, I have come to enjoy the benefits of a routine– one of which is my children behave better when we have a routine.
For some people routines are binding and limiting. But it really depends on how you define a routine, why you create a routine and what you include in your routine.
Why have a routine?
First of all what is routine. Routine is not working to a schedule. There is a difference between a routine and a schedule.
A schedule keeps you to a timetable – like a train. A routine is a sequence of activity. The clock rules a schedule; a routine is ruled by habit and order.
I came across this little excerpt from a book called “Habits of the Heart” by Kathy Babbitt. This is what she wrote…
“Some people continuously act on impulse, grabbing at whatever seems attractive at the moment. Now some spontaneity is healthy; but when we face all of life with a senseless striving to satisfy our impulses, we defeat ourselves.
“Sometimes we do what we do to escape what we perceive to be more threatening, demanding or painful…
“We need to make conscious decisions in order to change. Our aim is to develop godly habits that result in godly living.”
This last sentence reminds me of the reason we have routines. To give us and our children the tools required to develop godly habits.
What to have in our routine?
Once we have decided that we need to have routine in our lives, and in our children’s lives we then need to decide what needs to be in that routine. Many years ago one of the few verses of Jesus’ childhood caught my attention.
Jesus grew in both wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man. Luke 2:52
This gives us a guide for the different areas of both our lives and our children’s lives. Jesus grew
- in character (wisdom),
- physical development (stature),
- spiritual development (favour with God) and
- social development (favour with man).
In another part of scripture it talks of Jesus astounding the teachers of his day – he grew in knowledge also. We need to allow time in our day for all of these areas to develop.
Just a little note on the side here – we cannot teach our children anything we are not modeling ourselves – is my life showing growth in these areas too – character, physical, spiritual, social and knowledge? We need to be an example to our children; we need to have discipline, routine and growth in our lives first.
Benefits of a Routine
I have found that as I have established routines in our family life that not only do I know what is going to happen next (generally) but the kids know as well. There are fewer surprises, and a feeling of being more in control of what gets done in our day. This gives a sense of security to our kids.
It is when I let the routine slip – or be unrealistic that I start to see undesirable behavior become more the norm. When I re-establish routines then I find things settle down and we can start to focus on growth instead of just fixing issues all the time.
Here are some examples of negative behaviour, how routine affects those choices and the godly habits that I would prefer to see in my kids. Though this isn’t a complete list of negative behavours (is there such a list?) it is a good start to see how routine and behaviour and training all interact with each other.
–Frequent tantrums, whining – a routine takes away multiple choices and therefore disappointments which often result in tantrums (not getting their own way). If a child knows (through habit) that after breakfast they have some room time then they won’t argue for TV.time (that is, they won’t argue as much!!). Godly habit to develop – rejoicing in all circumstances, submitting to authority
–Inappropriate or aggressive behaviour – A routine that gives a child some quiet time by themselves may teach them the privilege of playing and respecting others. Godly habit to develop – love others as Christ has also loved, kindness, brotherly love
–Constant demands – a routine will form in the child a habit of entertaining themselves and not needing to be entertained. Godly habit to develop – being a good steward of time, talents and abilities
–Not sleeping – a routine will establish a healthy balance between being awake and active and getting the correct amount of sleep. A routine will stop a child from being over-stimulated and therefore finding it hard to get to sleep. Godly habit to develop– being good stewards of our bodies, growing in self-control
–A lack of concentration – a routine will enable a child to find a balance between concentrating activities and active activities. Godly habit to develop – be still to hear God’s voice, be able to learn
When we establish routine in our family life we are intentionally shaping how our children spend their time but we are also giving ourselves gentle ways to teach and train their skills, knowledge and responses.
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Creating your Routine
Because a routine is a tool – it is there to help you manage your time, and the training of your children – the best place to start is to ask yourself – what do we need to achieve today, and what skills do my children need to learn?
When my kids were young I divided my day into different ‘times’: play time, table time, devotion time, family time, room time, free play, with mummy time, with sibling time etc. There was a purpose for each of these activities.
As my children grew older, not only could they focus for longer periods of time (so the blocks of time became longer) but what they had to learn during those times changed too. Once they were at school age our days were shaped by Relationship time, Responsibilities, Talents, Study time, Family time (though it is technically Relationship time we make a distinction from the relational time we spend with God) and Personal time.
Creating a routine for your family is not easy. I am reminded of my first quote “Sometimes we do what we do to escape what we perceive to be more threatening, demanding or painful…”
This is so true. We often continue to live without limiting our children’s choices of activities because we perceive the battle to be too difficult; we perceive the commitment to be too demanding. We think establishing a routine would be painful!
When talking to mums who don’t like the idea of routine I say to them: Do you like what is going on in your house right now? If the answer is yes, then they don’t need routine – whatever they are doing is working for them. But if their answer is no – then I ask them if they think the idea of moving to routines (not schedules) could be any more painful, difficult or threatening than what they’ve already got.
Sometimes it takes getting to a point where we realize what we are doing isn’t working.
Tips to Establish a Routine
If you want to establish a routine (or a new routine) in your family ask yourself the following questions:
1—What time of my day is crazy and out of control?
2—What skills do my children need to do well in that time of day?
3—What activities will teach them those skills?
Start small – Say you decide that after lunch is a bit chaotic and you want to establish some down time for everyone – naps, rests, reading rests, Nano-nap etc. Starting small also means don’t set your expectations for 1 hour. If your kids aren’t used to having a quiet time reading books, then set the time for 5-10 minutes and start small.
Use a timer – A timer is an external reminder that is objective. A really good tool when training kids in something new! Set the timer for a time where you feel there will be a degree of success. Little by little, day by day creep the time up another minute. If there is tears and big pushback, then keep the time at the level you can handle. You might be able to handle 5 minutes of tears as they get used to a new habit, or if you can’t, reduce it to 3 mintues next time. Find your kids’ level of success and then train them to do more after that.
How to Write a Routine that Strengthens your Family: When you write a routine for your family don’t choose random activities, choose activities that help your children grow.
Change How you Think about Interruptions to your Day: I need to remember that interruptions in my day are not about my kids interrupting my to-do but rather things interrupting my time with my kids.
Double Check your Routine – Is it Helping you? We need to double check our routine that we have made time for the important things, not just good things.
Over to you:
Do you have any tips that help in establishing routines? Or maybe you’d like to share the benefits you see of a routine in your home…