Children Thrive On Routine and Consistency
I can't tell you how many parents I have talked to that just can't understand why their child is so unmanageable. Their kids seem to be out of control, they hit, they kick, they can't focus on anything for any noticeable length of time. So, I begin my usual questions.
Me: Can you tell me about your routines at home?
Parent: What do you mean?
Me: What do you do on a typical weeknight at your home?
Parent: Oh, well, that depends on where we are going, or if I have to go do something.
Me: I see. Well, about what time do you typically eat your evening meal, get the children's baths, go to bed, etc?
Parent: They go to bed when we do and sometimes we eat at different times.
See any red flags there?
When I had my first child, I was very determined to establish an everyday routine, and we have stuck with it for 14 years. All of my kids have evening routines. Yes, they have been tweaked as they have gotten older, but there is a routine, none the less.
Children thrive on knowing what to expect on a daily basis. They begin to tell time in this way! Ask any child when they have recess at school and they can tell you it is after (or before) lunch. They can't tell you it is at 1:15 PM, but they know and understand the order of their activities, and it is a source of comfort to them. Go into any classroom when the schedule has been disrupted and it will be a little more lively than normal!
When these parents ask me about having their child evaluated for ADHD, I don't talk them out of it. I do, however, ask them to try a few things at home in the mean time.
I show them a sample of an evening routine. One with times attached to each activity,
Play time: 5:00-6:00
Meal Time: 6:00-6:30 (approximate time)
Homework: 6:30-7:00 (if applicable)
Bath time: 7:00-7:30
Brush Teeth: 8:15
This is pretty close to the schedule that my 1st grader is on right now. It is what works for us and for him. Children need more sleep than adults, so it wouldn't make sense for him to stay up until the adults go to bed.
Often when children are having difficulties in school, it is due to a lack of sleep. They act out because they are tired and irritable. I've see it time and time again.
When the parents that I have me with actually try to implement a daily routine it can be hard! I had a parent tell me yesterday that now that she has a regular routine she wishes that she had known how it could change their lives when her other children were young. She says everything is easier because there is just no question from the kids about doing their nightly tasks. It's normal now.
So, do you have a daily routine for your children? How do you tweak it as they get older?
Preschool Behavior Specialist