by Jamie Bonnema
Some people cringe when they hear the word “routines” while others find it almost as comforting as snuggling under their favorite soft blanket with a mug of hot cocoa. As adults, we tend to equate the word “routines” with a feeling, and either avoid them for fear of feeling restricted, or adhere to them for the feelings of comfort and safety. Early in life, however, routines can be survival. For a child, having a great daily routine leads to a more successful day, week, month, and year. The alternative can be a day, week, month, and year with more struggle, frustration, and uncertainty.
So what is a routine? A routine is a series or sequence of tasks or actions that are regularly followed. The goal of the routine is to reduce friction. Friction can be anxiety, forgetting a task, delay due to disorganization, or many other things. Routines can be simple, or they can be complex. The most important thing is that they reflect what regularly needs to be done, in an efficient order, to set the stage successfully for what comes next.
When I was a youth treatment counselor, both in education and in residential care, routines ran our day. We had routines for our morning prep, class transitions, meals, activities, and bedtimes. Why so many? They offered predictability and opportunity for everyone to do their part. They offered organization by eliminating chaos. They revealed what was important and vital and what was not. They clarified thoughts, leaving little to be forgotten. Every child and staff knew the routines, and the ones who best followed the routines had the most freedom. Did I mention routines and freedom in the same sentence? Yes, routines offer freedom!
In our home, certain things from my youth treatment counselor days are implemented to some degree. No, I do not practice the same rigidity and hyper supervision over every child at every moment. But, routines? Yes, we have them, and yes, they are important. We do not do them perfectly every time, and when we get away from our routines for too long, we do tend to see more struggles, both in frustration tolerance and obedience. What we have found is that it is extremely easy to get off track, but doing the same things every day help keep us on track, focused, and wanting to be better in whatever setting we are in.
Stay tuned for my next blog on some tips for making good routines for your family that are predictable, positive, and effective.
Want to read part 2 with tips and ideas for positive 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.