I preach in trainings and to parents all the time how important routines are. Of course today we are off routine. Routines promote safety for children. Think about your life as an adult. You feel lighter and safer walking into a place or time that you are familiar with.
Why Kids Need Routines
Why do kids need routines?
Because routines give them a sense of security and help them develop self-discipline.
Humans are afraid of many things, but “the unknown” edges out everything except death and public speaking for most people.
Children’s fear of the unknown includes everything from a suspicious new vegetable to a major change in their life. For better or worse, children are confronted with change daily, which is a growth opportunity, but also stressful.
The very definition of growing up is that their own bodies change on them constantly. Babies and toddlers give up pacifiers, bottles, breasts, cribs, their standing as the baby of the house. New teachers and classmates come and go every year. They tackle and learn new skills and information at an astonishing pace, from reading and crossing the street to soccer and riding a bike. Few children live in the same house during their entire childhood; most move several times, often to new cities and certainly to new neighborhoods and schools.
And few of these changes are within the child’s control.
Children, like the rest of us, handle change best if it is expected and occurs in the context of a familiar routine. A predictable routine allows children to feel safe, and to develop a sense of mastery in handling their lives. As this sense of mastery is strengthened, they can tackle larger changes: walking to school by themselves, paying for a purchase at the store, going to sleepaway camp.
Unpredictable changes – Mom called away on an unexpected business trip, a best friend moving, or more drastic, parents divorcing or a grandparent dying – erode this sense of safety and mastery and leave the child feeling anxious and less able to cope with the vicissitudes of life. Of course, many changes can’t be avoided. But that’s why we offer children a predictable routine as a foundation in their lives–so they can rise to the occasion to handle big changes when they need to.
While helping children feel safe and ready to take on new challenges and developmental tasks would be reason enough to offer them structure, it has another important developmental role as well. Structure and routines teach kids how to constructively manage themselves and their environments.
Kids who come from chaotic homes where belongings aren’t put away never learn that life can run more smoothly if things are organized a little. In homes where there is no set time or space to do homework, kids never learn how to sit themselves down to accomplish an unpleasant task. Kids who don’t develop basic self-care routines, from grooming to food, may find it hard to take care of themselves as young adults. Structure allows us to internalize constructive habits.
Won’t too much structure dull our sense of spontaneity and creativity?
Sure, if it’s imposed without sensitivity. There are times when rules are made to be broken, like staying up late to see an eclipse, or leaving the dinner dishes in the sink to play charades. But even the most creative artists start by mastering the conventions of the past, and find the pinnacle of their expression in working within the confines of specific rules.
There’s no reason structure has to be oppressive. Think of it as your friend, offering the little routines and traditions that make life both easier and cozier. Not only will your kids will soak up the security, they’ll internalize the ability to structure their own lives.
Today the tiles were still wet and we needed not to have a lot of traffic on them so we played downstairs and then watched a movie. Very quickly with a few we realized how much a little change in routine can throw everyone off. It’s been a day of challenges.
Being totally transparent my day has been off too. The house still isn’t quite together and I have a tour here tonight from North West Arkansas Community College . During family time NAFCC called me about my national accreditation and said it would be after the 20th. Think about that for a minute. There are no kids here. This visit HAS to happen before May 17th. I am frustrated. Studies will tell you that kids can read our frustration and anxiety and feed off that. When I get frustrated I try to verbalize it and use a calm down technique so the kids see it in action — and it helps me. Today I said , I am really frustrated I need to do a balloon. Why don’t you do one with me? Lets do a pink unicorn cotton candy balloon….. Oh yeah…. We did. Finn said ” Uh… teacher, I think you need to do it one more time. ” Your right kid- I do.
Tomorrow is a new day. Even through challenge we learn.
ALSO.. we did our last self portrait for the year. Here is one drawing from August –
And now May !
You can see how much more fine motor control Jude has. You can also see how much more detail he put in his drawing. As he finished this drawing today he said ” Wait, I forgot to add the ears. This would be a great time to remind you that we don’t TEACH drawing or writing. All the things that we offer on a daily basis help him gain the skills and confidence to success. Beading, tightening screws, plentiful art materials , mirrors, soap shaving, playdoh and most of all a place where he is free to express himself and learn at his own pace in a place that believes he is capable of doing big things.
Edit – Nafcc just called again and will be here before the 15th.