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The Secret to a Calm Day: A Predictable Routine that Still Allows Flexibility
Have you ever noticed that when you wake on the weekend thinking, “What are we going to do today?” The mere question exhausts you? Or how a simple request for your child to get dressed, come to breakfast, or begin schoolwork results in a 20-minute tantrum? That is because a day without any consistency is full of landmine surprises, way too much empty space and a hundred decisions all open for debate.
The secret to replacing pandemonium with peace is a predictable daily routine that allows everyone to know what to expect.
WHAT: A daily routine is a stable sequence of steps that happen every single day. The length of time spent in each activity and the exact time the activity occurs may vary a bit, but the order and pattern always remain the same.
- Wake, dress, toilet, brush teeth and hair
- Morning Meeting (A time to check in on how everyone is feeling and talk about the plans/events of the day.)
- Outside/large muscle/exercise time (Exposure to morning light sets the body clock and large muscle play raises natural soothing/calming hormone levels.)
- Work/learning time
- Mid-morning snack
- Special interest time – Project time, supplemental learning, arts and crafts, field trips, music, baking, building etc
Afternoon and Evening Routine
- Personal bubble time/naps
- Mid-afternoon snack
- Social/activity/electronic time
- Bath/shower time
- Low key family fun/reading time
- Bedtime for the children
- Adult time!!!!
Other potential options may include household chores, clean-up times, etc
To create your family’s routine, think about the things your children need to accomplish each day, such as schoolwork, household chores, or practicing musical instruments. Then think about what activities your children require to remain in the green zone of calm energy such as time spent outside, free play, predictable meals, and snacks. You get to decide what the steps of the routine will include. Once you establish the steps and their sequence, maintain them.
CREATE FLEXIBILTY: It is true that every day is not the same. Weekdays are often completely different from weekends and then there are holidays or vacations that tend to through everything off – or do they? The reality is, even on the “different days,” it is possible to maintain the steps and sequence of your routine.
When a predictable routine is in place you have designated “pockets,” of time. On a weekday your child may wake, dress, have breakfast, participate in a morning meeting to review the day, play outside for thirty minutes and then begin a 45-minute block of schoolwork, or learning centers. Everyone knows what to expect. Afternoon activity time may be your pocket for music lessons, karate lessons, or visits with friends. What happens during that pocket varies, but it always is a time for social and learning activities.
On the weekend your child still wakes, dresses, has breakfast, participates in a morning meeting, but now that outside play time may morph into an hour family bike ride, or trip to the park. Followed by work time which on the weekend is family household chore time when you all work together to tidy things up before enjoying a morning snack.
When you are on vacation, your child once again wakes, dresses, participates in morning meeting, but now outside play time may combine with work time, snack, and special interests for an all morning field trip. You still stop to have mid-morning snack, so no one gets famished, and return to the hotel for lunch and naps or “personal bubble!” And because you did stop for those meals and take that break the likelihood of late afternoon meltdowns drops significantly. Vacation is FUN!
The same is true for holidays. When you think about when to visit grandparents, it may be during special interest time – NOT nap time. Or, like on vacation, the entire morning after family meeting may be spent having fun with others BUT you also know as your intensity rises and so does that of the children, you are going to maintain lunch and PERSONAL BUBBLE time so everyone gets a break!
A predictable sequential routine creates a peaceful flow to the day. Rather than feeling restrictive, it gives you more energy to have fun because you are no longer debating what’s next and or listening to children begging for food or electronics. Everyone knows when you have snack (right after work time in the morning and after personal bubble time in the afternoon) and when it’s time to pull out the iPad (after mid-afternoon snack) and even more importantly when it is time to PUT away the iPad – time for bath!