Until this past spring our family has been extremely active, and I have been asked more than a few times how I manage zoo trips with four littles by myself, or how I get all four to sit through story time or science time at the library. The answer is surprisingly simple: Routines and Expectations.
How I Do It
I had never really given it much though, we just did it. They have just been used to it.
We have been doing story time since my oldest was about 6 months old, and continued until everything was shut down earlier this year. He just grew up in story time, as my other three did.
Has it always been easy?
No. Not usually. We just do it. It is a lot of practice and learning.
If you think you can, you will. If you think you can’t, you won’t.1940 July 24, Alpine Sul Ross Skyline, (Published by the Students of Sul Ross State Teachers College), (Set of miscellaneous adages), Quote Page 2, Column 2, Alpine, Texas. (NewspaperArchive)
It is largely a mental game. If I am determined to do something, no matter how hard, I am usually much more successful than if I simply look at something and give up because it seems too hard.
Do Not Judge a Habit/Routine on The First Try, or 10
The thing about habits is that you have to do it more than once to form the habit, and routines are not routine until you have done it several times.
They say you should not judge a habit on the first few weeks, and this is very true, especially with littles.
The first few weeks of a new activity or element in routine can be downright rough!
It helps me to remember that they are learning and need practice, even more so if this is a brand new activity. It takes a lot of reminding of how we behave.
Laying Out Expectations For Your Routines
When we are going out we review expectations-especially if it is a new activity/environment.
Depending on how big the activity is, we begin talking about it 1 week to a day before.
For bigger things like how to handle an airport, we begin a few weeks out.
For a new class at the library we begin a day or two ahead of time.
We review expectations in the car before disembarking, or before going into church service.
Examples Of Expectations We Talk About For Our Routines
- Remember that we are here to worship God.
- We participate.
- We pray when it is time to pray.
- We stand and sing when it is time to stand and sing, we keep our bottoms in our seats unless we are singing (sitting completely still is an unrealistic expectation, so we do not require that they sit completely still, just keep their bottom on the seat).
- It is a quiet place to learn about God, so we must be quiet when Pastor is speaking. (I plan on writing a whole post on children in worship soon!).
- We do not throw things.
Before story time or science time-
- Remember, the library is a quiet place where people are trying to read, so we must be quiet and walk calmly.
- We sit and participate with the class.
- We do not flop about on the floor.
- We keep our hands to ourselves.
- We listen to teacher.
At the zoo
- -It is very important to stay with mama.
- There are tricky people in the world that sometimes take children from their parents.
- If you do get lost, look for someone with a zoo badge or a mama with children.
- What to do if someone grabs them-I do not do this to scare them, but I want them aware of their surroundings and what to do if lost or grabbed. I plan to write more on this at in the future.
- We talk about how we sit on our bottoms and keep hands inside on the train ride.
- How we do not feed the animals.
When we go into a store
- We talk about staying with mama because of tricky people.
- How to identify store employees.
- That we only touch with one finger.
- (I have written more in this post on How to Make Grocery Shopping Easier)
As they learn our routines I begin to ask them how they are expected to behave in the setting we will enter. What does participate mean at story time? At church? What being good in that setting? Do we flop about? Do we sit on our bottoms?
What To Do When Expectations Are Not Met
If we are having a hard time remembering how to behave we quietly excuse ourselves and have a talk and review expectations, and the behavior that was not acceptable.
This is the important part!
We go back in. If they figure out that bad behavior gets them out of situations that they do not want to be in, or they get to go play freely instead of learning to participate in a group setting or learning to sit to listen to the pastor, they will continue to act out.
Building new routines takes times and understanding.
It can be easy to be frustrated and take that out on them. Remain calm when you are explaining things to them. Especially if this is a new environment with things to see and do. They are having a hard time remembering, not trying to give you a hard time.
Training Up With Routines
Children thrive on routine. It helps tremendously to cue their bodies for bed, playtime, meals. It also gives them a sense of security.
Laying out expectations helps them with building routines.
We are commanded to train up our children for life, and routines & expectations are valuable tools.