When my kids asked me what I’d do differently in raising them, this is the one I mentioned first. I hate rigidity, but I know that kids do better when they have schedules and structure. Therein was my dilemma – finding that balance.
I enjoyed sleeping in during summer days, especially if I had been up late the night before. The problem was that if we didn’t get our day started in good time, we were always behind. Why have lunch at 12 when you’ve just finished breakfast at 9AM? (It is a pet peeve of the man of the house, and we never quite came to an agreement on this issue. This is because my creative juices begin flowing near midnight and his body wakes up with the sun.) But then, it’s so much fun to sleep in and be lazy in the mornings when you’ve got all day to do what you’ve got to do.
If you’re a mom who doesn’t do a sit-down breakfast with your kids, it’s easy to just let them meander downstairs whenever they want. That means, depending on how many kids you have, you’re putting things away and cleaning up the kitchen a blue zillion times in the morning. Sometimes I made use of that time by working on supper while I was in the kitchen.
Many days we ate breakfast together, but not always. I did tell the kids that the kitchen closed at a certain time. If they’d rather sleep in than eat, that was okay with me. After that certain time, the kitchen was closed and there was no getting anything for breakfast. This insured that I could clean everything up at a certain time and know I was done. (My kids had to put their cereal, juice, milk, and other breakfast items away.) There were times I fixed pancakes or creamed eggs, and it was better to eat while the food was warm than to have warmed-up food later. This worked well in getting kids out of bed most mornings.
Depending on the schedule your family needs to keep, you will do things differently. What works for one family might not work for yours. The important thing is to figure out what schedule you want to have, and then plan accordingly so your schedule can be successful and not a point of contention or frustration.
You might have certain days that are allowed for “sleeping in”, or you might need a set schedule for every day of the week. Flexibility is certainly important as you try to work out the kinks in your summer schedule.
Most children do better if they know what to expect and understand what is expected of them. Remember that as you go through your summer or your school year. There is security in structure; but our kids will also experience warm fuzzies when kids “get to” stay up late or sleep in on occasion, or switch up what’s a normal procedure for mealtimes in your home.
As foster parents, we learned that the sooner we set limits and schedules, the smoother life was and the more secure our foster kids were. We learned to explain rules the first day: At this house, everybody helps clear the table; At this house, everybody puts his dirty clothes into the hamper instead of on the floor. When children know what is expected and the adults are consistent in following through, they are more secure – no matter whose kids they are.
If you’re a single parent, you might want to get input from others who can help you think objectively. If you’re not a single parent, you should work as a team with your spouse in planning your structure and schedules. Remember that it’s not so important how you do it, but that you find a way to work together and have a semblance of structure and follow through – for your kids will be happier, healthier, safer, and more secure.
How do you handle having enough structure and flexibility in your daily routines?
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