Published on 08/06/12

Routines important for parents and children

By Merritt Melancon

Children may rebel against set bedtimes or homework times when parents first introduce them, but that doesn’t mean they don’t crave structure.

Studies have shown that clear, consistent routines help a child’s brain develop strong connections, said Diane Bales, a child development specialist with the University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences.

Getting children used to going to bed at a regular time, eating dinner at a set time and doing homework at a certain time helps them feel secure in their world and can also bring order to hectic family lives of their parents.

“We know from brain development research that (routines) give children a sense of security,” Bales said. “Routines also strengthen connections in the brain. So it’s not just a good idea to keep your child on a routine, it’s important for brain development.”

Communicating with children about what is expected of them will help them adapt to a set bedtime or morning routine. They need to know that they will take a bath at 7 p.m., wind down and then crawl into bed at 8 p.m. Consistency is also key, Bales said.

While children may reject the implementation of a set bedtime or morning routine at first, Bales warns parents not to give up.

“Testing the limits is part of what kids do,” she said. “It doesn’t mean that they don’t need the routine or that a set bedtime won’t work for them.”

Bales shares these tips for implementing new routines or changing routines:

  • Change bed times gradually. Instead of moving a bedtime from 9 p.m. to 7 p.m. the first week of school, start moving bedtime 15 minutes earlier beginning a week or two before school starts, and add 15 minutes each week until children are going to bed at the ideal time. -
  • Plan relaxation and wind down time for 30 minutes or so before bedtime. This should be a time without exciting games or television. If bath time seems to energize your child, give him a bath earlier in the evening — not right before bedtime. -
  • In the morning and at mealtimes use a “To-Do” chart to remind children of things they need to do and in what order. -
  • If a bedtime, mealtime or morning routine has to change for some reason, talk to your child about the upcoming change before hand and tell him what to expect on the days when the routine is altered.

Developing a consistent daily routine gives children the sense of security they need to succeed in school, and helps parents manage the demands of their hectic daily lives.

Merritt Melancon is a public relations manager with UGA's Terry College of Business and previously served as a public relations coordinator for the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and UGA Extension.