After reading this article on the BBC news website about how kids with a routine of set bedtimes and mealtimes do better at school, it got me thinking about routines. What routines do our kids have and what did I have as a child?
I certainly did have structure, and our kids do have set routine times for the basics of getting up, mealtimes and going to bed - these are more flexible in the school holidays of course!
One of the comments on this article surprised me - someone stated that changing TV schedules haven't helped parents keep routines!
I think that parents need to be aware of their children's needs and able to be in control rather than affected so much by outside influences like TV schedules, or opinions of others. I believe that we as parents need to demonstrate control of our lives to enable our children to develop a responsible control over their own lives.
I'm not saying that we aren't influenced by outside factors, but our lives are not controlled by them.
Thinking about routines in the middle of a 2 month summer break from school is interesting. Our girls are very rarely at a loss for something to do. They play very well together and have endless imaginary games to keep them amused - or immerse themselves in books, craft or play outside in the swimming pool or just the garden. But after 4 weeks of holidays I had decided that I wanted to introduce a bit more routine into theirs - and my day. Some time spent exploring their new laptops - a little time playing some games that will keep their brains working while away from school, and also time to get active. However, starting the new year with these great plans - but losing my voice and being sick hasn't helped us get stuck into the new routine!
The aforementioned article from the BBC states that children with more structured days grow up more confident and with more direction in their lives. I think routine is just a part of this - but an important part. Kids need structure and order - but there also has to be a balance.
Several years ago I worked as a teaching assistant in a school in Japan. I learnt how structured children's lives are in Japan - for example I remember reading a school trip schedule in which every minute was accounted for, down to the times to clean their teeth, get dressed and brush their hair! There was no freetime on that schedule.
I also remember reading an article about what Japanese teenagers worry about most. Very high up on the list was 'having free time'!! Simply because they did not know what to do with it!
Now I'm sure this is not the blanket case across the whole of Japan, but it demonstrates the effect that too much structure can have on children. They need to learn to think for themselves - but you have to give them the tools to be able to do this sensibly and morally. That is a parent's job - to provide routines, structure and boundaries within which a child can grow and develop. These children will then eventually learn to push and shape those boundaries and structures to suit their own lives and characters.
Meal and bedtime routines are important basic foundations that all children need and should have. Routines beyond that I think depend on the time, (school or holiday) and personal choice of how you want to bring up your own children.
Personally I feel like I would like to have a little more structure and routine in my life - and if I can manage this - and include our kids in that, I would achieve a lot more than I do now. But once again - balance is key! I certainly don't want to schedule activies into every minute of their holidays - but a little direction and a little more shared time would be a good thing! Now I just have to get my voice back and we can get started!
How about you? How much routine do you put into your child's day? Are you happy with it? How does it compare to your own childhood routines? and is routine a good or bad thing?