To watch the video version click here.
Consistency and predictability
To paraphrase Alexis Dubief, we do not want to anger the Goddess of Consistency. It’s come to my attention that for a lot of you, you’re conflating consistency and predictability with rigidity. Rigidity is not the same thing as being consistent or predictable. Rigidity is dangerous.
In every situation, there is a grey area and an exception, and you need to learn to be able to identify those.
The main point here is that you don’t need to do the exact same thing every single day in order to be consistent and predictable.
I predict a lot of parents are avoiding being consistent and predictable because they can’t do the same thing every day, they can’t adhere to a schedule 100% of the time. Perfection is not required, that is rigid thinking.
A schedule is time-based.
It’s a rigid, time-tracked order of events. Laid out like this:
7:00am to 7:30: Breakfast.
7:30am: Forks down, get dress and groom.
8:00am to 8:15am: Pack bags and prepare to leave.
8:15am to 8:45am: Drive to daycare.
8:45am to 8:50am: Daycare drop off
9:00am: Drive to work
9:30am to 5:00pm: Work
5:30pm: Drive to daycare
The schedule is certainly consistent and predictable.
It generally only works well though if you’re a family with two working parents and specific time blocks like daycare and work. It usually is easily adaptable with working parents.
A schedule does not guarantee consistency and predictability in all areas of life.
When you are running your life like clockwork, there is still room to be inconsistent within the schedule.
Example: If you’re doing drop off at daycare from 8:45 to 8:50 but once you step in the building. Sometimes you walk them in, sometimes you kiss them at the door, sometimes you take them to the bathroom first, sometimes you take their outdoor stuff off first, sometimes you stand and talk to the director first. Those are all inconsistencies that can throw a child for a loop. They just tend to happen in more contained ways within a schedule structure.
Grab the scripts for crazy-making behaviour and know exactly what to say next time your toddler, preschooler, or kindergartener isn't listening.
ROUTINES, on the other hand, are not time-based.
They’ve got nothing to do with the clock. They’re simply an order of events:
Put on outdoor stuff.
Routines can be big like that, or they can be stuffed within a schedule.
For example, we get to daycare, then you put your backpack in your cubby and put on your indoor shoes, then you go to the bathroom and wash your hands, then we say goodbye and do kisses, then you go inside and I talk to Ms. Teacher for a few minutes and leave.
That’s a routine. It’s not time-based.
Routines can be built within routines, and routines can be put into place within a schedule.
Parenting is easier when we focus on routines, not schedules.
Sometimes schedules are necessary, because of things like work and daycare. Which is fine.
You don’t need a schedule to be predictable and consistent, you just need a general routine. You do not need a rigid routine!
A routine can be something as basic as “We eat breakfast and get ourselves ready, then we do things out of the house, then we come home and have lunch, then we have a nap and quiet time, then we do independent play, then we eat dinner, then bedtime.
There are no time restraints within this routine. However, it is still in a very predictable order.
If literally the only thing that anchors your day is mealtimes, then go with it! You can create predictability within that. These visuals are really helpful! This shows your child what is going to happen next.
Example: In the mornings we run to the grocery store for shopping, then we have playgroup. Visuals are really helpful for creating predictability and consistency.
Before Christmas, I talked about how, even though the holidays totally destroy routines, you can still have consistency and predictability by using visuals, keeping consistent expectations, and using consistent smaller routines.
Predictability can also compensate for consistency somewhat, like at Christmas. Nothing is consistent at Christmas, but I can crank predictability and let my kids know exactly what is going to happen.
The more “micro routines” you can have and use, the less energy it’s going to take for your child to exist in the world.
Thinking ahead, predicting what is going to happen and therefore how to distribute your energy. Disturbing your energy is a huge energy suck.
Just think about it in adult terms, if your child’s teacher pulls you aside for an unannounced meeting, or your boss drops a task in your lap you weren’t expecting…what’s the first thing we do? We think “UGH. I don’t have the energy for this right now.” We budgeted our energy for the things we knew were going to happen that day.
When something unpredictable happens, the energy has to come from somewhere. As adults, we can generally reassign our energy pretty quickly or we do a mental “Okay, I’m going to be done after this so I’m going to grab takeout on the way home because I’m not going to have the energy to make dinner anymore.” or “When I get home I’m going to take 20 minutes to sit down and regroup.”
We, as adults, have both the power and the experience to redistribute our energy and our breaks. However, children do not have this ability or experience. Therefore, when something unpredictable happens, their brain is now sucking up the energy to accommodate the change.
Don’t get caught in the trap of “I need to do the same things at the same time every day” even if your life has no schedule to it.
If you don’t have a schedule, this does not mean you don’t have a routine. This isn’t true! These two things are mutually exclusive. You can have one without the other.
I hope this helps. Have you got some ideas for where you can use routines to help increase the predictability and consistency for your kids?