The Power of Positive Routine

Apr 10, 2023, 16:47 PM by UTMB Pediatrics




Ask anyone who has gone to their regular grocery store and tried to go around the store in the opposite direction than usually traveled if they felt slightly disorientated or forgot something important.  Each person has routines built into daily life, starting in infancy with establishing sleep and feeding patterns.  By the time they are adults, many routines or patterns, good or bad, are so well established that changes are hard.

Healthy routines are good for families.  It helps to get things done and to have time for fun.  Routines help family members know what they should do and when they should do it.  They let children know what is important for their family.  Some routines are special and are called rituals.  These can help strengthen your family’s shared beliefs and values.

Modern life has many interruptions.  Routines help you feel more organized and in control which lowers family stress.  It helps free up time to play and relax.  A good routine happens in the same order each time.  For example, brushing your teeth happens twice daily and is part of the morning and evening routine.

Toddlers and preschoolers can have routines for getting ready in the morning, eating meals, reading books, having quiet time, and going to bed.  As children grow up, they learn to be independent and learn the routines of daily living, such as getting dressed, picking out their clothes, using the bathroom, and washing their hands, plus other good health habits. They are learning the rules of playing with others, such as sharing, and the rules of the games they are playing.

When a young child copies everyday household tasks, they are learning how to be part of the family and how to contribute.  As they grow, they can do simple tasks routinely, such as putting up their toys or placing dirty clothes in a basket.  As they grow older, they can start setting the table, feeding the pets, taking out the trash, sorting the laundry, and even how to operate the washing machine and dryer.

Independence comes with teaching these tasks with guidance, such as getting their clothes ready the night before, breaking down the task of getting ready into small steps such as, first, use the bathroom, then take off your PJ’s, then put on your clothes.  It is important that the child is recognized and praised for his success in each step.  Appreciation for doing their part of the family routine is essential.

It is also important to set limits when children do something against the rules or out of routine.  First, explain simply what was wrong.  Consequences need to be logical and simple. Removal of the toy or time out for a tantrum, but the expected task still needs to be done.  It is reasonable to ask why they are so upset and adjust the routine if there is a problem.

Routines can be important for children who find it hard to understand or cope with change.

by Sally Robinson, MD Clinical Professor
Keeping Kids Healthy
Published 04/2023

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