November 1, 2019


Summit Center Updates

Pro Tips: Parenting Routines

By Laura Skotarczak, Director of Genesis Community Support Services

Even the most calm and well-adjusted parents have encounters with their children which they dread. Maybe it’s bedtime, bathtime, or doctor’s visits. These are the times when parents are more likely to lose it: either the ability to remain calm or to accidentally reward a behavior they do not want to (like giving that cookie before dinner). We all do it. There is no shame in admitting it happens from time-to-time.

So how do we reduce the likelihood of total meltdowns by parents or children? We create routines and carry them out in a matter-of-fact manner. There are many ways to do this.

We can have dinner at the same time every evening (if possible), do the same tasks in the same order before bedtime every night (such as, bath, then tooth brushing, then reading a bedtime story, then tucking in), or having a special treat after every successful doctor visit. The actual routine is not what matters. What is important is that this routine is as consistent as possible.

Some routines can also rely on child behavior as well. So, that special treat after a doctor visit would not occur if the child does not behave well during the visit. Again, consistency is key. If this is the route you choose for the behavior, you must do this every time.

If you aren’t used to incorporating routines,  aren’t sure where to start, or are struggling with many times of day (like getting off to school or dinner time behavior), pick one time of day to start. You may be tempted to tackle the most difficult thing, but I find practicing with a time of day that is not so difficult is best. You will feel more confident and can more easily build on your success. Once you become fully successful here, move on to a more difficult routine.

What might such a routine look like?  Let’s look at a morning routine for a 10-year-old –

7:00 – Mom: “Good morning Haley, it is 7:00 and time to get up, I will give you one more reminder in ten minutes.”

7:10 – Mom: “This is you last reminder, the bus will be here in 45 minutes, since you showered last night, please get up and brush your teeth and wash your face. I will see you in the kitchen in ten minutes.”

7:20 – Mom: “Nice job staying on schedule this morning! You might have a little extra time before the bus gets here! What would you like for breakfast?

Haley: “Cereal, please. Can I have some juice, too?”

Mom: “Sure, the bus will be here in 35 minutes, so you have a little time, is you book bag packed?

Haley: “Yes, I packed it last night.”

Mom: “Great! You have soccer after school, so I put an extra snack in your lunchbox, please save it for after school.”

7:35 – Mom – “Thanks for putting your bowl and cup in the sink; go get dressed and ready for the bus. If you have extra time, I will let you play on the tablet when you are ready to go.”

7:45 – Mom: “You look very nice today, here is the tablet. I set the timer for 8 minutes, so you know when to go outside for the bus.”

Haley: “Thanks mom”

7:53 – The timer goes off and Haley leaves for the school bus after mom and Haley do their normal goodbyes.

Obviously, this is an ideal morning routine, but I would like to point out a few factors that set it up for success:

  • Expectations – the mom told Haley what was going to happen and what would happen if Haley was compliant. Ideally, she would do the same if Haley was not compliant
  • Consistency – the mom followed through on her expectations every time
  • Praise – the mom gave specific praise when she liked what Haley was doing
  • Reward – Haley earned a reward for doing what she was asked. If Haley did not do as she was asked, the punishment would be not earning the reward. There is no need to further punish after school.
  • Advanced prep – Haley had showered the night before and her book bag packed. Mom also had lunch ready and a snack packed for after school. Anything that can be done the night before really helps!

Routines are a great way of implementing problem free times that become a regular habit. If children know what to expect, they are more likely to be compliant, parents are more likely to have reduced stress, and everyone is just a little bit happier. That is a win-win-win!