5 Ways to Create Structure for Your Children

For many parents of school-age children, the thought of the two-week winter break from school signals a mixed bag of emotion. Some may travel across time zones, others will attend late night performances and energetic events or festive yet exhaustive parties, although for most, the luxury of staying home and just being ‘leisure’ might hold the greatest appeal.

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While we would like to think children are just as adaptable as adults when it comes to going to bed late and waking at noon, the fact is, children best perform—and behave, when rooted in structure and routine.

While we would like to think children are just as adaptable as adults when it comes to going to bed late and waking at noon, the fact is, children best perform—and behave, when rooted in structure and routine.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are several actions you can do to help create a routine-centric and structured environment for your child.

Keys to Creating Structure
(source: cdc.gov/parents/essentials/structure)

  1. Consistency, predictability, and follow-through are important for creating structure in the home. Click here to learn more.
  2. Respond to your child’s behavior the same way every time. When you are consistent, the behaviors you like will happen more often and problem behaviors are less likely to happen.Click here to learn more.
  3. Routines and daily schedules help you and your child. You both know what to expect each day. Routines can also improve your child’s behavior and your relationship with your child.Click here to learn more.
  4. A family rule is a clear statement about behaviors that are never okay, such as hitting and running in the house. You can change your child’s behavior when there are clear consequences for breaking the rule.Click here to learn more.
  5. Keep things positive! Reward and praise your child for following routines and rules. This makes it more likely that your child will follow the routines and rules in the future.Click here to learn more

Establishing routines is essential. Simply, a routine is a set of steps you follow the same way each time.  This means that the day’s activities are predictable. Most kids act out a frustration through unwanted behavior because an aspect of routine, or ‘comfort’ is missing. Morning routines, for example, can help you and your child get ready to leave the house on time. A bedtime routine can help your child sleep better and allow you more time for yourself. A dinner-time routine can help your child eat healthy (no dessert before dinner!). If your child knows the routine, you will have fewer tantrums and power struggles during the day.

Even during winter and summer school breaks, we keep a consistent sleep and wake schedule. Sure, there’s the occasional late night or “PJ” day, but I’ve heard all too often of families who struggle to get back into the groove of routine (especially bedtime) following busy, unstructured weekends, long weekends or breaks.

Routines also lend a sense of security. Children feel safe and know how to behave when they have a routine and know what to expect. It builds trust, plants a seed of self-motivation, and reduces meltdowns over unmet child-based expectations.

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