Children, as well as adults, need routine and structure in their lives in order to functionally participate in the social realm of the world today. Most adults have a routine of waking up to the sound of an alarm clock to start off their everyday schedule. For example; eat breakfast, get ready for work, drop kids off at school, drive to work, drive home from work, make dinner, help with homework, get self and kids ready for bed and repeat.

Following a routine helps our bodies and minds stay busy throughout the day, giving us a sense of accomplishment for providing for our families. If we don’t have a routine, then we lose track of time and motivation to perform our duties as people and tolerate changes in the world.

Children are different, in the sense of them relying on you to provide them with a schedule in order to accept the changes of the world and becoming independent in their adult lives; brushing teeth, dressing and doing homework. Across the nation children go to day care, meet new classmates and teachers every year, parents go out of town for work unexpectedly, parents get divorced or they move. The list goes on; however, children are able to transition better with the help of routine and structure. It teaches them how to perform everyday duties, follow directions/rules and respect their parents or other adults.

Structure and routines help decrease the outbursts and meltdowns a child may demonstrate when they are corrected, redirected, told ‘no’ and transitioning to a new place (school, therapy, restaurant, store or even a family/friend’s house). The outburst and meltdowns then become a ‘Learned Behavior’ if a parent does not redirect/correct and just give in to the child’s behavior so they will ‘STOP’.

To help with structure and routine at home, have a parent/child craft time of making a household chart with pictures or words to help them understand what task they have to perform next before they can get a reward (TV/ iPad/toys). Charts are also helpful with going in to the community and school. An example is: ‘My child will not pick up his toys. When I tell him to clean up, he immediately throws himself to the ground and begins to kick and scream. I usually just give him time to calm down or let him play with a different toy. His day care is also having a hard time because he always cries during clean up.’

A suggestion would be to provide the child with education of why it’s important to clean up. You can utilize the household chart or pictures for clean-up. Also, try to make it “fun” for the child by singing or playing “clean up” music. You can also put your hand over the child’s hand to guide him to the desired toy to clean up. Yes, he will probably have an outburst, but consistency and repetition will give the child structure and will know that next time you ‘clean up after play’.

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