Revisiting family routines

Apr 22, 2021

“Train children in the way they should go; when they grow old, they won’t depart from it.” — Proverbs 22:6

Family routines are essential in the healthy development of a happy child. We live in such an influential world where our children are exposed to a never ending barrage of messages. It’s unlikely that the majority of these messages will align with our thoughts. The best way we can impact the lives of our children is to be actively apart of their life and introduce them to the grace and love of Jesus Christ. A favourite saying, I have carried through my life is ‘actions speak louder than words’ and this is incredibly true when we speak of parenting.



If we want our children to have ‘quiet time’ or ‘down time’ we need to create a predictable pattern in our house hold where that occurs. If we want our children to be adventurous, life loving people, we need to create opportunities for this to occur. If we want our children to rely on prayer and go to the Word in times of trouble, we need to let them see this as a habit within our lives. With winter and lots of indoor time fast approaching our family routines will also help battle the war against screen time.

Being trusted by God to be a parent is the greatest gift in a parent’s life. But where should our focus be, managing their day to day lives or setting them up for the future?


 
Creating clear boundaries for children around the time limits and purpose of their screen time will help them understand the need to come up with other healthy habits in the home. But family routines don’t work if Mum and Dad are sitting in their bedroom on their phones, we need to be active participants in these routines. Often my wife Alex and I will have to decide what we want to pull the kids up on and what we will let go.
 
For me, I let things go that won’t interfere with the habit I am trying to teach my children. Tech is easily the thing that causes the most disagreements with my 7 year old son, because he loves games like Donkey Kong and Mario Kart so much. So we NEED routines around his use of the Nintendo Switch, he simply don’t have the self-control to make reasonable decisions. So we use the parent controls in the Nintendo app so we can track the time they are playing and we join in or watch for a short period to gain an insight into their interests. The children also know when we play with the Switch it is always Nate’s turn, then Zali’s turn, then Millie’s turn. Screen time isn’t all bad either.


 
A simple thing such as sitting down and watching a movie with your children can give you a common experience to reflect on and help model to your children that when we watch a movie together we don’t need secondary screens (iPads, mobiles) at the same time. By modelling this behaviour, we are spending time with our children whilst teaching them an important lesson: we can devote our attention to one thing and have more enjoyment by doing so. Or when the skies briefly clear calling ‘tools down’ and getting everyone outside for a walk while you can. No phones required! This prioritises health, exercise and togetherness. It’s free and teaches your children “in this house, we enjoy spending time outdoors together”.


 
Whatever you decide is useful to your family, protect that family time - “Look at how good and pleasing it is when families live together as one. ” (Psalm 133:1). Whether you are married, separated or a single parent, having alignment with the other influential people in your child’s life in the way you want to raise them is critical. Your routines will likely reflect your values. In my household we usually celebrate special occasions with treats like donuts or getting some take out dinner. Pretty basic stuff, but it brings us together and the children understand the symbolism. In fact I feel like celebrating with a donut right now…
 

A few thoughts around family routines:

  • The more the merrier – routines don’t need to be glorious, earth shattering visits to Disney Land or the MCG. In my household we have many small routines, including a simple one about eating lunch. When I serve up a plate with a sandwich, some fruit and a piece of chocolate for lunch my young kids already know there is Level 1 food, Level 2 food and Level 3 food. My 3 year old Millie will point to the chocolate and say “not yet, that’s Level 3!”

  • Protect family time – identify times in your week that you will prioritise over everything else and teach your children that spending time as a family unit is essential to a healthy life (eg. Church time, some snuggles in the morning, dinner time, watching siblings at their sport)

  • If you have the resources and time, plan a little day trip to the beach or to the city. Doing something out of the ordinary once or twice a year can help you create family memories and a nice routine for their life. Something to look forward to like a holiday or small day trip can help get us through the more challenging days. Wouldn’t that be a great strategy for our children to have when they are adults?

  • Empower your children – create a list of things that need to get done for the day or week and then let your children choose the order in which to complete the tasks. By having a direct impact in the decision making you will find your children will be more willing and enthusiastic when completing the tasks.

  • Routines don’t always work or show the results you want right away, the key is to stick to it and make small adjustments around the edges if needed. There is no TV for the kids after dinner, however that rule is often relaxed on a Friday.

  • Create routines around prayer. If you haven’t already you can easily incorporate it into the nightly routine for children of all ages. I have my two older children Nate and Zali come together for prayer and we put hands on each other. Some nights I ask Nate to pray, some times it’s Zali’s turn and other times I’ll pray and ask them to repeat. When they wake with nightmares in the night, we pray. When they are upset or frustrated during the day, we pray. When the Bombers are on TV, we pray… just kidding. But you get the point, if you want your children to lead a life centred around prayer as an adult, we need to model it relentlessly now. Just as children pick up the latest TikTok craze or mimic their Insta heroes, they can learn healthy habits for their soul from you. When I think of the power of communal prayer time with my children and the topics we can discuss I think of the verse “We love because God first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) 

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