When I was expecting our first son, I had a lot of questions. Reading books and blogs made me even more confused; everyone and their brother has an opinion. Therefore, this blog post comes with a disclaimer: if it doesn’t fit your family, find something else that does. However, scheduling (or not scheduling) is a topic I wish more people would have talked to me about. About 2 weeks into life with our firstborn, I was almost in over my head and the age old “you’ll just know what to do” didn’t hold true for me. If it hadn’t been for a sweet lady sharing a book on scheduling with me, I can honestly say I would probably be a very stressed out woman these days. I’d like to share with you some of the reasons we chose to put our babies on a schedule and what it looked like for us, and perhaps it will serve as a similar lifeboat for you.
It helped me know what my baby needed.
Both of our sons started out on the same routine: eat, have awake time, take a nap, repeat every three hours. Depending on where we were in that routine, I had a pretty good idea why my baby was crying. Pre-schedule days I quickly became frazzled trying to figure out why my baby was crying. When we implemented a set routine and he started crying at naptime, I knew he was tired. And if he was crying out of discomfort, I found it was easier to determine the cause because I knew he wasn’t in need of food or sleep at the moment.
It allowed me to do other things.
Since I wasn’t stressed out trying to figure out what my baby needed, I was able to devote time and energy to still being a wife and friend. My husband and I didn’t have to spend our evenings trying to soothe and entertain a baby; instead, we got to spend our evenings together and playing with our baby (which parents all know is very different than having to calm a screaming child). I knew when I would have free time during the day and it allowed me to keep up friendships. Sure, there were days I stayed home so we could get in all the naps at just the right time, but often I found that if I was consistent with my schedule at home then my baby adapted and followed his schedule even in different surroundings. My home still got cleaned and I still cooked supper every day, because I had set my baby’s routine and it worked around mine.
It set the tone for our family structure.
When you set the routine for your child, it puts you as the parent in charge of what happens that day. I noticed with a lot of families, the parents were subject to the whims of their children and what routine their children set for them that day. If the kids don’t want to take a nap, there is no nap and no time for mommy to get the dishes done or the laundry folded. If the child decides to sleep all day and stay up all night, it makes for exhausted parents who can’t function at all during the day. It tells the children that they are in charge and daddy and mommy will do it their way. Also, who is to say that if a child is given that authority at home, that they will accept parental authority on any other life issue? As parents, we have to be consistent or we cannot demand to be taken seriously.
It provides stability.
Consistency produces stability. When you have a set routine from day to day your children know what to expect and when to expect it. It produces a sense of trust and calm when you and your children know how the day will go. Of course you will have the days that stray from the routine. There will be sick children and days you need to play at the park and not take a nap. Those days happen, but when you have a routine for your family, it’s comforting on the crazy days to know that they are not the norm. Stable routines produce secure and stable people.
It teaches children to not be self-centered.
I’m not saying my children are perfect and never think of themselves. I’m not even saying my oldest doesn’t have typical toddler reactions and tendencies. Goodness knows we’re in the throw of them now, but it does set the stage for your children to put others first. They cannot just walk up and demand that they be served immediately; they must politely wait their turn. Scheduling babies sets the tone and makes a servant attitude not such a foreign concept as they get older.
It set the stage for later years.
Now, our oldest son is only 2, but already we can see the difference having him on a routine has made. He knows daddy and mommy mean what they say when they say it and he knows what to expect. He knows some basic things to expect from his day. He knows other things must be attended to in life and other people have needs too. This has made having a second baby so much easier; he just fit into the flow of our natural family routine.
So maybe a strict routine isn’t for you (I am not extremely strict; we are after all humans who have needs that may vary from day to day), but I would challenge you to consider sticking to some sort of routine for your family. I propose that doing so will provide for you and your family a stable, stress-free home environment and that will in turn allow you to go out into the chaotic world and be a light that shines forth God’s peace.
Are you looking for a practical way to implement a routine in your family? I highly recommend On Becoming Babywise by the Ezzos.