The end of summer is upon us, and for many of us this may be a relief. You may also be concerned that the healthy habits you worked so hard to develop in your children have been lost during the summer. Not only do sleep routines change, but the daily habits of homework, chores and practices often evaporate.
These healthy daily routines do require a certain ‘momentum’ to make life easy. If successful, your child develops a ‘habit’ and the habit makes for an easy, predictable life. For some children, gearing up for these changes is not a problem; however, for many children this transition from summer freedom to more structured school routine is a huge struggle.
Initial Pointers to Easeful Routines
There are several simple tactics to begin right away that will make the transition to school routines easy. Perhaps more important, these tactics will very likely set the course for a better school year and improved performance. Here are my top 5 tactics to ensure a more enjoyable and successful start to the school year.
1. Don’t Wait: Start Now to Change Routines.
Children, as well as adults, thrive with consistent daily routines. Most of us do not easily adjust to changes in routine, and thus it’s better to start this today rather than waiting. Studies suggest that children benefit immensely from consistency in daily routines, and thus there is no advantage to waiting until ‘next week.’
While I find most parents nod their head on this point, many simply never master this skillset. Why? Because a very consistent family routine requires the ‘grown-ups’ to first master their own routine. This isn’t easy for some.
And then secondly, it requires an understanding of how to manage your children’s behavior effectively WITHOUT being controlling. This is a skillset worth building.
2. Start with Bedtime’s First, Then Mornings!
The easiest place to solve the morning routine is with easeful and early bedtime routines. When kids go to bed late, or lack adequate rest, the mornings are likely a mess. The better rested, the more delightful the morning will be.
The Simple Secret: Shut down everything the kids care about earlier, rather than later. Don’t wait to see how things turn out, but instead trust your gut. More rest is needed by most kids, and their response in the morning is a cue about this.
If you manage bedtimes well, it doesn’t guarantee easeful morning routines, but it increases the odds for success.
3. Ask Once…And Then Take Action!
In order to take advantage of the ‘simple secret,’ learn to become more action oriented. Rather than trying to harp on the kids to get to bed, take another tactic. Shut down the TV, the computer, the games and lock the toy-room door. In other words, take action!
Control the goodies at bedtime and during morning routines, rather than just battling with kids to get them to listen. This is key to getting the kids on track with healthy daily routines, not to mention making your life easier.
Remember: Ask once and pause a bit. For example, it might sound like this, “Hey guys. It’s time for bed. Please shut that down now.”
Next, you wait a few minutes. Then, take action if nothing happens! Shut it down. Cut the power. Turn off the lights. Kill the Internet connection. All of these are actions that give you power to move the kids along to bed and help to eliminate the battles.
Don’t threaten to take action. Instead, take action.
4. When Kids React, You Don’t.
This more action-oriented approach, while just the beginning, is inevitably going to bring some more drama and reactions to your home. That’s okay. Just be prepared, and when the kids react, you stay calm. Don’t try to justify, explain or end up negotiating. These will all lead to misery and a failed system.
Your kids simply can’t know what is best for them, and yet they will try to convince you that they do. They will give very emotional, heartfelt reasons why you should change your mind and give them more time. Sometimes, shutting down the phone can lead to huge drama, such as ‘Mom, you just ruined my life.’ This is normal, if your kids are not used to firm limits.
With some exposure to consistent limits, and no reactions by mom or dad, everything calms down. Just expect this process, and then all will quickly shift to a predictable, easeful routine. It won’t be easy for a while, but this is the price to be paid for any shift to healthy habits.