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Consistency & Routines
picture of father and child

Parenting is a process, and every parent needs to find what works best for her family. It's often valuable to establish consistent routines. While many adults may find this process challenging, a consistent routine can help a child feel secure.

Kids learn best through repeated exposure and experience. They find it comforting when you repeat a routine day after day. A routine lets children understand what is expected and what choices they have. It is very important for them to feel as though they have some control over their environment and their lives. The result can be a child who listens, cooperates, and even seems to enjoy the process of going to bed at a reasonable time, or making the transition from one activity to another.

It helps if you discuss what's going to happen in advance. For example: Explain to your child before he watches a video that when it is over, he will wash up for dinner and come to the table. By communicating consistent and clear messages about what you expect, your child knows ahead of time and can prepare himself for what's in store.

Finding the right routine for your child can be a challenge, but once you discover what works, it can make a world of difference. This applies to bedtime, bath time, meal time, getting out the door, getting ready for school, and even cleaning up a child's room.

To create routines that work for you and your children, keep the following points in mind:
  • Have realistic expectations. Be aware of your children's capabilities and know when you are asking too much.
  • Be consistent. Follow the same routine each day so that your kids know what is expected of them.
  • Set clear limits and discuss them in advance. This allows children to understand when things will occur, and gives them time to prepare themselves for what is coming next.
  • Provide cues for transition times. This can be extremely helpful, since children do not tell time.
  • Be flexible. Adapt your routines as your children grow and change.

What the Experts Say

Dr. Gloria Rodriquez
"Children have to understand that there is a ritual that you're going to follow and that it's going to have a beginning, a middle, and an end."

Dr. Becky Bailey
"Children don't talk to themselves inside their heads until they're around 7-years-old. They think in terms of pictures. One thing you can do is to explain a routine visually. For example, you might describe what's going to happen by painting a picture, 'We're going to watch a little TV, take a bath, and have snuggle time,' and then your child's brain will pick up that pattern."

Questions to Ask Yourself
  1. Are you staying consistent with your routines, making sure that bedtime stays relatively constant, and other chores are regularly completed?

  2. Are you helping your child to follow routines by the way you speak to him? Are your words complimentary and positive?

  3. Are you being consistent in your parenting approach? (That means saying what you mean, and meaning what you say.)

Video Clips from Parent Tales
Watch Dr. Becky Bailey and Dr. Gloria Rodriguez help parents set up routines that work. To view these clips you will need RealPlayer.

Printable Awards
Celebrate your child's efforts with these printable Dragon Tales certificates.

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