The movie Home Alone is every kid’s fantasy. They imagine how exciting it would be to spend time on their own, without parental rules and restrictions. However, as young Kevin discovers by the end of the film, kids need and love their families around them … and the structure that comes with it.
As a parent, it’s your role to provide structure for your kids. They thrive on routine for many reasons. Here are some of the most important advantages to setting and keeping a set schedule in your home.
It Sets Expectations
Structure lets your kids know what you expect from them and when. Youngsters like to know what you expect from them, and structure makes those expectations clear. One of the biggest disservices you can do to your child is to be inconsistent or to simply have no structure at all.
On the surface, the kids whose parents don’t impose any rules or restrictions and who don’t give them any responsibilities might seem to have it made. Expect to hear plaintive cries of, “Joey’s mom doesn’t make him clean his room!” or “Sally’s dad lets her watch TV before her homework is done!” Your kids will probably roll their eyes when you give the standard answer of, “Well, I’m not Joey’s mom” (or Sally’s dad).
You might feel like the bad guy for a brief moment, but remind yourself that Joey and Sally are probably floundering without any real guidance. They might enjoy their freedom in the short term, but it will cost them a lot later. Worse yet, when they see their friends being held to expectations by caring parents, they’ll wonder why their own parents don’t care enough to do the same for them.
Meanwhile, your children will never have to question what you expect from them and when. They’ll have a clear set of rules and expectations. They’ll know what they need to do and when to do it. They’ll also know the consequences if they don’t respect the structure you’ve laid down.
It Provides Organization
Structure helps you manage a busy schedule. Families have increasingly busy lifestyles, so structure helps you stay organized and keep things on track. Your children are probably juggling their school days with homework and after-school activities like sports, band, cheerleading, church youth groups or whatever other hobbies they enjoy. Then, of course, they need time to just relax and be kids.
As a parent, you’re like the CEO of a busy corporation. It’s your responsibility to watch over everyone and make sure they’re doing what they need to do in order to keep things running smoothly. Family life can quickly get out of hand if you don’t structure it. Once you build a workable schedule for your kids, your job will be much easier and your family will be under less stress.
Scheduling also lets you know if you’re trying to cram too much into a day. Your kids need your guidance, and part of that is protecting them from doing too much. If you can’t fit everything into a sensible schedule, you know it’s time to trim some things away. Kids can be over-scheduled just like adults, and it’s just as stressful for them. When you take a structured approach, you’ll help them avoid being overwhelmed.
It Sets the Stage for Success
Structure prepares your kids for success later in life. Children are like little sponges. They absorb everything that goes on around them, and it molds and shapes who they are and who they’ll become in adulthood. They might rebel against structure, but as they get older and wiser, they’ll realize its value. They’ll also have a valuable skill that they can apply to their own lives.
For example, if your kids learn how to manage their time with set schedules when they’re young, they’ll know how to do that when they go off to college or move out on their own. You won’t be around to wake them up at the scheduled time, hand them their lunches and make sure they’re at the bus stop. You won’t be there when they get home to remind them of what time soccer practice starts and to enforce homework time before they can put on the TV.
But if you did all those things for them consistently, and insisted that they stick to the schedule, they’ll be prepared to do it for themselves. They’ll know the importance of makings and following their own set routine.
Proverbs give us some good parenting advice:
Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. —Proverbs 22:6, KJV
Make a set schedule part of your training and it will pay some big dividends.