Establishing routines at home can take a lot of time, effort, and commitment. So why put in the work? Over time, setting routines can prevent and reduce stress for all partakers, promote independence, and set expectations for children. It provides its own signal for what is coming next! Think of a time when you were put in an unpredictable situation. Maybe it was in the workplace or in an educational setting, where an evaluation or a test was presented without advanced notice. How did it feel? Did you act differently than normal? A lack of structure and consistency can lead to an increase in challenging behaviors and resistance to others’ directions.
To improve routines at home, we first should answer these questions: what routines are successful at home? What routines are difficult for the family? Identifying patterns in routines that run smoothly and patterns in the ones that take more effort can help point out what’s reinforcing positive behaviors and what is doing the actual opposite.
Some common influencers of behavior could be the order of the schedule (e.g., having breakfast before getting dressed), the participants involved (e.g., mother waking up the kids while dad puts the children to sleep), the addition of visual schedules placed in common areas, the use of timers and items related to the task (e.g., using a specific book or teddy bear during bedtime routine), and the removal of necessary items in areas related to the routine (e.g., minimizing distractions).
Below are some other examples of ways to improve routines:
•Create a step-by-step list of the routine for everyone in the house hold
•Target harder tasks in the beginning and leave easier tasks for the end
•Provide limited choices depending on the context
•Change the time that the routine is started
•Have materials ready to go
•Teach your child to engage in certain aspects of the routine independently
•Have an action set for consequences if your child follows the routine versus misses steps
•Identify who will participate and who will issue consequences
For more suggestions, continue reading our blog on the Value of Consistency!