Creating Routines

I put routines at the beginning of my list because I think they’re important, but I pretty much never want to follow a routine. In fact, I believe that little in life is as enjoyable as throwing aside your scheduled plans and doing whatever it is you want to do, seeing where the day takes you.
graphic reading "Little Joy Map"
Kids like routines, though, and I know this. I taught school long enough to know that changing the routine sends a day into a tailspin. There’s also piles of research about how good routines are for kids: kids with home routines are happier and even healthier (how does that work?). They have better self-esteem. Routines can provide a stabilizing force for children during a traumatic event like a parents’ divorce (hoping not to find out about that one).
Ok, routines are great for kids, but the project is about me, right? Surely moms find routines to be the painful drags that they are. Actually, no. Moms who have established routines are less likely to report feeling depressed.  Researchers have also shown that mothers with plenty of routines report feeling more competent.  I’m going to feel more competent? I guess I can try routines.
boy in a grocery cart

Charlie and I grocery shopping–he loved that car cart.

Some possible areas for routines are:
bedtime
mealtime
waking up
leaving the house
playtime
At this point we’ve got almost no routines in place. When Charlie was a baby he had a zillion appointments a week, so there was no set schedule. It’s different with the twins and Rex, though, so we should be able to get something going.
Do you have any good routines? Any tips? Do you have a particular routine you’d like to start? I think family diner would be lovely. I’d also love to read stories before bed, but I’m worried the twins would run out of the room if I tried it.
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Comments

  1. Matthew is going to be home with me now rather than in school, I think this is my chance to finally get schedules going for him. This should be interesting!

    • I’m sure it will be! He’s probably used to some schedule if he’s been in school he’ll be used to them at least!

  2. We LIVE by our routines, and we’re actually trying to relax them a little bit so Stephen doesn’t flip out when we aren’t right on schedule. BUT, I’d start with bedtime. Maybe between both parents you can corral the twins enough for a short story?

    • Bedtime is a good place to start, but my husband has very long work days and isn’t always home for bedtime. I guess if I shut the door they can’t run out?

  3. We do a bedtime routine every night because it seems to signal to the baby that sleep is coming and the nights where we skip it we usually have a bit more of a bedtime struggle, which I guess is good and bad. Our routine is dinner, (depending upon the time) 30-60ish minutes of playing on the floor, bath, lotion and jammies, book, bottle, bed.

    Now that Eli naps reliably and predictably, I find that I am obsessed with schedules and it’s wearing me out. I get so worried about what if we have a shortened nap or a car nap and I think that for a control freak, sometimes routines get to be too much. I have to remember sometimes that one day of bad napping is not the end of the world for any of us.

    • I know just what you mean. I’m what they call a frustrated perfectionist, which means I want everything to go just right and when it doesn’t I give up and do nothing at all–hence my house of mess.

      I’m trying to remind myself that a routine isn’t the same as a schedule. Schedules involve definite times. Routines are just a predictable series of events that create structure. So, just because the kids get up a little earlier or later, I can still go through whatever motions are set up. That makes me feel better than looking at a clock, which children never seem to follow :)

  4. We have lots of routines for the kids (and they work wonderfully!), but what we need is a bedtime & morning routine for ME. I always end up staying up too late doing random stuff or being on the computer. I can’t even say I’m being productive. :-P Then I struggle to wake up in the AM and need 4 cups of coffee. I also make the mistake of reading my email and reader feed in the morning (in bed), and then I feel rushed. Any advice would be much appreciated!

    • I have this same problem! One thing I did was tell my husband that I was going to get off the computer at a certain time. Now, he bugs me if he sees me on it after my “time.” I also don’t keep a computer in my bedroom–I’d never get anything done!!!

