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Getting the Kids Ready for School: The Importance of Establishing a Routine

When children are young, establishing a routine at bedtime happens almost naturally. Parents understand, either through experience or instinctually, that babies and toddlers need the security of predictability. But once children reach school age, many of those routines fall by the wayside, with parental expectations of self-sufficiency eclipsing developmental reality. "How many times do I have to remind you to brush your teeth after breakfast?" the exasperated mother may ask her second grader. "Why do I always have to wake you up myself?" the hurried father might wonder aloud to his teenager.

The answer to those questions is simple: because the chain of events hasn't been created for them, they haven't gotten in the habit of doing those things every day. Just as the toddler will bring you a book after bath time if you keep the same routine every night, the older child will brush her teeth after breakfast if you establish early on that is what you expect of her.

Keep the Schedule Simple

Determine how long each task will take, add a few minutes padding time and provide ample notice of each step along the way. "Tomorrow morning," you can tell them, "we're going to get up with our alarms. Yours is set for 7:00. When it rings, come to the kitchen; I'll have breakfast waiting." At breakfast, remind them that next they'll need to brush their teeth. Do this as a family, just as you did when they were small and you wanted to show them proper oral hygiene techniques.

Children Learn by Example

If you do the same things in the same order every morning, they will follow suit. They will come to expect to see you drinking your coffee while you pack their lunches, and they will start to put their dishes in the dishwasher while you check their backpacks for preparedness. Replacing chaos and unpredictability with order reduces stress and saves time.

Contemporary families need time management skills, and by creating a smooth flow of events every morning, your children will learn those from you.

Before-School Stresses will Diminish

No more crumpled, unsigned homework at the bottom of the backpack. No more unbrushed teeth or hair. No more frantic searches for that favorite t-shirt. No more arriving late because the car keys went MIA again. Just a calm, collected family unit. Eliminating stress at home leads to better school performance, fewer behavioral problems and happier kids overall. By ensuring your mornings at home are predictable and consistent, you teach your children life skills such as time management, ordering workflow and efficiency. A morning routine sets the framework for success later on.

And just imagine how great it will be to not have to search for your keys, only to find them hidden in the DVD drawer, along with the rental that's now three weeks late.

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