Routines can be a magical way to decrease childhood behavior problems. I would even call routines a form of discipline. The modern definition of discipline involves obeying rules and punishment. However, the word’s Latin origin means “instruction, knowledge.” Daily routines can instruct a young child on appropriate behaviors, thus preventing unwanted behaviors. Many families have routines in the morning, the evening, after school, and at mealtimes.
Maybe in the time B.C. (Before Children), you found it difficult to leave the house on time in the morning. And now that there are one or more little people in the mix, this task is exponentially more challenging. So, having the same sequence of events for breakfast and dressing from day to day can be very helpful.
An instruction like “it’s time to get ready for bed” won’t elicit the behaviors you want unless the child knows the steps involved. If the same actions are performed in the same order every night, then the child can learn that set of behaviors as a routine. Consistent routines (for example clean up toys, bath, pajamas, brush teeth, story, bed) can set clear expectations for a child.
In the preschool years, short routines can also be used teach to new skills such as toileting (cue the Daniel Tiger potty song!) or proper teeth brushing. Dividing a complicated skill into smaller parts can teach the behavior and can also promote fun. For example, the child learns to make 3 funny faces (Say “cheese”/smile, Say “Ah”, Stick out tongue) and the adult can accomplish cleaning their teeth.
Child thrive on consistency and will often ask for something to be done in the same order every time. Saying goodnight to my 4-year-old is a process because he always wants the same sequence of events (spin, throw into bed, tickle, kiss, say goodnight). And at the end of the day, structure not only teaches behavioral expectations but also promotes feelings of security. Happy routine-making!