      • Honestly, the problem isn’t really my computer, it’s my phone! I deactivated my FB, I deleted the twitter app, and I still find crap to do on it. I think I need to buy an old fashioned alarm (I currently use my phone) and leave my phone downstairs at night. Lead me not into temptation. ;)

        BTW, your husband is a good man. My husband would no sooner get between me and the internet than a tiger and a steak. ;)

        • The phone is SO DANGEROUS! Really, anything with the Internet that you can lie in bed and use is dangerous!

          I don’t know if he’s a good man so much as a man who doesn’t understand why I’m on the computer so much :)

  5. I am really interested in that tidbit about moms with routines reporting less feelings of depression. I am not in general depressed or even unhappy, but I get… feelings of being down on myself, I guess. And feelings of not being competent because everything feels chaotic and messy. So maybe routines, even though they are against my own nature and I don’t generally enjoy them, would be good.
    Or maybe I do the same thing you mentioned of confusing schedules and routines. Schedules are what make my skin crawl, but maybe routines are very different and would indeed make me happier. I mean, I think we have SOME, and probably more than I realize, but we could stand to make them more clear cut and vocalize the expectations more so we’re all aware of them. Like, I think there IS a bedtime routine, more or less, but we’ve never actually stated it as such, so the kids still kind of fight it most nights.

    • I found that really interesting too, Sarah. Like I said, I know that kids like them, but me? Nooooo. Well, maybe I’m wrong.

      And gosh I think we all have that feeling when everybody starts screaming at once or you turn you back and the kids throw fifteen things on the floor in as many seconds. You feel not very good at your job. And unlike other jobs, there’s no feedback, no assesment, no reassurance that you’re doing it right. It’s hard. If adding some routines can help mitigate that nagging feeling then I’m willing to try.

  6. I love routines with my kids, even though I am not a naturally routined person. My oldest is 3, second 22 months and one on the way due March 2. I would be totally panicked if it weren’t for the routines I established when these guys were babies. In fact, I was thinking about the baby routine the other day and really looking forward to it. Our best routines are morning – wake, watch video while mom totally wakes up with a cup of tea, breakfast, then independent playtimes in their rooms. Lunch time routine is eat lunch, read a book or two, get ready for naps – the boys then both sleep at least 2 hours – and I have my own routine for some time for myself. Dinner routine is dinner at 5 pm, play around with dad while mom cleans the kitchen, baths, milk/used to be bottles, couple of books and bedtime.

    My favorite advice for establishing routines is to make the routine serve you not the other way around. Make it something you and your kids enjoy and it will be great – and you’ll keep it up. Good luck with routine establishing!

    • Sounds like such a lovely day! I might be a little jealous :)

      I like that advice too–you are so right–sometimes you find yourself doing things because you think you’re supposed to and not because it’s the best thing for you. I’ll try to be vigilant about that.

  7. Try bedtime books. If the twins run out, let them. But it might be that they come back. It might be comforting to them to hear the lull of your voice reading through a book. It might draw them back in. I’ve known many a kid who would do their own thing while I read to them but they still enjoyed the book being read to them.

    • good point. When we read stories during the day they might wander around a bit, but they usually both end up in my lap or close to it. The twins love books.

  8. I would love to get on a routine, I fly by the seat of my pants too often.

  9. We have a bedtime routine we follow every night. The boys (4 -year old twins – both have CP) head down to their room to get their pajamas on (unless it is bath night and then we do bath first). After jammies are on we walk to the bathroom to brush teeth. Then they each get to pick one book. They always sit on Mason’s bed and I read both stories. Then they give eachother a hug and Carter walks over to his bed. I kiss them both goodnight, I turn on their bedtime music and their turtle light (the turtle lights up the ceiling with stars). We have been following this general routine since they were babies. They are so used to it and they always go to sleep without a peep :-) Good luck starting your own routines!

    • We had one of those turtles! Of course, if I let the twins have it they’d destroy it in six seconds flat–there’s something crazy-destructive about those two.

