I grew up with a mom who loved routines. I had a pretty regular schedule growing up; go to school, go to an after school class like ballet or piano, do my homework, eat dinner, bedtime. I loved my routine! I had lots of friends with similar schedules and planner parents, and really liked knowing where I was going to be during the week.
My husband, on the other hand, had a lot more free time built in to his childhood. He would come home and figure out what that day was going to look like. Maybe it would be homework and playing guitar, hanging out with friends, running errands with his own mother. And he absolutely loved what his days looked like! If you talk to him today, he gushes about the freedom his days had.
And you know what? Both of those routines worked.
Parents hear over and over that young children need routines that are consistent and predictable. And it’s true! Children learn from repetition, so consistency is key. But I’m here to let you in on two little secrets.
Secret #1: There is no perfect routine. None! There is only what works best for you and your family.
If you’re someone who loves making to-do lists and planning things ahead, then you probably wouldn't someone to tell you to “follow your child’s lead” and let them dictate what you're going to do that day.
On the other hand, If you're a more spontaneous, go-with-the-flow type, then you're probably going to hate it if I tell you your child needs the same schedule and activities every day.
Every family is going to have different priorities which are going to shape what day to day life looks like. Different parents face completely different challenges, which is why a one size fits all approach is not going to work. There is no perfect routine. So what to do?
Secret #2: The most important part of a routine is you.The consistency that children need to learn does not have to come from having a schedule; it comes from the way you respond to them.
This is how children know they are safe, explore and learn new things. Think about it:you feel safe if you were around a volatile, unpredictable individual?? What if you didn't know if this person going to yell at you, ignore you, or be nice to you? Constantly having to worry about how your actions are going to be received is stressful!
By responding to your child in a way that is not only predictable, but shows a balance of warmth and demand, they are free to take on challenges. Free to fail. Free to keep learning. Encourage that feeling of safety, of having clear boundaries and consistent responses. That is how you will foster a welcoming learning environment.
Does that feeling of safety come from a schedule? Maybe for some people. But a routine can, and should, look different for every family and child.
Trying to find out what routine is best for you and your family can be hard. Contact us here if you need help figuring out how to be consistent and help your child learn best.