Structure and spontaneity – they are both important in child rearing and striking the balance is the key! Basic structure through routines provides the landscape for allowing your child to enjoy spontaneity.
- Routines provide the foundation for the child’s physiologic regulatory functions by establishing consistency in sleep-wake cycles as well as eating and elimination. When these functions are consistent, they support your child’s ability to self-regulate, and your child is happier.
- Consistency in routine is one key factor providing your child with a sense of security and safety. He can ‘count on’ knowing how the routine goes. He can then be more available to cope with as well as enjoy novelty.
- Daily and weekly routines allow your child to self-regulate as she can remain in a calm state, knowing what it coming up and emotionally prepare herself in advance. When the routine changes daily, it gives her the impression that nothing is secure and causes her to go in an elevated state of arousal, wondering what is coming up. Spontaneity at this point would be overwhelming rather than pleasurable.
- Routine provides structure for setting boundaries and makes parenting easier. Your child gets to know that after tooth brushing, he gets 2 stories and then a back rub and then lights out; it eliminates daily negotiating. Then when an unexpected event arises, it is special and can be appreciated.
- Throughout the child’s development, from toddlerhood to adolescence, children push boundaries. They are looking for the perimeter in order to clarify the system and then to organize themselves within it. A lack of structure provides inconsistent boundaries and is emotionally confusing for the child, not providing the ‘container’ from which to organize themselves.
- Participating in routines teaches your child important cognitive skills including organization, time management and self-monitoring skills.
- Predictable routine helps your child to feel organized emotionally.
- Without routines, spontaneity just feels like disorganization.
In child rearing, the day rarely goes as planned. The daily routines are however the glue for coping with spontaneous events across the rest of the day. If for example, your child has a predictable morning and evening routine, it creates the platform of security and enjoying a spontaneous outing in the afternoon. Even when on vacation, it is typically more enjoyable if the family can keep consistency in the morning and evening routines, which function as the bookends to hold the novel events of the day together. You and your child will enjoy the spontaneous events more fully in the context of predictable routines.
Kiegan Blake, O.T.