It is ‘easy’ to write a routine for our children and yet is it real? Is it purposeful? Does real life overwhelm us and the plans that we make fly out the window. Being intentional is based on reality not on fanciful ideas so when we draw up our plans for the day we must take an honest look at what really needs to happen in our days.
I really like this quote from Stephen Covey: “The key is not to prioritize what’you’re your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” This is it exactly – we need to know what is important for our family, right now, and set our activities accordingly.
As I look back over our years of parenting I came to realize that we have been doing the same thing – as far as scheduling / planning our days go. So from the time my oldest was a walking around toddler we have included the same scheduling structure day after day. Obviously the activities have changed, the length of focus time has changed as the children have grown older but the basic structure to my day has remained the same. Let me share it with you.
Relationships come first in our household. There are two different aspects to relationships: the vertical, where each person in our family develops a personal relationship with God, and horizontal relationships where we relate to each other. Relationship skills that are learnt within the immediate family will come into play as the family interacts with other people and as the children get older and develop personal relationships outside of the family – these are all horizontal relationships.
There are several activities that allow me time to develop both the relationship with my children as well as teach them relational skills:
Food time – yes, this time is also about nutrition but when our family was young we sat together three times a day and shared the meal time (these days we are together just for the evening meal). We can focus just on the food (and sometimes this is necessary) or we can focus on being together while we eat the food. I’m sure good company assists in digestion!
Family Time – during this time, or during various times throughout the day, I would plan time to be together as a family for the purpose of enjoying each other’s company. This also included “sibling time” where I planned for the kids to play together. Reading, playing games, talking, relaxing together – I would make sure we had a balance of these activities in our day.
Devotional Time – This is time set aside to grow our personal relationship with God – this is done as individuals and as a family.
The purpose of these times in our day is to develop our relationships and our relationship skills. As the children have grown older these things still happen on a daily regularity but they look different than when they were young.
This is probably the time slot of our day that looks the most different as our children have grown but whether you homeschool or not this is a very important part of your day. If you send your children to school, you are not involved in this part of their day, but it still happens. There are three aspects of our life that give me the opportunity to specifically train our children.
Outside time – this is primarily to give their physical bodies opportunity to grow strong but it also encourages their imagination and relationships. When our children were young they played outside at least once a day, probably twice a day for an hour or so. This time was rarely closely supervised (I could see them out my windows) but there was always boundaries (rules) for them to play within. As our children got older this outside time begins to change and it looks more like physical exercise and/or sport. We have also encouraged the enjoyment of outdoors just as a wide space, fresh air and inspiration from nature. The principle is that they have an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and to look after their physical bodies.
Focus time – This is where we would get together and I would teach them a specific skill. One child needed to be taught how to play, or you may teach them to sit still within the boundaries of a mat, and as they grow older this focus time grows with them; mat time, table time, sit time eventually moving into school or study time. Activities grow from a rattle, to a puzzle, to colouring in, to math books!
Individual time – this is about looking after and developing their inner-self. When they were little it included nap time, playpen time, which grew into rest time or room time and free time which grew into having time to develop personal interests and talents such as music, drama, craft or sport etc. The things that we teach and train our children in when they are little will reap the fruit when they are older.
There are two main thrusts to this aspect
- The children work with Mum/Dad (or at least are nearby)
- The children are responsible for their own chores
When the children were young they spent time with me while I carried out my responsibilities – this may have been going to town, doing the housework or watering the veggie garden. As they spent time beside me, they would eventually want to be my ‘helper’ and they would be given a small aspect of the task that was at hand. Eg while cleaning the bathroom they would wipe down the cupboard doors or empty the bin. These tasks would increase as their abilities increased, eventually resulting in them being able to do the task by themselves. This means that the family works together to look after their possessions. As the children grow older they also need to learn to look after their time and money as well.
Write a Routine that Strengthens your Family
So when you next plan your days, don’t fill the timeslots with random activities – thinking that you should do this, or should do that. Stop and think – what are the best activities to help me have Relationship time, focus time and responsibilities time.
Note: This post was originally written in 2009 but continued to be the structure of our routines – even in the highschool years.
Double Check your Routine: We need to double check our routine that we have made time for the important things, not just good things.
At the End of your Day, Review and Plan to go Forward: At the end of each day pause and reflect on what happened and make plans for tomorrow. This way you keep your eyes on your goals in a proactive way.
You need to Parent your Child’s Heart Even in Crazy Busy Times: Even though we get caught up in crazy busy times our children’s heart still needs our attention.
Over to you:
Do you see purpose in the activities you are filling your days with? Is it time for a family routine tweak? Let me know if this has been helpful…