The power of a routine, a specific set of actions executed in the same order and fashion, was never fully understood by me until my son was born and we all learned a few. The most important and powerful became the bedtime routine: dinner, bath, getting dressed, bottle, bed. However, the routine of quiet time, counting, and ascending stairs quickly became equally important and powerful. Still other routines followed have been very helpful in other occasions, such as when eating at a restaurant.
Where does the miracle come from
I think the miracle in routines comes partly from the the comfort in knowing what comes next. This knowledge can help a little one who may not yet be able to understand all of your other communication methods. This removes surprises. The other part I think comes from the self-fulfillment of knowing what comes next. Initially this may seem like the same thing, but I propose that this feeling can be likened to that a child feels when they are able to “predict” occurrences in a film before they happen because they have already seen the film many times. It is something between confident pride and a feeling of familiarity. I think my son feels this when we initiate a routine. Additionally I believe the routine invokes a kind of conditioned response; prompting subconscious reflexes.
A routine is sort of like a family tradition. It is something that may seen novel the first few times, then ridiculous the next 10 times, and finally become a part of your culture after another 50 times. Yes, this means that the routine might not catch on so quickly. The bedtime routine is the easiest. Other routines may not be so effective because of the lesser significance of event they preclude. However, I submit that they are less effective because we as parents, and especially fathers, do not uphold the routine consistently. Routines require consistency in order to have any power at all.
For example, leaving the house to go outside and play should follow the routine or changing the diaper, putting on appropriate clothing, and putting on shoes. This partly worked in the winter. Somehow when it was colder the clothing and shoes part was very consistent because there was always a jacket to put on. In the summer; however, my son often has no need for a change of clothing. He sometimes needs sunscreen and half the time he needs a hat (he is very fair skinned). These variations have made going outside a guessing game. Sometimes Lex acts as if he has no idea we are going out. Other times he is very confused about what we are doing. I could probably fix this if I were to brings some more consistency to the routine. For example, I could put just a small amount of sunscreen on if it is not needed.
An Investment with an Excellent ROI
When the routines are established I have seen them work miracles. I have seen Lex switch in one minute from a very unhappy little boy throwing a tantrum to a quiet little man drinking every drop of his bottle and then resting sweetly on my shoulder as I took him to his crib. I’ve seen a little boy who resisted with all of his physical force and tears being placed in his crib at bedtime or naptime, turn into a sweet angel who nearly leaps out of my arms into his crib when that part of the routine comes along. It was not easy, but it has definitely been worth it!
As a father who wishes to participate more in your child’s upbringing here is a place to shine. If your child’s primary caregiver has already defined a few routines learn them, practice them, and perfect them. If the routines are not completely established or you feel another should be able speak up, consult with the other caregiver (if any), and implement your new routine. Remember to watch your child; she will help you mold the routine best to her needs and expectations. Keep in mind that a good routine is an investment that pays off very well in the future.