Routine is appealing to us humans. Think: your morning coffee, (afternoon coffee!), your exercise routine, family movie night. For children, routine, and predictability aren’t just appealing, they’re important to development. Routines provide kids with a sense of security and help them self-organize. Things like putting away toys after playing with them, taking a bath every other night, or getting ready for bed at 8:00 pm help them learn how to constructively control their environment, as well as their behavior.
Kids are able to embrace change more easily if it comes wrapped in a familiar routine. You regularly pick up your son from school at 3:00, so when you leave on a business trip, your neighbor picks him up at the same time. Your family moves from one house to another, but your daughter’s stuffed animals are ready to sleep in bed with her on the first night in the new house, and she has familiar sheets and blankets.
Of course, routines don’t have to be rigid— if grandparents are in town for a visit it’s okay for her to stay up past bedtime, or if he gets home really late from the baseball game, he can take a shower in the morning.
The biggest benefit for you as a parent is that establishing, and sticking to, routines, cuts down on reasons for power struggles and gives your children an opportunity to cooperate. Knowing what’s going to happen, whether it’s on a school night, a field trip, or on an airplane helps kids feel less anxious, more independent and safe in the world..