Our brains are designed to learn, and in doing so, we have the capacity to automate almost any behavior. (And by automating, I mean that we do not need to think about it.) As your child is growing up, they are exposed to a vast quantity of information. Most of it they master, with an easeful, automatic process.
When you start teaching your child how to speak, write, or read, you notice that you don’t really ‘make’ the learning happen. It simply happens automatically, when you expose them to the opportunities to learn.
And once children learn how to say “Mommy”, they no longer have to think about how to pronounce the word or where the word comes from. When they think Mommy they say “Mommy.”
Once they ride a bike or learn to bounce a ball, there is no thought required to get the simple task done. This capacity to automate our actions is almost unlimited, and yet we do not utilize this to our optimal capacity, especially as it relates to helping our children thrive.
“Children learn almost everything they need to know automatically if they are given the right opportunities to learn.”
Why is that so important?
Because the automatic parts of our brain serve to give us a huge advantage over all our competitive species here on the planet. We have, and our children have, a remarkable ability to acquire information, skills, and habits. Once this happens, and it does so quite quickly, little conscious effort is required to complete the task or habit.
If someone tosses us a ball, and we see it coming, we reach out and catch it. Do we have to think about it? When you get up in the morning and you begin your morning routine, do you have to think about what you’re going to do first, or second, or third? Do you have to think about how you’re going to brush your teeth today? Not likely.
To the extent that life is working out pretty well for us, it’s likely that we give little thought to most daily routines. If we did, then we would be overwhelmed and struggling with life, which leads to anxiety and depression.
Bottom line: Automatic routines are your friend and your child’s friend.
Any set of routine behaviors that can be automated will only serve to make our life better. Considerable research supports this general conclusion. Thus, when it comes to helping your children live a life of effortless ease, it is critical to learn how to automate their day to day routines. The more these are automated in a way that requires little thought and few decisions on a daily basis, the easier that life will be.
Because it frees up their time to focus on what’s really important. They can focus on learning new ‘stuff’ that comes their way. They can focus on enjoying their day. They can focus on being with their friends.
Consistent daily routines take advantage of the automatic brain!
One of the ways that we learn to move through our day in a somewhat automatic fashion is that we develop a consistent structure and routine, and we stick with it. If there is a part of our day that can be turned into a routine, it’s a benefit to do this so that we’re not thinking about it or negotiating with ourselves. We aren’t wasting time with decisions that should be predetermined; instead, we save our brainpower for more important decisions.
The implications for this are enormous. Not only can we teach kids how to automate their daily routines through a consistent structure (with few opportunities for negotiation), but we can begin to see how this eliminates most of the daily struggles around routines and responsibilities that can drive you crazy. When routines are automated, there is no nagging, no reminding, no prodding, no arguing over the daily ‘stuff’ that just has to get done.
For now, however, I invite you to simply recognize the power of the automatic brain. It’s always functioning. It’s always working. And the more that you take advantage of it, by limiting the negotiations, decision-making, and struggles around day to day events, the more your children will fall into a pattern where the day to day routines occur without angst…without effort….without waste of brainpower. It’s magic!