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How to give kids the daily routine they need

POSTED: April 13, 2017 11:11 a.m.
Erin Stewart/

Erin Stewart shares tips as she's working on a consistent bedtime routine with her children.

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Kids crave routine.

I know this. I have even read the studies that say kids who participate regularly in family activities such as reading, story time and mealtime have increased levels of social-emotional health.

So I’ve tried to implement routines in our home that my kids can count on every day. Dinner at 6. Homework in a certain place at a certain time. Family home evening regularly (and by regularly I mean, of course, every few weeks when I remember), and daily scripture study (please see previous parenthetical excuse for not doing family home evening).

And then life happens — soccer games, church activities, playdates, parties. Inevitably, something disrupts our after-school routine and we’re eating a hurried dinner, skipping family home evening and barely finding time to tuck our kids in at night.

I’d love to have a more peaceful afternoon and evening routine where we eat leisurely, do daily chores and have time to have a regular bedtime routine complete with a song, a story and a debrief of the day.

When I have actually followed through with such a routine, our evenings are much more peaceful and my kids are happier all day long. I’d much rather my kids go to bed at night after a predictable and calm bedtime routine rather than me yelling at them from downstairs to brush their teeth.

So I’ve been doing a little internet super sleuthing to find out how to wrangle our routines into shape. What I found was that I’m actually already doing a lot of the suggested steps like always kissing or hugging my child goodbye in the morning, eating together as often as possible and enforcing bedtimes.

But here are a few of the suggestions that jumped out at me as things that might help me get our family into a more predictable pattern:

1. Create an evening and morning schedule that prioritizes the most important tasks each day. Decide as a family what these nonnegotiable tasks are (chores, scripture study, packing up for the next day).

2. Write out the schedule and post it in an area where children will see it, preferably near a clock. Refer them to the list if they aren’t sure what to do next.

3. Make sure to build in “dither time” for children to get dressed, pick up and generally be children. Account for this time in the schedule so you don’t get frustrated when they fall behind.

4. Leave enough time for a one-on-one bedtime routine. Connect with each child by talking, reading, singing so your child feels safe and loved as their last feeling each day.

For me, that last suggestion is key. I often feel like we run to get everything done, hurry to get ready for bed, give a quick prayer and a kiss and shut out the light. There’s no time to bond, decompress or discuss our days.

When we have gone through periods of prioritizing this end-of-day downtime, I feel connected to my children and they talk more openly with me about things that happened at school. In fact, doing a simple “highs and lows” game before bed allows them to tell me anything that made them sad or happy during their day.

So, we’ve written up our schedule as a family, and now we embark on the hard part: actually sticking to it. I know there will be days of utter chaos where the schedule gets totally ignored, but hopefully with at least a routine in mind, we can introduce some semi-regular calm into our routine chaos.

How do you stick to a family routine in your house?

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