The most successful “Back-to-School” routines include the whole family. According to the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Family Psychology,
“During infancy and preschool, children are healthier and their behavior is better regulated when there are predictable routines in the family, according to the review. Children with regular bedtime routines get to sleep sooner and wake up less frequently during the night than those with less regular routines, according to one study. Regular routines in the household, according to the review, shorten bouts of respiratory infections in infants and improve preschool children's health. Other studies examined whether the effects of regular routines are restricted to two-parents families. ‘The presence of family routines under conditions of single parenting, divorce, and remarried households may actually protect children from the proposed risks associated with being raised in nontraditional families’” (Fiese).
Imagine, for a moment, that you come home and you are doing your best to write an important letter or email and people are fighting and/or watching T.V. Maybe someone is listening to loud music in another room. How do you feel about writing a letter or email? What do you notice? Is it easy or challenging for you to sit down and write that letter or email?
Now, imagine that you come home and you have an important letter or email to write and there is calming acoustic guitar or piano music playing from a Spotify playlist through a small inexpensive speaker attached to a phone, (e.g. an inexpensive calming influence), someone is sitting at the dining room table writing emails on a computer or on their phone, or reading, studying, or making a snack before sitting down to do these activities and invites you to have some healthy snack together. There is peace and calm in the home. Notice how you feel. How easy is it for you to sit down and write the email or letter?
Often, adults expect children to “do as I say, not as I do”. However, this attitude often leads to conflict and battles between adults and children. There is a simple reason for this being so. Children instinctively know that it is in their best interest for survival to reflect their environment. Children learn quickly by simply reflecting the feelings, thoughts, words and deeds in their environment. That means that children who have adults who are consistent in feeling, thought, word and deed with what they are asking of the child, learn quicker and with more ease. There is less conflict both internally and, therefore, externally for the child. Conflict is resistance. And resistance is like driving with one foot on the gas pedal and one on the brake. We go forward slower and with much more effort. So, children who have adults in their environment who are feeling, thinking, speaking and doing with the child or doing what is being asked of the child find it much easier to do that as well. To realize that everyone is affecting everyone in feeling, thought, word, and deed is helpful. It is an attitude of “feel as I feel, think as I think, say as I say, and do as I do”. The image I have of this is one of a boomerang.
So when you ask a child to behave or do a new routine or any routine; the easiest, fastest and most harmonious path is the path with least resistance. This means to start doing that behavior or a similar behavior with them. This includes the thoughts, feelings, words, and deed. So if you hate (though and feeling) to do housework, yard work, learn, read, write, etc. and you voice this (word), and you never do this with your child (deed); chances are your child will also hate that behavior, state this or similar, and refuse or resist doing that behavior. It really is as simple as that…almost. For example: If you hate doing housework and never voice that and tell the child, “I need help doing the housework”, the child will likely grow up hating housework or at least feeling a lot of resistance to doing housework and try to find others to help or do the housework.
If you want to start an earlier bedtime, start doing the things to get ready for bed with your child or as your child does, depending on the age. If you’ve never done this before and a child is older, it’s never too late. If you want your child to go to bed and fall asleep, lie down on the bed and read a story or ask about their day and listen to the entire day unraveled before you or whatever details stand out without judgement. You may even fall asleep while reading the story and that’s okay. If you want a child to study, create a relaxed study atmosphere of quiet or calming music without lyrics. With pre-teens and teens who are used to listening to other types of music during study time, this may require a transition. Assure them that this is study music time and there will be time for the other music when study time is over. Then settle in and do similar or same activities within proximity, such as the dining room table. If the child prefers to stay in the bedroom and study, go to your bedroom or another room and do a similar activity. Stay focused and read, write, study, and answer the child’s questions if asked, remain quiet if the child is quiet. When you don’t know the answer, admit it and suggest ways to find out the answer. If you want the child to take out the garbage, sweep, weed, mow the lawn or vacuum, do laundry, start by doing the activity together and allow the child to gradually let go of doing tasks with you and take it on themselves.
We wouldn’t think about how much we hate (feeling) skiing or hiking or softball or some recreational activity (thought), and tell (word) a child how much we hate it while also never doing it and then tell the child to go do that which we hate and never do, right? Mahatma Ghandi said he could not ask or advise someone to do that which he had not already done within himself. This is a simple way to remind us when we experience resistance from a child, that cooperation begins within us.