Routines and timetables are like Lego for a child's character. Simple home routines and consistent kindness towards all are the building blocks of good habits. Add your selfless example and a liberal smothering of affection and the characters you forge will be resilient, big hearted and ready for life.
But surely the unexpected is the spice of life? Aren’t routines soulless and loveless? Who would want life on automatic?
The reality is that one-offs are easy. ‘It is easy to perform a single good action but not easy to acquire a settled habit of performing such actions,’ wrote Aristotle about 2400 years ago.
‘It is easy to perform a single good action but not easy to acquire a settled habit of performing such actions.’
Aristotle, 384–322 BC
Kids need structure. Homes need routines which are not mindless regimentation. The alternative, chaos, will see you frazzled, and kids falling way short of their potential.
Find ways to impart ownership. Expect responsibility for four or five key moments in the day, getting up on the first call, dinner time, time to get ready for bed. Initially it may be a battle but fight the battles early. Parenting author Jim Stenson sums it up, ‘Pay now or pay later.’ Have kids write their own timetables.
‘Pay now or pay later.’
Reward punctuality with a hug and a beaming smile. And remember, a parent’s love is the key motivation for a child to do good. Not anger, not impatience, not emotional blackmail. Love.
- Do we create a home culture by clear expectations? Or is it rather by reaction to negative behaviours?
- Do even our small children know their simple timetable?
- Do we find ways to foster personal responsibility for order and timetable in each family member?
- Do I show by my upbeat example that order and punctuality help us all?
- Do I give good example of getting up and going to bed 'on time'?
'It's the way we do things in our home.'
Establish habits founded on respect and responsibility. Just as we grew up to sayings such as ‘Work before play’, establish the same explicit expectations in your family. Recycle catch phrases that create culture:
• If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. • Don't leave a job half done. • We all chip in when there’s work to be done. • A place for everything and everything in its place. And for interpersonal skills:. • Be the first to apologise. • We don’t shout inside the house. • We don’t talk badly of others behind their backs. • We don’t leave the table before everyone has finished. • We give our full attention if someone talks to us.
Get the basics right
Paula Barrett, Professor of Psychology and Founding Director of Pathways Health and Research Centre in Brisbane, says 'The older I get the more I believe in my grandmother.' She asks parents three questions. The first one is: ‘How much sleep is the child getting?’ She points out that since the invention of the electric light children are getting less sleep. The second question is: ‘What are the child’s eating habits?’ And the third: ‘What routines are in place in the home?’
‘Don’t give in’, she says, ‘hold to the reasonable boundaries you have set’. Children need sleep, nourishing food and predictability. Get the basics right.