Menu
Why routines are the key to a happy, thriving family

Some folks say that routines and predictability are boring. That may be true, but boring can be a good thing—especially for our children


Without routines and structure, life is chaotic. From infancy to old age, we all feel better and function better when there is consistency and predictability in our day.

Routines have not come easily to me, and I’m not one of those ‘born organized’ people. Sometimes I can be impulsive, avoiding the tasks I don’t want to do. This can backfire, causing bouts of chaos. “What do you mean, someone is stopping by? Time for a quick clean up.”

Of course, this chaos spills over into the rest of my life and my psyche. Procrastination eats up time. My brain becomes cluttered with what I’ve avoided, and there is less room and energy for creative thinking.

I’ve also heard it called SOS (Shiny Object Syndrome)there’s something more interesting than what you’re doing, so you drift off (or run) to that more exciting thing.

Whatever you call it, it eats away at your productivity and sense of calm. “It’s easy to dismiss routines and habits as boring,” says USC social psychologist and professor, Wendy Wood. “But give some of them credit for keeping you on track amid the uncertainties of daily life, as well as freeing up brain space to dream, to create fresh ideas, to solve problems. Habits help us get through the day with minimal stress.”

Wood adds this about maximizing habits and routines: “Think of habits as a way of meeting your goals. As you reassess your goals, reassessing your habits has to be part of the process, or you’re going to be in conflict.

Turn the less enjoyable parts of your day (your afternoon jog, cleaning out your email inbox) or the ones that you are afraid may be failures (avoiding ice cream) into habits. It leaves you time and energy to focus on the decisions that are fun to make.”

Now think about your kids.

How many times have you heard “It’s boring” from them? They are impulsive, always exploring their world, and at the mercy of their emotions. Of course, they’d rather be playing than sitting at a desk, or with their friends instead of doing chores.

But the fact is that children need routines and thrive with structure. You know it’s true because you see what happens when they are missing.

There is one more critical purpose for routines: they help children (and all humans) adjust to change.

We humans cling to the familiar. The human brain is programmed to stay with what it knows and resist change. The unknown is frightening—especially for children, who lack the knowledge and real-world experience to anticipate what that change really means.

New people and experiences come into their life on a regular, and sometimes unexpected, basis: changing friends, illness, divorce, failure in school or on the playing field, births, deaths. Their bodies are also changing, along with the intensity of their emotions.

As Dr. Laura Markham says, “Routines give them a sense of security and help them develop self-discipline.”

Here are some highlights from Dr. Markham’s article about why kids needs routines:

  • Children’s fear of the unknown includes everything from a suspicious new vegetable to a major change in their life.
  • Children, like the rest of us, handle change best if it’s expected and occurs in the context of a familiar routine.
  • Unpredictable changes erode this sense of safety and mastery, and leave the child feeling anxious and less able to cope with the vicissitudes of life.
  • Structure and routines teach kids how to constructively control themselves and their environments.

Convinced yet?

Here are seven benefits of using routines with kids:

1. Routines eliminate power struggles, because you aren’t bossing them around.

2. Routines help kids cooperate. We all know what comes next and get fair warning for transitions.

3. Routines help kids learn to take charge of their own activities.

4. Kids learn the concept of ‘looking forward” to things they enjoy.

5. Regular routines help kids get on a schedule.

6. Routines help parents build in those precious connection moments.

7. Schedules help parents maintain consistency in expectations. If everything is a fight, parents end up settling and changing rules and expectations

Structure doesn’t have to be rigid. These routines become the support that makes life easier, providing security and confidence to handle the known and the unexpected.

Originally published be Fern Weis on www.fernweis.com.

They say necessity is the mother of invention—and nothing makes you more inventive than motherhood.

Sometimes that means fashioning a diaper out of paper towels and your older child's underpants (true story). Sometimes that means creating an innovative and life-changing weighted baby sleep sack and totally crushing it on Shark Tank. Tara Williams is the latter.

Keep reading Show less
Shop

One of our main goals as mothers is to encourage our children to learn, grow and play. They start out as our tiny, adorable babies who need us for everything, and somehow, before you know it, they grow into toddlers with ideas and opinions and desires of their own.

You may be hearing a lot more of "I do it!" or maybe they're pushing your hand away as a signal to let you know, I don't need your help, Mama. That's okay. They're just telling you they're ready for more independence. They want to be in charge of their bodies, and any little bit of control their lives and abilities allow.

So, instead of challenging your toddler's desire for autonomy, we found five of our favorite products to help encourage independence—and eliminate frustration in the process.

EKOBO Bamboo 4-piece kid set

EKOBO bamboo 4-piece kid set

This colorful set includes a plate, cup, bowl and spoon and is just right for your child's meal experience. Keep them in an easy-to-reach cabinet so they'll feel encouraged (and excited!) to get their own place setting each time they eat.

$25

Puj PhillUp hangable kids cups

Puj PhillUp hangable kids cups

Before you know it, your little one will be asking (okay, maybe demanding) to fill their own water cups. This amazing 4-pack of cups attaches directly to the fridge (or any glass, metal, tile or fiberglass surface) making it easier for your child to grab a cup themselves. Just be sure a water pitcher or dispenser is nearby, and—boom!—one task off your plate.

$29

Wise Elk puzzle tower blocks

Wise Elk puzzle tower blocks

These beautiful blocks, made from sustainably-sourced wood and water-based, non-toxic, lead-free paint, will keep your little one focused on their creation while they're also busy working on their fine-motor skills. The puzzle design will encourage patience as your kiddo creates their own building, fitting one block in after the next.

$18

Lorena Canals basket

Lorena Canals Basket

This *gorgeous* braided cotton basket is the perfect, accessible home for their blocks (and whatever else you want to hide away!) so your kiddo can grab them (and clean them up) whenever their heart desires.

$29

BABYBJÖRN step stool

BABYBJ\u00d6RN Step Stool

Your kiddo might be ready to take on the world, but they might need an extra boost to do so—cue, a step stool! An easy-to-move lightweight stool is the must-have confidence-boosting tool you need in your home so your growing tot can reach, well... the world.

$20

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Shop

Our list of 100 baby names that should be on everyone's list this year includes more choices than in the past of names that are obscure and surprising. That's because there are so many more unusual baby names coming into widespread use and baby namers have become a lot more adventurous.

Expectant parents do not need to be told to move beyond Jennifer and Jason. Their thinking about names has evolved to the point that the most useful thing we can do is offer a large menu of intriguing choices.

Here are our picks for the 100 best surprising + unusual baby names now.


Keep reading Show less
Learn + Play