School Psychologist Week 9

The power of routine  

Routine is powerful – a predictable, orderly way of taking the thought and effort out of certain parts of daily life. When we have routine, we know roughly what to expect next, what needs to happen, and how to do it. Taking the same route to work, doing up shoelaces the same way each time – these automatic patterns of behaviour make life a little less stressful. It’s when we don’t know what comes next, what needs to happen, or how to do it, that causes difficulty. This is even more true for our kids

Take the morning routine, for example. If the routine – what happens and in what order – changes day to day, your kids will adapt. The solution? Ask mum/dad. Every. Single. Step. Either that, or they’ll just do things they want to do until you step in to do it for them, or prompt them on what to do next. It’s stressful, time-consuming, and effortful. 

Try, instead, to come up with a fixed routine. Write the steps – or put them up in picture form – on the fridge. Practice them with your kids, and make sure they know how to do each step. When they come to ask you what’s next, point to the fridge. You can even get them to tick off all the steps, with the small reward of getting to do something they enjoy for any left-over time once they’ve done all the steps. Praise them for being responsible and independent when they succeed. 

Guiding kids through routines can be easier in the short term; but teaching your kids a simple routine – and rewarding them for carrying it out – builds independence, and makes mornings run more smoothly for everyone. 

Graham Goodall-Smith

School Psychologist