I imagine life can be frustrating for my 2 year old. She has many opinions and often I am too preoccupied with the business of the day to take these into serious consideration. She knows what she wants to tell me, but often struggles to communicate effectively. When I do understand her, what she wants may not be something I can accommodate at that time (like ice cream for breakfast). From her perspective she’s misunderstood and most of her brilliant ideas are shot down with little consideration. Despite all of this, I have managed to keep her content most of the time using one of the most important tools in my mom tool belt: routine.
Our family routines keep both my kids happy. They know when Dad stops working, we have dinner, after that we have silly time, then we begin bathtime. With very few exceptions, this is how our evenings go.
What the research says about the benefits of routines
A study by Dr. Elisa Muniz looked at over 8,500 children and the daily routines practiced in their homes. The findings were fascinating. Each routine or ritual resulted in a 47% increase in the odds that children would have high social-emotional health.
Social-emotional skills directly relate to a child’s ability to identify and communicate their own feelings and to perceive and react appropriately to the feelings of peers or caregivers. Dr. Muniz stated there is evidence to support that higher proficiency in these skills equates to success in school.
The specific routines taken into consideration for this study were having dinner as a family five times a week, reading or singing three times a week, and playing a few times a week. The study found without question that the children who participated in most of these routines were more likely to be social-emotionally advanced.
Dr. Claire McCarthy, a pediatrician not involved with the study, explained that children (like adults) have a finite amount of energy. If a child has an unpredictable home life, their energy will be used in searching for happiness and security rather than interaction and learning. She went on to explain that an abundance of predictability and routine helps with “executive function,” which contributes to a child’s development of problem solving, negotiation, and delayed gratification; all of which are necessary skills in school and life.
Routines can be very simple
While this study was very specific as to the family activities used to establish routine, as a mom in today’s world, I know not all of these will work for every household. I might suggest finding things that your family enjoys and creating a routine around them.
One thing I remember as a very young child is that on Mondays my dad was in charge of dinner. He couldn’t cook, so his “dinner” was always grilled cheese sandwiches and canned soup. Each Monday he would take my brother and me to the grocery store and we would choose our can of soup. I loved Monday night dinners as a child and I cherish the memory as an adult. I’m sure my dad doesn’t even realize that this thing he did with us every Monday became one of my fondest childhood memories, but that’s the thing about routine, you never know when your little household habits are forming happy, lifelong memories.