      Mine don’t generally fight bedtime, but we don’t have much of a routine either. Just diaper/bottles/bed. I guess that’s a start. I could do diaper/bottle with story/bed and I need to add tooth brushing because half the time we forget because it doesn’t have a regular place in our day. Hey! I think I’m putting something together here.

  10. I don’t have huge routines for each event but we (kids ages 6, 5, and 8mths) do everything at about the same time every day. Kids up between 6-7am, breakfast immediately, dress &teeth, school for big ones/play on weekends/nap for baby, lunch at 11:30, usually outside play if biggies are home/nap for baby, dinner at 5, baths if dirty, at 6:30 I start getting all 3 ready for bed (two oldest are fairly independent), baby in crib about 7, read a chapter book to biggies, lights out for biggies at 7:30 (ish-sometimes they independent read). And repeat. I have always done a similar routine, but I must say it is a LOT easier to carry out now that I only have one little. Go easy on yourself. You have 4 children that need a lot of care. It will get easier as the boys get older and can do more for themselves.

    • Oooh. It’s nice to dream of the days when the kids need less care, but honestly? I’ll believe it when I see it! These days I’m up to my ears in diapers, bottles, and baby food.

  11. we live by routines… and ohmygoodness if we break them! Lord have mercy! The fit that gets thrown if Daddy tries to put little girl to bed instead of Mommy! Maybe it’s because our kids are adopted and so we planned from the start to have routines. Routines=safety and security. But our evening routines, especially, are really important to maintaining everyone’s health and happiness. Our night (even on holidays and weekends) is: TV, dinner, bath/shower, books, singing, goodnight! Good luck.. establishing routines that work for you and your kids can be tough, but it’s worth it!

    • That makes complete sense to me. Definitely think evening time is when the routines are the most-needed. The kids seem to be more fragile at that time of the day.

  12. We were in the same boat when Sawyer (my youngest) came. I could not stick to a routine for anything. It was impossible with so many little ones. Three years later I honestly think it has made him a more easy going kid and he can fall asleep for nap and bedtime at the drop of a hat. I keep telling myself that somehow he was conditioned for this from infancy :).

    • I think those caboose babies have to be easy going! Plus, they have non-stop entertainment in the form of their older brothers and sisters. Everyone who comes over comments on what an easy baby Rex is.

  13. We’ve always been pretty routine over here but the bedtime one is starting to go by the wayside as the boys get older. They stay up later now and just kinda like to do their own thing. K’s is still pretty close to the same though. I agree that routines are a good thing. :)

    I say if you want to do the bedtime one start with the whole, bath, book, bed. We throw prayers in there too since we are religious but of course that is up to you! Good Luck!

    • I will try that BBB thing tonight–it’s easy to remember.

      I would like the kids to grow up with some religious grounding–I guess I need to think about that a little more.

  14. I found when we started having routines it helped immensily with my non-verbal kiddo. I honestly think he felt more secure that even though he couldn’t always communicate well what he wanted/needed, his basic needs would be met (feeding, changing, bathing, cuddling) in a sort of daily and expected manner. that, oddly enough, left him more time to concentrate on asking for non-essential stuff and the rest of his communication took off.

    Plus, honestly, it felt really good for me to know when *my* downtime was during the day. I felt like I could plan to do x,y,z during the quiet times. Made me feel less frazzled about not getting it done during the more “active” times.

    Good luck :)

    • That sounds really great. Currently, not one of my kids can talk–although Charlie does have some communication. It would be wonderful to provide all my little guys with that sort of support.

  15. I guess it is almost impossible to not have some routines – e.g. I find it easier to do things in a certain order in the morning when everybody wakes up. But we are really battling at setting a bedtime routine and always have been. This year both boys are in “school” (we homeschool) and we somehow ended up with more other activities such as sports too. We have to be at more places on time and finish a number of things within a certain time…aaargh! Better routines will probably benefit all of us. I have met children from relatively unstructured homes who turned out to be adaptable, resourceful and very happy individuals, though. Whatever works for you, I say!