Tips and Ideas for Positive Routines

by Jamie Bonnema

We all know the feeling of starting the day on the wrong foot. Most of the time, when our day is off, or consistently off, we can find that the trigger was a lack of a good routine. In my last blog, I wrote about the importance of routines and what they offer. If you didn’t read that article, you can go back (previous blog) and get some background on what I’m about to share. Routines are vital, and they set us up for success.

I’ve compiled some tips and ideas that will help you get started in having some positive routines in your home, or give you some things to ponder for making your routines even better. The goal is that you are intentionally setting up your kids up for a more successful day, week, month and year by reducing the friction of tasks that need to be done.

  1. First, look at your day and determine the times that seem the most stressful, rushed, frustrating, or chaotic. Also take a look at what activities precede these times of day and what comes after. If you do not have routines during these times, making a good routine is your next step. If you do have a routine that isn’t working well, take a look at what you need to change, improve, eliminate, or add.
  2. Examine your routines and see if they begin positively and end positively. Are tasks dreaded? Is there a fun element to your routine? Do negative attitudes linger at the end?  Do the tasks begin positively and end positively?
  3. Consider using some of the following ideas and examples to get started right and leave your kids feeling fulfilled instead of frustrated and empty:
    • Wake your kids with hugs and kisses. Introduce light slowly and keep requests short with a positive or neutral voice tone.
    • Play uplifting music while they move through morning routine. Use a jingle or rhyme to help ease the burden of a difficult task.
    • Give your kids attention at the beginning and the end, making them feel important and loved.
    • Have something engaging as part of the routine, such as reading a verse together, a short devotional at the breakfast table, a prayer before they go out the door, a story at bedtime, and checking in at the supper table about their day.
    • Offer different kinds of rewards for good routines. Hugs, praise, and one-on-one time are great natural rewards. A special treat or activity is a great logical reward for your child.
    • Post your routines around the home. Make picture charts of what you expect or the steps in the routine. Visuals work great and take away some pressure of having to repeat your expectations.
    • Plan ahead! Pick out outfits the night before. Talk about what is expected the next day, as well as what the kids have to look forward to. Set up a successful routine the next day by ending the night before positively. Resolve problems before bed. Let your kids know you love them and offer love before they sleep, no matter how tough the day was. Keep a calendar visible so that changes in the routine are expected and kids don’t feel blind-sided by a difference in routine.
    • Don’t be afraid to change the routine! Sometimes we just get it wrong, and time reveals that something is not working. You don’t have to declare a family meeting or turn the schedule upside down all at once. Just tweak a few things here and there—little changes go a long way!
    • Make your routine predictable AND flexible. Leave some wiggle room for things to go wrong, for tasks to randomly take longer, and for unplanned things to pop up. The key, here, is to use your routine as your guide—not at a prison schedule. You want your kids to follow the routine and have responsibilities become naturally important instead of depending on a routine to keep them from falling apart. Every once in awhile, introduce something into the routine that isn’t normally part of their day. This will help your kids stay flexible, while moving through their routine successfully.
    • Understand that you are human, your kids are human, and one bad day is no reason to throw out the routine. Judge your success over time—not in the moment. You will be tempted to give in and change something in the heat of the moment, but this is not necessarily helpful over time. For the most part, stay neutral, and stick to the routine. Over time you will be able to discern when it is more helpful to step outside the routine in special circumstances and when you should not give in. Give yourself grace and time to figure this out, and give your kids grace and time to also figure this out, while still staying in charge.

As I mentioned in my last blog, the outcome of a good routine should be more freedom from chaos, disorganization, frustration, and disobedience. If your routine is not offering these things, consider that something is still missing. I believe in having a relationship with Christ that includes Him in every part of the day. If things are consistently going wrong, and you feel you are up against a wall with your kids, consider this may be your missing piece, however unintentional it may be. Life gets busy, and we just plain forget to invite Christ into our interactions and routines in the moment. Pray with your family, pray over your family, and pray for your own growth. Make prayer part of your routine. You will be amazed at the changes that take place over time when you invite our Creator to be in charge of your day, every day, because now you don’t have to do it alone.

Want to read part 1 of how to set your family up for success with routines? Click Here

Jamie Bonnema is a former youth treatment counselor for residential care, education, and wilderness programs. She is a married mother of four children, works from home with a biotech company, and loves spending time outdoors.