Now that school is back in session, many moms struggle with getting kids into a good routine that doesn’t include daily power struggles. Circle of Moms member Susan reports that her kids move like molasses in the morning and she’s already facing homework battles after school.
If this sounds like your family, here's a survival tool from my new book to get your routines under control in no time!
Your Survival Tool: "When-Then" Routines
You’ve heard it before: Set a routine for your kids. If you think your current routines could use a tune up, and especially if you’re having trouble getting your kids ready to go in the morning or sending them to bed, I strongly encourage you to give When-Then Routines a shot.
When-Then Routines will cut back substantially on the nagging and reminding you may find yourself doing on a daily basis. They can be particularly helpful in the morning, after school, at bedtime and during other potentially volatile times of the day.
When you establish a When-Then Routine, it’s key to make sure the last thing on the list is the most desirable action. For instance, your kids’ morning routine could include non-negotiables like making their beds, getting dressed, washing up and putting backpacks and lunchboxes by the door. Finally, once everything else is done, they can come to the table for breakfast. This assumes that your kids are eager to eat, so if they’re not, you can allow morning playtime, or ten minutes of TV time within your routine, once everything else is completed and before it’s time to leave for school. Both of these are normally occurring privileges for a child ready ahead of schedule, and not special rewards.
Routines work best when you set them up as a When-Then situation. So when all your kids’ tasks are finished in the morning, then they are welcome to eat breakfast in the time remaining before the bus leaves. Yes, your kids may go to school hungry if they don’t get everything done—but rest assured this will only happen once.
To develop this type of routine, begin by writing a list of the non-negotiables, or the things that must be done. This is your “when.” Then create a desirable action to happen as the last thing—your “then”—and place a deadline (the school bus arriving, or bedtime) if appropriate. Make sure you present the routine to your kids in this format.
I encourage you to solicit your older kids’ input into their routines. A 13-year-old can decide for herself whether she wants to shower in the morning or in the evening, for instance, or a 8-year-old can choose in which order to do homework and family contributions. By asking their preferences, you also get buy-in for the routine, and your kids are less likely to feel overpowered by their parents.
To begin using the routine, make sure you present it to your kids at a neutral time, and review it to make sure everyone understands what’s expected. Then, post it (if necessary) in a logical location—for instance, in the kitchen if it’s a morning routine that ends with breakfast. If your 4-year-old appears the next morning in his pajamas asking for scrambled eggs, you can simply say with a smile, “Good to see you! When you are dressed and have finished your routine, then you can have breakfast.” Then disengage or walk away—your child won’t be able to negotiate or argue if you refuse to respond.
Of course, you don’t need a routine for everything that happens during the day—kids need plenty of unstructured time, too. However, you can cut back on power struggles significantly when you make routines the boss at the times when you’d rather not be.
Excerpted from If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids To Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling with the permission of Tarcher/Penguin. Copyright Amy McCready 2011.
Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the author of If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids To Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. For easy to implement strategies for happier families and well-behaved kids, follow Positive Parenting Solutions on Facebook.
Pay It Forward to a Military Family
When you purchase your copy of If I Have to Tell You One More Time… you can Pay It Forward to a deserving military family. For each book sold, Amy McCready, in partnership with Blue Star Families, will donate Positive Parenting Solutions Online training to military moms and dads who sacrifice every day to protect our country. Military families can visit PayItForwardParenting.com to sign up for the free training.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.