It is never too late to get on track. If your family is like mine once the hustle and bustle of school routines and extracurricular activities kick in, a start of a new year is a great time to take a moment and check to make sure your family to moving forward as best as they can. There is nothing that can give a parent more satisfaction than to see their kids be happy and successful from the moment they wake up to the time they put their little heads down on a pillow. Especially if it is as stress-free and as battle-free as possible!
Here are three quick steps, or “rules”, to a fresh kick start to help boost your family’s routine and organization. It is funny that all three of these steps come from the many years of experience of being an elementary school teacher. These “rules” target a child’s success not only in the classroom but in the home as well! First, a rule of the Teacher, is that having reliable and consistent routines are key to a successful day. Second, another rule of the Teacher is, a place for everything and everything in its place. Thirdly, take time evaluate what you are allowing your children to be fed physically and mentally.
Rule 1: Co-operation & Independence Is Found In Routine
Having reliable and consistent routines are fundamental for a successful day. Many teachers know and implement this very powerful organizing principle. Children naturally co-operate better when they know ahead of time what is going to happen next.
This is why parents say things like, “Okay, in five more minutes we are going to visit grandma.” This is so your child can physically and mentally process an upcoming change in activity. It prepares them so that you will have an easier “event transition”.
Similarly many teachers utilize a visual daily routine in the front of their classroom showing and reminding children of the day’s events so that there will be smooth transitions between events in the day, like going to the Library after recess and then going to the Gym.
A visual routine is beneficial in alleviating anxiety and increasing co-operation. But whether you have a visual routine or not, the key is to establish consistent routines in the home.
Let your child know what you expect of morning routines, after school routines, and bedtime.
(e.g. Morning Routine: Make bed, Get Dressed, Breakfast, Brush Teeth, Pack Bag, School).
When routines are consistent, a child is much more co-operative and independent because they feel safe and confident all because they know what is going to happen next.
Rule 2: Contain the Clutter
It is amazing how we feel so good, happy and calm when our home is just cleaned and tidy. The principle of “a place for everything and everything in its place” holds a lot of merit for how a child functions as well.
As a school teacher, I make sure that not only is the classroom tidy and in order but so are the inside of my students’ desks. Kids can find what they need when they need it and a nice, calm and anxious free environment is created. As a mom of three kids, I see all the notices, homework, invitations, library books, projects and crafts that come home – not to mention guitars, skates, soccer, softball, and dance clothes and equipment on top of this!
Have a basket for incoming paper from school for each child and establish as part of the after school routine that they empty their school bags, followed by a routine like: wash hands, have a snack and share about their day and then get into homework and extracurricular days may be altered.
Lunch bags and water bottles go on the counter and homework, papers, etc. and planners in their basket. I picked up three different colored magnetic baskets that stick on our fridge for easy access and visibility. After work is done, have kids immediately put it away in their backpacks. Have a family bin labeled for library books as well to save yourselves from time spent searching and late fees.
One of our house rules is to put things back where they belong (not necessarily where you got it from.) Keep sports equipment together in labeled bins, or have a bin for each child if they have multiple activities, so that they can always find what they are looking for without having to sort through their siblings’ stuff too. Prevention of frustration is what we are aiming for here.
Rule 3: Concentrate on Healthy Feeding for the Mind & Body
A happy and healthy child is a parent’s goal. Their overall health is a result of what we “feed” them both physically and mentally What I mean is if they are eating sugary junk foods and staying up late, skipping meals, and laying on the couch watching television as soon as they get in the house, expect for them to be tired and unfocused.
Make it a house rule to not have the television on during school nights and watch how your kids will find productive things to do. “Feed” the mind with playing, reading and creating, which are all much better for the brain than staring at the television. (Please note, I’ve got a short Podcast episode here about Screen Time and your kids).
Getting a good night’s sleep is very important for the brain as well. Help them to have stress free mornings by taking a few minutes each night to pack lunches, put all homework and notices in their backpacks, and lay out the next day’s clothes. Taking the time each night will be worth losing the morning frustration!
Take the time to plan to eat healthy and begin it with breakfast! Studies show that children who eat breakfast perform better at school. They are more likely to have better school attendance, behave better, and are more alert and energetic. Keep it quick and simple. For example: whole wheat toast with peanut butter and banana with a glass of milk; cheese on toast and orange juice; or oatmeal or cereal with milk and fruit; or yogurt with granola and fruit.
Plan to have one or two slow cooker meals each week which can guarantee some healthy home-cooked meals on those busy nights. There are usually leftovers from those large pots which means less cooking time needed during the busy week nights.
Happy and healthy kids means happy and content homes.
I hope these three “rules” help your home get rebooted where it is needed. I know that I will be working on these steps as well!
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