Let's Talk Routines

You’ve finally made it to school break and are spending quality (maybe even relaxing) time with the family. Amidst the joy and the chaos, bedtimes become flexible, sugary snacks abundant, and clean pajamas count as getting dressed. This is part of the joy and magic of school breaks. But the joy and magic come from the fact that these things are exceptions to the norm and in order for them to remain magic, we must return to that norm.

Kids, of all ages, seek predictability, consistency, and structure. When things are constantly changing and unknown, kids can feel a range of emotions from being simply confused to completely overwhelmed. When schedules, routines, and adult responses are inconsistent or unpredictable, kids often are unclear on where the boundary is and how far they can go. This can present as testing limits and pushing buttons. We want kids to spend their mental and emotional energy playing, imagining, and learning - not trying to navigate the next move.


No one wants to get super strict after a holiday, so here are some tips for reviewing rules and routines in a way that is proactive, positive and productive.

  • Have kids document the steps to routines that consistently present challenges. For younger kids, make a poster outlining the steps at bedtime or for older tweens, make a checklist of items that need to get into their backpack each morning that can be posted by the front door. Instead of endlessly re-stating expectations and giving reminders, refer your child to the document that they helped to create.
  • Ask kids to talk about how they feel when things are going well at home. Have a discussion about what factors contribute to that positive state and what routines or rules help keep things happy for everyone.
  • Review the reason for specific structures. Kids often don’t fully understand our thought process and we can’t blame them for questioning what they don’t understand. Rather than relying on the old, “Because I said so!” in the heat of the moment, take time (when things are calm) to reinforce the underlying rationale.
    • You need to brush your teeth every night because it is really important to have healthy teeth and we care about you being healthy.
    • We ask you to pack your own lunch because we know you are independent and responsible and you should have a say in what you eat.
    • I ask you to put your laundry in the laundry basket because otherwise I have to spend my time collecting it myself. I respect your time and I need you to respect my time too.
  • Acknowledge exceptions and own mistakes. While consistency is key, life happens. Things come up, plans change, and emotions get the best of us. If possible, when routines can’t be followed, schedules change, or structures shift, give kids a heads-up. When unexpected, simply name that things are different and acknowledge that can be confusing, frustrating, etc. We’re all far from perfect, and that is so good for our kids to see, especially when we can see it, name it, own our part, and talk about how to move forward.
  • Re-evaluate what’s not working. If there is a specific structure or routine that is just not working, take the time to consider an alternative. Ask your child how it could be different. Ask other parents what works in their house. Ask your child’s teacher if there is something that works well at school that could be transferred to home. If something is consistently ineffective, rather than just review, it might be time to re-evaluate.


Stay steady and remain consistent. They might not see it or say it (they almost definitely will not!) but your kids will appreciate it and their development will benefit from it.

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about the author

Lindsey Minder, MS, CCLS, is an Independent Consultant focused on creating holistic educational experiences at the classroom, school, and system level. After over a decade in the classroom, she has deep experience and expertise in strategies and systems that support students’ holistic growth, as well as, a strong commitment to the social-emotional development and well-being of school-based staff.
Through her current work she collaborates with school leaders and partner organizations across the country on ways to integrate social-emotional learning into all elements of school models.
Lindsey is dual certified in Elementary and Special Education, holds a BA in Psychology from Marist College, a Masters Degree in Child and Family Studies from Wheelock College and is trained as a yoga and mindfulness teacher. Most recently Lindsey was a Lead Partner at Transforming Education. Prior to that role she worked as the Director of Social Emotional Learning at Codman Academy where she was also a founding teacher. She also taught at Dorchester Collegiate Academy and The Fayerweather Street School and was a Certified Child Life Specialist at Boston Children’s Hospital and Albany Medical Center.
Lindsey currently lives in Boston, Massachusetts.


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