The Importance of Structure
From your child brushing their teeth morning and night, to playing with friends after school, structure is crucial to the healthy development of your child. Structure can look different for every family, and even to every child in one family. So, what is structure, and why is it so important?
Merriam-Webster Dictionary states that structure is something that “is arranged in a definite pattern of organization.” As a parent, there is a responsibility to create a daily routine for your child through school, extracurricular activities, good habits, and time for socialization. This schedule allows for healthy growth and development!
Safety and Security
Structure is important because children require safety and a sense of security or stability in their young lives. When routines are set and limits are placed on children, they feel more physically and emotionally safe. They can predict what each day will look like and learn the important skill of self-management, which will help them to become healthy, functioning adults. When children have boundaries and structure, they are more able to manage their frustrations, disappointments, and other difficult emotions.
In my daycare and preschool there was a concrete and consistent structure to our day. The kids were so used to our routine that they would often let me know if we were falling behind in some timely aspect of our day. They knew what we were doing every day and began to develop self-management skills, which allowed them to also have the opportunity to keep the group on track from time to time, or manage others as well. I observed their behaviors develop in a positive way, so I was curious to learn how daily structure improves a child’s brain.
Structure significantly improves a child’s brain. Psychology Today says that structure helps children to regulate their emotions, such as resisting impulses and organizing their time. It also allows children to plan into the future and teaches them that they are responsible for remembering the tools they need for completing certain tasks throughout their day, such as their backpack for school, all of which also makes your job easier as a parent! Providing structure and rules at home teaches a child to become independent, and are just as important as having a routine at school or daycare.
As for homework and creating a schedule for learning, setting up a calendar where notes can be posted is a great way to remind the child about what is going on for the day, and what is expected of them. Make sure to bring attention to checking the calendar every day until your child can remember to do so on their own. This does two things; being consistent helps your child understand the importance of developing a good habit, and it helps make your child responsible for their own schedule. A chore chart also does a good job of aiding independence.
Children thrive when they live in an environment where they know what they can expect to happen in their day. Since structure helps them feel safe and secure, it could ultimately prevent behavioral problems by repeating healthy behaviors. Keep the time that they wake up, meals, snacks, and bedtimes at the same time every day. This helps your child to learn self-discipline.
The self-discipline that is learned through having structure allows your child to control their emotions, overcome their weaknesses, and pursue good decisions despite temptations. It helps with frustration that can come from delayed gratification, and the independence learned allows your child to easily transition from one activity to the next.
For encouraging structure with younger kids, try using pictures to illustrate what their daily tasks should look like. Better yet, you can use pictures of them doing the tasks themselves. For example, posting a picture of them brushing teeth to the bathroom mirror reminds them that they should brush their teeth twice each day, and it makes it more fun for them to see themselves doing it. You can do the same for making their bed, eating a healthy breakfast, combing their hair, etc. Just remember it will take a while for it to become a habit, so don’t feel discouraged if you have to keep reminding them!
Rules and Routines
It’s important to establish rules that should be implemented in your home. These rules and the consequences for breaking them should not be enforced until everyone understands what they are. While these rules are important to creating a well-functioning household, don’t be afraid to add a little fun time to your daily routine, such as storytime at bedtime or sharing the highlight of your day at the dinner table. It’s all about balance. You could allow your child to stay up a little later or have family game night on a school night. Explain it’s a special one-time event, and then get back to the routine. It’s important to allow for time to connect as a family.
Rules and routines also need to change and should be tweaked whenever your child’s needs change. What works for a toddler may no longer work for an older child. You can include your child in making changes to their schedule, and this control in their structure will help to eliminate power struggles because the child feels safe and secure.
You can periodically try new things in your child’s schedule to challenge them and help them grow. Consistency in doing anything is an important and essential concept, especially with regard to effective parenting.
When considering what your child’s schedule will look like, consistency is crucial. Consistency in your daily structure and routine provides boundaries kids need to help them organize and coordinate information, and gain an understanding of how the world works! For kids, consistency helps in the learning process, which consists of internalizing information, rehearsing, and repeating behaviors.
Inconsistency can be confusing for kids. If today you discipline them for a particular action, yet let the same behavior slide the next day, the child learns that an adult response is unpredictable. When parents are consistent, the child learns what to expect. When your child makes decisions, they will be able to predict what the consequences will be. Though a child may still try to push the limits to see if the reactions will change, if a parent is consistent, the child will eventually stop testing. The child will feel more secure and will make better choices. In the meantime, hang in there, and it will pass.
Overall, structure is a crucial aspect to the healthy development of your child. Through having a daily routine, your child learns how to regulate their emotions and behaviors, self-management, and independence. Structure can even strengthen your relationship with your child. Just don’t forget to pencil in a little time for some fun!