“Mom, may I play on the computer?”
“May I watch TV?”
“May I play first and study later?”
What parent isn’t bombarded with these questions at least one million times a day? Even when our kids presume that our answer will be a resounding “No,” they still risk agitating the “momster” in the chance that we might finally (but regretfully) give in. No parent wants to be hounded for screen time or extra play time on a daily basis. A simple solution to this is creating structure in our children’s lives.
Simple? Okay, maybe not quite. Kids these days, no matter their age, are always on the move. It is already difficult enough to make them pay attention to anything, more so in an era dominated by gadgets and gizmos. No wonder most parents struggle to hold kids for any sort of formal or structured time. Adding to that is the fact that parents nowadays are often on the move themselves. They are busy establishing careers, serving in the community, traveling the world, and keeping up with social media while raising a family all at the same time. Admittedly, it’s hard to be present with your children when you are preoccupied with a million other things. It turns out that a male band’s song was really on point when they sang the words “So little time, so much to do.”
Time is a very precious commodity. As parents, we are responsible for imparting this value to our children, allowing them to have an awareness of how important this is. Simply put, kids (and adults), count on a regular rhythm to thrive. Thus, setting routines is one of the most important things that we can do for them.
According to Susan Newman, a social psychologist, routines can begin from the first day of life. If you haven’t started a routine from the early days, don’t worry. They can be established and begun at any point. The earlier you establish a routine, the better. Here is a rundown of how to set routines for your kids.
Step 1: Set a schedule
Newman says planning your day on a calendar is the first step to creating a routine. Plot out a specific timeline and sequence your activities in a meaningful way to let your child know what’s important and what to expect.
Personally, I would suggest prioritizing your schedule based on your child’s needs. It would also be good to allocate the proper amount of time for each activity. For example, allotting too much time for studying may not be beneficial. Set a realistic amount of time for studying and reinforce this by allowing a healthy amount of relaxation or play time afterwards.
Step 2: Practice patience, consistency, and flexibility
Newman points out that setting a schedule may be hard for your kids at first, but they will get usedto it. Try not to become impatient or frustrated if the routine takes time to become “regular” for your child.
If you want your routine to stick, make sure to keep it as regular as possible. However, it should not be too rigid to avoid discouraging your child if he or she fails to keep up. Adjust also, if needed. As the months go on, you’ll start to see what routines work and don’t. A routine is meant to help the family, not inhibit it.
Step 3: Foster a positive environment
The kind of environment you offer is crucial to the child’s fulfillment of a particular habit or routine. Support your children’s routine by providing surroundings that are safe and conducive. For instance, designate separate and appropriate spaces for resting, eating, studying, and playing. Likewise, keep your kids off from distractions by setting rules such as “No gadgets allowed in the study space.” or “No watching TV during meals”.
Step 4: Give your kids your full attention
Newman points out that a routine isn’t just a way for you to organize your kids. It’s also an opportunity for them to spend time with you.
As for me, I believe that it is through the attentive presence of loving parents that kids learn. So, a warning and reminder to parents: you, too, must also put down your phone and offer your children your undivided attention. Doing this communicates availability and cultivates a sense of security. It establishes a solid home base from which kids can launch out into the world with confidence, faith, and strength.
Parents are the primary role models of their children. When we focus and listen to our kids, we don’t only make them feel loved and accepted, but we also teach them to do the same through our good example.
While routines look different across the entire world, what’s most important is what works for you and your family. As parents, we won’t always have the perfect plan, timing or execution. More often than not, we will find that our efforts to help our children become good stewards will be tested and will fail. Nevertheless, we should never lose heart. (Suki Santos)