Do your children have difficulty when you change from one activity to another? Do you have trouble getting your child to follow a regular schedule during quarantine homeschooling? Consistent routines help create order and structure in your day. Things go more smoothly when you and your child know what to expect. These are indeed strange times, and your kids are certainly affected by the constant switching from in-school to home-school routines, along with imposed stay-at-home orders that change almost week to week. There are some simple ways to help make things run more smoothly at home that will allow everyone to optimize productivity and create positive flow in the day.
It’s normal for young children to test the limits when boredom sets in, and it can be frustrating and really test our patience as parents too. One way to keep control and keep the mood calm to help children learn is to create structure. Structure is created by consistent routines and rules. Rules teach children what will be expected of them during their daily schedule, and also teaches maturity and reinforces responsibility. There needs to be a compassionate approach here because our children’s mental health is greatly affected by so much uncertainty around new restrictions. Our job as parents is to create flow in their day so they can be calm and productive. The routines we create will teach our children what to expect throughout the day, harness their creativity, and safeguard their mental health.
Three Key Ingredients to Building Structure in The Home
First is Consistency – doing the same thing every time. Consistency means that you respond to your child’s behavior the same way every time no matter what is going on or how you’re feeling. Misunderstandings are less likely to occur again if you always use the same approach, like asking them to explain their actions instead of an instant reprimand or time-out. It’s all about empowering your children to use their own words to make sense of their actions. Good behaviors are likely to be repeated if you let your child know you respect them. This doesn’t mean that you need to give consistent attention to ALL of your child’s behaviors. Think about something you want your child to do more often. This could be sharing, cleaning up, or following directions. To increase those behaviors, praise them each time you see them occur. And when your child acts in a negative manner, having good communication rather than a harsh reprimand will instill the understanding that their action was hurtful towards you or another sibling and is unacceptable. Your consistent response will help those behaviors happen less often because they rather feel praise than disappointment.
Next is Predictability – expecting or knowing what is going to happen. Predictability means your child knows what will happen and how you will respond. When your daily routines are predictable, your child knows what to expect for the day. When your rules are predictable, your child knows how you will react to their behavior. This creates flow and ease in the day. For example, your child knows certain steps are followed each night at bedtime, such as taking a bath, brushing teeth, reading a story, getting into bed, and turning off the lights.
And lastly, Follow-through – enforcing the consequence. Following through means that you do what you say you will do in response to your child’s behaviors. This is often called the “say what you mean and mean what you say.” If you tell your child a negative behavior will lead to a loss of something they like, such as movie night, or playing video games, you stick to that every time it happens. If you tell your child he will be rewarded for a behavior, you give him the reward after he has done what you asked. To be consistent and predictable, we need to follow through. Follow-through is important for ALL behaviors. This includes behaviors we like and don’t like.
How do consistency, predictability, and follow-through help create structure?
A structure that helps your child learn to act in positive ways and thrive has routines and rules that are consistent, predictable, and have follow through. There is a basic routine you follow and rules you live by on most days of the week. You set appropriate expectations and limits for your child’s behaviors. Your child learns how you are going to respond to behaviors that are acceptable or not acceptable.
Structure helps parents and their children alike. Kids feel safe and secure because they know what to expect. Parents feel confident because they know how to respond, and they respond the same way each time. Routines and rules help structure the home and make life flow more in a state of harmony and balance.
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