If you can cope with being a parent without having a set daily routine for your children, well you are a better woman than I. As a mother of two, I couldn’t live without routines. I think they the cornerstone to parenting and a vital part of life for parents and children alike.
Kids are chaotic and unpredictable, but having a routine can give bring some semblance of order to your world. Parenting by the clock may sound like a silly, unrealistic or even cruel to some – especially grown-ups who have never lived by much of a routine themselves – but in fact, children thrive on routines. Routines provide kids with the predictability of knowing what is coming next and since they know what is happening they also know what is expected of them and therfore (usually!) behave accordingly.
So for example, by following a feed-play-sleep routine with your baby, your baby will be less resistant to sleeping when you put him down. In fact, having routines help to program baby’s circadian rhythms – by feeding and putting them to sleep at the same times everyday, they will become hungry or sleepy at these times each day.
With my first child Alisha, I breast-fed on demand and let her establish her own sleep routines – you know, the usually rookie mistakes inspired by the whole politically-correct child-centred parenting school of thought. I was able to keep this up for around 3 months before – in exhaustion – I said enough is enough. We moved onto routine feeding and sleeping times and life became a lot more orderly and happier for all of us. Not to mention that Alisha became a much more settled child since.
Learning from this experience, I started my second born, Sara, on routine feeds and sleep times from the time she was one week old. I have never had a problem with her being overtired or unsettled. She is a really happy and content baby which I believe is largely to do with my strict adherence to routines. In fact, by being a by-the-clock parent, I haven’t found looking after two little ones, working part time, keeping fit and maintaining a household as difficult as I thought it would be!
In contrast, I have family and friends that have never set routines for their kids and they are constantly on the back foot. Every meal, bed time every night – EVERYTHING – is a battle between them and their kids. Yet they wonder why their children are always so well behaved we they are at daycare, kindy, school or my house where everything has a time and a place?