Now our boys are four and two, I often get questioned as to why I still keep such a strict routine - "Doesn't it restrict you?", "Isn't it boring?", "Can't you just let it go for a day?". But a routine is helpful and allows me to get through the things I need to each day and ensures that the needs of my family are being met. I can organise our little family, make time for us to be together and help our four-some and extended family know who should do what, when, in what order and how often.
If you are expecting your own little bundle of joy, or already have little ones, and are wondering if a routine would benefit you and your family then consider the following points:
- It helps them feel safe and secure - they will know that their needs are being met resulting in a happy and content baby (although do expect times of tears and crankiness);
- It can help establish their body clock - having the same sleep times during the day and at night will help a baby's body know when it's time to sleep.
- It can help establish good sleep patterns and will help teach your baby to self-settle between sleep cycles.
Routines are good for children because:
- An organised and predictable home environment helps young children feel safe and secure - humans are afraid of many things, and a child's fear can include everything from a suspicious new food to a major life event. Change can be handled best if it occurs in the context of a familiar and consistent routine.
- It eliminates the power struggles - children start to learn that certain activities happen at that specific time of day and this reduces nagging and the bossing around.
- They help kids cooperate - stress and anxiety for everyone is reduced as everyone knows what comes next and there is fair warning for transitions.
- They help children become independent - If you forget a step in the routine, you'll be sure your little one will remind you that it's time to brush teeth or pack their bag. Kids love being in charge of themselves and having a sense of independence and this results in less opposition and rebellious behaviour.
- It helps children establish a sense of time - while they don't yet grasp the concept of time (in terms of minutes, hours etc.) they order their day by the events that happen. They begin to have a better understanding of their world, know what to expect and can start to make predictions. They will also start understand concepts such as 'before' and 'after'.
Routines are beneficial for parents because:
- They can help new parents learn to interpret their baby's cries - when following a routine you will begin the distinguish between a baby's hungry, tired or bored cries.
- You can plan your day - you can organise doctor's appointments, school drop-offs and pick-ups, extra-curricula activities and ME time (treat yourself to a massage or a hair cut).
- If things change and become hectic, a routine can help you feel organised and keep stress levels down.
- You can complete daily tasks effectively and efficiently - there is time to get that load of washing done or do some vacuuming, go out and do the grocery shopping or go to the gym/yoga/pilates.
- You can have time for yourself and your partner in the evening - the Save our Sleep routine has the kids in bed at 7pm which means you should have a few hours at night to spend as a couple, which is important to ensure you maintain a strong and loving relationship.
If you need more reason as to why routines are important, a study of 10,000 children showed that inconsistent and late bedtimes are associated with behavioural difficulties such as hyperactivity, acting out (hitting, biting, kicking and not getting on with peers) and emotional withdrawal. The study also found that children who did not have a regular bedtime scored lower on reading, math and spatial skill tests then those who did.
Sleep is crucial for physical, mental, intellectual and emotional development - during sleep our brain forms long-term memories, our body repairs itself and produces hormones that are needed to fight off disease and strengthen our immune system.
From a personal perspective, I enjoy having a plan each day (I'm such a teacher). I know our day starts and ends at the same time, I can plan my daily and weekly activities, and if we have an event or something unexpected pops up I can keep myself calm by upholding the routines, which will help keep the boys calm. If you have any questions about establishing and maintaining routines feel free to ask.