Children often use play and not words as a means of communicating.
It may come as no surprise, but kids can thrive with a bit of structure that gives them a sense of routine and with rules that inform them of how they are expected to behave. Structure is an overarching concept that includes a consistent routine and well defined, individualized rules. Routines help children know what to expect and rules help them understand what is expected of them. I have put together a list of recommendations to keep in mind when developing a structure and rules for your family.
Suggestions for structure:
- The key to creating a structure is to be as consistent as possible, knowing that you will have to be flexible once in a while.
- Keep in mind that the younger the child the more “transition” time they will need. For example, if you want your 4 year old to go to sleep at 8, then plan on starting the wind down process about 45-60 before.
- Teens also need some transition time and so don’t expect them to stop what they are doing the second you ask. Instead, remind them that they have 5 minutes so that they have some time to wrap things up before moving on to the next thing.
- Try not to over schedule yourself and your kids. For example, enrolling your child in a sport can be a wonderful activity but it can also strain your family time and “rest time” because you’ll end up spending lots of time commuting.
- Remember to schedule in family fun time so that spending time together becomes part of your routine. If you want to learn more about scheduling family time, read our previous blog on that topic.
Suggestions for rules:
- When creating rules, keep in mind that family rules are not just rules for the children. In other words, if behaving respectfully is a rule, then the rules are more likely to be followed and successful if the parents model respectful behavior. Read our blog about modeling and its importance.
- Be inclusive and ask your kids for feedback on the rules you are planning on setting up. Ultimately, the parents have the final say but rules are more successful if the kids have taken part in their creation.
- Create rules for all your children not just one otherwise that may create family dynamics of unfairness, entitlement, resentment, etc.
- Lastly, age-appropriate monitoring and loving guidance complete the learning loop by providing children with structure that is consistent with family values.
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My colleagues and I at Intuition Wellness Center specialize in counseling children, teens, and families. We have clinicians who specialize in working with families overcoming challenging patterns. If you believe you or someone you love could benefit from our services, we are here to help. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.
Written by Yoendry Torres, PsyD, Clinical Psychologist
Image credit: Yoendry Torres