Eliminating the Battles and Setting Up Your Child for Success at Home
Summer is a time of relaxed rules, freedom, and let’s face it… less structure. Many kids thrive in this setting and relish the “time off” from the stresses and responsibilities of the school year. With the summer coming to a close, some parents envision getting back into it all: the morning rush, the homework battles and the stormy bedtimes.
Creating (or reinstating) rituals and routines at this time will give your children a secure and stable anchor to home, and ease the transition back to school. Unpredictability and chaos breeds stress and anxiety, and although your child may fight it with every ounce of his strength, he will thrive, succeed and ultimately be grateful for the structure that you provide. Establishing routines to regulate bedtime and homework behavior for children benefits everyone.
When children understand the clear and consistent expectations their parents have for them, it reduces arguments over homework that could be avoided. Parents moan about getting their children to do their homework, and stress levels often reach a point where they just want to give up the fight. Homework will likely be a part of your child’s education for the rest of his school years, so establishing a homework routine that will get the work done and take the pressure off yourself and your child is well worth the effort involved.
Enlist your child’s help in setting up the routine by collaborating with him, asking his opinions, and working together to choose where and when to do homework. Then, encourage him to use the selected place and schedule every school day. Discussing and having your child agree from the onset with the homework plan shifts the responsibility for doing homework onto your child and gives him a greater sense of independent accomplishment. Consistency is the most important element in creating routine.
You might include some family rules in the routine to help your child get the job done, such as no friends or outdoor play until the work finished. If after a few weeks of consistent enforcement, your child is still resisting homework routine, reevaluate the time and place. Perhaps he needs a quieter place, or an area closer to the rest of the family? Maybe your child needs to decompress and relax for a bit after school before sitting back down to tackle his work? Adjust the routine until you find one that works for your child.
You’ll be surprised to see that after a while, routine turns to habit, and then you can feel pride in knowing you helped your child develop a very important life skill – an independent work habit.
Children who are allowed to fall asleep whenever and wherever they want can experience significant school problems resulting from daytime fatigue. Creating a bedtime routine, for children of all ages, gives them a framework which they can expect and respond to every night.
The emotions and atmosphere that a child falls asleep with, is what stays with him first thing upon awakening the next morning. The best way to prepare for a successful day is to start with a calm and nurturing bedtime routine the night before. Routines also prevent bedtimes which go on for hours, leaving parents exhausted and depleted of energy.
In many homes, bedtime can be a real struggle. Some parents, out of sheer exhaustion and frustration, resort to lying with their child for an hour in bed until he falls asleep, or allowing him to just sleep in the parent’s bed.
The time can be associated with high levels of stress, gritting teeth, negativity, and somehow “getting through” bedtime each night, looking forward to finally having a moment of peace.
This is a shame, because bedtime, if structured properly, can be one of the most emotionally recharging parts of your child’s day. The routine can potentially help slow him down into a night of nurturing, safety, security, and total unconditional love. This is prime time for connection with you and great time, as you lie or sit next to your child, to find out about his day. What went well? What was challenging? What was his favorite part? Children of all ages love being told stories and crave this special time spent with their parent.
Most kids love massages, and setting a few minutes each night to give a back rub, head rub, hand rub or foot rub is a great way to include affectionate touch. The day should end with Shema, nighttime prayers, and total loving messages, like a big hug and the words, “I love you.”
It becomes nearly impossible to make all of this happen, unless bedtime is pre-thought, planned and somewhat predictable, thus creating it into a routine.
As busy parents, juggling many roles and responsibilities, and often multiple children with varying needs, providing your child with a peaceful, somewhat lengthy bedtime can seem like a challenge. However, if you can get into the mindset of carving this time for nothing else other than being present with your children and focused on sending them to bed in a loving manner, the quality of bedtime will change. In the long run you will probably end up saving yourself time, because as routine sets in, the nightly struggles and multiple “putting back to beds” will die down. When we prioritize putting our children to sleep, we are eliminating stress for ourselves, but most importantly, we are giving our child the message, “you are important enough for me to spend time with.”
Feigi Katz, LCSW, is a child and adolescent psychotherapist in private practice in North Miami Beach, Florida. She specializes in play therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and social skills groups, with a focus on anxiety-related disorders. She can be reached with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.