Using Rituals and Routines to Ease Toddler Tug-of-War

Toddler Whispering Workshop -- Lesson 2

In the previous lesson, you learned how to use the strategy H.E.L.P. to know when to hold back, when to step in, and how to encourage your toddler's independence while still imposing limits. H.E.L.P provides an essential foundation on which sound parenting is built. Equally important is the idea of maintaining a structured routine.

Routines enable children to understand what's coming next and what they can expect, as well as what's expected of them. This familiarity is both reassuring and confirming to young children, regardless of their temperament. (Take this quiz to find out what type of temperament your toddler has.) Routines structure the way we handle the "givens" in a child's daily life: waking, mealtimes, bath and bedtime. Most of these daily routines are "unconscious rituals" -- we tend to perform them without thinking of their significance. For example, a good-morning hug, a wave bye-bye and a good-night kiss are all rituals of connection. The trick for parents is to become more conscious of these everyday moments and to make them more purposeful.

Why do kids need routines and rituals?
I tend to use the words "ritual" and routine" interchangeably because the two R's are intertwined. Indeed, whenever you repeat and reinforce an act, you are doing R&R. R&R makes a child's life more stable and predictable -- and can even override a child's temperament. For example, a Touchy Toddler who typically acts up at bedtime will be much happier when a quiet and predictable bedtime routine is in place. A Grouchy Toddler, on the other hand, who usually hates waking up will do better when he's familiar with the morning routine and knows what's coming next.


Next page: More reasons why R&R is so important

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