My friends were exhausted. And for good reason. They have a 4 year old and a 1 year old, commute to work, and have to walk the dog. But, wait. Haven’t many people gotten through that? Looking at their tired eyes, and seeing them deal with their children, I remembered numerous episodes of Nanny 911. Structure helps everyone. Many a time I saw the nanny implement the ‘families sit down to eat dinner’ rule. ‘Everyone sleeps in their own bed’ soon followed. I always thought this simply provided structure just for the kids, but seeing this struggling family without much structure for children, it all made sense.
The routine provides clear decision making (or limits the need to make decisions) for parents. It eliminates guilt (I decided last year not to give in to tantrums, and this is a tantrum, therefore I shouldn’t feel guilty for not doling out another cookie) and it assists with family unity. Dinner being ready at 6, all sitting around a table facilitates conversation, and also allows duties such as washing up to follow. With bedtime, when parents can never have the same routine twice or depend on sleep for themselves or their children, a cranky family ensues.
Routines give kids a sense of security and help them develop self-discipline. Children also naturally fear the unknown, and structure will allow them to handle change within a context of the ‘known’. These little minds and bodies change daily and the familiar acts as a comfort.
The possibility of handing kids to babysitters and having them be put to sleep without a set routine is stressful and often ruins an evening that you are paying quite a bit for. Leave it to a night when you are exhausted for the toddler to decide not to go to bed, or to get up every 30 minutes. If you don’t have a fairly stricy routine for this, the child gets mixed messages. Parents should be able to parent – to make the decisions and be the ‘alphas’ in their family. Children crave this structure, and look for role models.
We have so much clutter in our brains and structure can eliminate all of those extra decisions. So get out the calendar and a timer and relax!