Routines help us to do things in consistent and predictable ways. Simple, right? If you’re a parent or caregiver, or even if you’re not, you may be vigorously shaking your head. But, while building and sticking to routines may not always feel simple, the impact is worth the effort!
Young children feel safe when their daily lives are predictable; when they know “what comes next.” That sense of safety helps children feel more confident and more willing to try new and/or difficult tasks. Routines also help children take on new responsibilities and become more independent. Year after year, caregivers participating in the ParentCorps Parenting Program share that building family routines is one of the most impactful strategies that they learn, likely because routines go a long way in making the day feel smoother for the whole family.
We asked 10-year-old routines expert and plant caregiver, Charlie DeCicco-Rosenblatt, to help us out with some “real life” routines tips that apply to children and adults, alike:
What are routines?
Charlie: “Something you do every week, every day, or every time every day. Or a couple steps you can do to make things easier or to make things go faster— it’s pretty simple.” See? SIMPLE!
Know the “when” and the “what”, and keep it as consistent as possible.
Charlie was most excited to talk about his plant-parenting routine. Here is his “when” and “what”: “My aloe only needs to be watered every week so, I have a routine where, Wednesday, every Wednesday, I’ll water it.” Take notes, succulent supporters.
Routines can be more than brushing teeth and bedtime.
Charlie’s pride in taking care of his botanical buddies reminds us how creating routines beyond morning and bedtime can build confidence and enthusiasm. A child might be excited to have another routine that allows them to feel confident in new skills, like helping prepare a meal or caring for a pet.
Use reminders and visual cues (like the ParentCorps Routine Chart Template)
Charlie had some suggestions about how to keep up with your routines: “Use a reminder. If you’re an adult, on your phone. If it’s a kid, you can put a sticky note on your door. Reminders anywhere really. You could have a calendar. Also, if you do it constantly then you’ll just automatically, I think, remember.” This last part made Charlie’s mama chuckle.
Make it fun! (“A kinda classic”)
“If I was a parent and I was all fed up with my kid not wanting to do that stuff [routines], I would make it into a game, a kinda classic, but nobody knows about it, trick. Turn it into a game. Like, for a shower, the quicker you take a shower the more points you get.” Charlie has really cracked a key parenting cheat-code here.
Talk together about the “why” behind your routines.
Charlie gave us some great examples:
“Routines are important ‘cause…
“I don't think kids or parents like being in a big rush and then being worried about being late… and then they are late to school and miss stuff. It's the domino effect.” This made me want to tighten up my own morning routine.
“[Without a routine] you might not brush your teeth. Your teeth might get more gunk on them or bacteria!” I now think about this every night.
“If I didn't have a routine to water my aloe, it’s kinda not the best… the aloe is getting overwatered!” See how a routine could help this aloe plant feel safer?
Sometimes you need to be flexible.
As Charlie advised: “For the peppermint plant, it’s normally every day, but if the dirt feels dry or wet for more than one day then I won't or I will water it.” Great reminder that sometimes routines need to be adjusted!
Do your best to anticipate barriers.
Charlie highlighted a predictable barrier parents can work to avoid: “Tell [your] kids, ‘do it before you get tired! If you don’t do it now, you're gonna get more tired and feel less like you wanna do it.” This is how I feel about washing my face at night. Excellent advice for us all. Thank you, Charlie!
Head over to the Tools page of the ParentCorps website to check out the “Effective Routines Flyer” and “My Routine Charts,” and get your family started with some fresh routines.
Francesca Barreiro is a ParentCorps Specialist.