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Starting a Family Routine

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I came from a childhood of no structure and it was all right.Although it was just me. I have 2 boys 8 and 3. We have very little structure and I find we are always fighting to get teeth brushed, hair brush, sitting at the table for supper. Everything. So how do I start to implement this now and how do I deal with the arguing I know I'll get.
-- Tammy.


Dear Tammy,
There's lots of info on this website about the benefits of routines for kids. Check out Why Kids Need Routines. You'll also want to look at this answer "Building a Routine for different aged kids" to get a sense of how to implement a new routine.

Some pointers:

1. Only change one part of the day at a time. I always begin with evenings because they prepare you for an organized morning.

2. Find some benefit in it for your kids -- for instance, they get a little time alone with you.

3. Come up with your basic non-negotiables (who has to be in bed at what time) and then give your children some choices (who gets the first bath? Bedtime stories together or separate?)

4. Make a poster with the written, agreed-upon schedule, including photos of each child doing the activities in the right order, to give them the power to monitor themselves through the schedule so you can ease out of herding them through it.

5. Follow the same routine every single day for two months, after which it will be habit and your kids will be able to keep themselves on schedule to brush teeth etc.

One last tip -- it will help a lot if you can make the whole thing fun by keeping yourself in a very positive mood regardless of their reactions. You can listen to their arguing, but if you don't argue back, there won't be an argument. Just empathize with their unhappiness, and reinforce your limit: "I know you don't want to brush your teeth and get ready for bed. You were having so much fun playing. But look at the schedule -- it's 7:30pm, and that means it's time to get ready for bed. Whoever is ready first gets snuggle time with mom first."
Dr. Laura

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