Back to School, Back to Routines

I love back to school. I am a lady who loves routines and I find it really difficult to invite my family to join in routines with the freedom of summer...  So when September rolls around, I am a happy girl.  And when my kids are involved in the process of making the routines, we are all happier.

I recently read an article by my friend and colleague, Kelly Pfieffer, about chore and routine charts.  She focuses on how even pre-readers can get into the fun of routine charts when pictures are used.  My kids are readers, but they still enjoy seeing pictures of themselves on their routine charts.  Ian, my six year old son, is easily distracted, so he took his chart to another level by asking if he could turn it into a spinner.  This was a great idea, because making it into a game helps us all keep it light and cheerful during bedtime.

Now, I am going to be honest with you...  Ian was not jumping for joy when I suggested, "lets make a routine chart for bedtime!"  He would rather be doing a million other things and he let me know.  So I backed up and added some friendly, curiosity questions to spark his interest...

"So Ian, what do you notice about bedtime?"

"I don't know..."

"How do I act?"


"How do you feel when I am acting mad and bossing you around?"


"So, do you want to try something that will make bedtime more fun?"


"Well, come check out what I got at the store..."

And off we went to the big dining room table.  I had bought thick, orange poster board (his favorite color) and some thick black as well (other favorite color).  I showed him how we could turn the black into a spinner for the chart.  We worked together to make a list of 6 things that needed to happen before bed.  And he got to work...

It took us a few days to finish his bedtime routine spinner.  His temperament and distractibility did not align with my agenda of getting it done.  Often, well meaning parents (myself included, often) will mistakenly assume that kids have the same agenda and values that we have, and we end up frustrated when our kids no longer want to cooperate.  On this particular occasion, I took some deep breaths and remembered to relax.  We took pictures for his chart that night and finished it up the following day.

Routine charts that are made with the input of the children who will use them invite cooperation.  Nagging, demanding and reminding children of what needs to be done are controlling tools, and more likely than not invite resistance and power struggles.  I am the queen of demands and am always grateful when the routines become the "boss."

Rowan, my nine year old, also took part in the routine chart making.  She is easy at bedtime, so her chart looks a bit different.  Her challenge is time management and "remembering" to make time for all of her responsibilities during the week.  She is very orderly and loves organization.  She likes the visual of know what is happening after school, throughout the week.

Routine charts are helpful for my daughter because she is often hurt by my attempts to "tell her what to do" and hurts back, usually disguising her hurt as anger.  This in turn triggers me, and I am hurt, again covering it up with anger.  Well, this nine year old will be fifteen not to long from now and I want to be sure that we aren't in a constant revenge cycle.  Because if she isn't feeling a sense of belonging at home, she will find it from somewhere else in her teenage world (yikes).  Routine charts like the one she made give her a sense of power over her world, and as long as I have faith in her ability to use it, we are good.

Routine charts are not magic wands.  Hassles and challenges don't go away simply because you have taken the time to make them.  Sometimes it is up to the parent to say - "what is left on your routine chart?" to gently nudge children in the direction we want them to go.  When we begin to feel that sensation take over our bodies (you know the one I'm talking about, when you've had it and are ready to "force" cooperation), that is a signal that we need to step away and regather.  Controlling ourselves is crucial if we are expecting the same from our children.  Keeping things light and friendly is the best way to win kids over to cooperation.  Routine charts are one tool that help us do that!

Please feel free to share what you  do to win cooperation!

Smiles ~