Behavioral Pathways: Routines & Schedules

Children thrive on routines. Routines allow children to understand expectations, making them feel safe as they don’t have to figure out what to do or if they’re be rewarded or get a consequence. 

When children understand and can do what’s expected of them, it will save time and stress in the future. 

Routines and schedules will vary from family to family and even from kid to kid. Some kids will need a lot of structure for routines, where other kids will need less structure. That’s perfectly okay! Kids need different things, and the most important thing is to address your child’s individual needs. 

Involving your child in creating a schedule makes them feel valued and gives them buy-in when following a routine.

Using the skills of Preventive Teaching, Following Instructions, Correcting Behaviors, and Effective Positive Rewards will allow you to set up–and keep–a schedule that will work for your family.

Skills to Learn

Preventive Teaching

Preventive Teaching lesson link

Following Instructions

Following Instructions lesson link

Correcting Behaviors

Correcting Behaviors lesson link

Effective Positive Rewards

Effective Positive Rewards lesson link

This is what you will do:

When everybody is calm, sit down and discuss what should be in the schedule. Allow your child to give their opinion. Determine rewards for following the plan and consequences if they don’t. Come to a solution that works for everybody.

Keep the schedule simple. You may need to create multiple plans for the morning, afternoon, and evening. For younger children, break tasks into smaller steps.

Once a schedule has been determined, it’s essential to practice the routine. Practicing is crucial as you can show your child what you expect. As parents, we often say things like, “Clean your room,” or “Get ready.” While we understand what that means, our children don’t. 

The more you practice, the more your child understands what they need to do, which will allow them to do it on their own when needed. 

For example, if your child’s morning schedule involves making their bed, getting dressed, and brushing their teeth, practice doing those tasks in that order. 

If you want your child to practice making their bed, it would sound something like this.

“Rose, we are going to practice making your bed. I’m going to give you simple instructions that I need you to follow. When you have done the task, let me know you’ve completed it. The first thing you need to do is pull the sheets and blankets back.”

Once they’ve practiced that step, continue with the next steps of making the bed until they have made the bed. 

Practice as many times as needed until they are comfortable doing it correctly.

If your child doesn’t do what they need to, correct their behavior and show them what they should have been doing. 

Let’s say they made their bed, but it’s lumpy and not smooth. Using the steps of Correcting Behavior, you would do the following.

“Rose, I know you made your bed, but the bed is still lumpy. When we make the bed, the sheets and blankets need to be smooth. When you make your bed correctly the first time, you will be able to mark it off on your chart, allowing you to earn your prize. Because you didn’t make your bed, you have earned the consequence we talked about of not being to mark it off your chart and earning your prize. If you can practice making your bed with me, you can mark it off on your chart.”

Giving children rewards for following the schedule is the secret to long-term success. These rewards should be pre-determined and should matter to your child. Rewards don’t need to be expensive or involved. Things like extra time to play, staying up late, getting access to the car, or playing video games, are very motivating. 

If your child is young,  it’s important to give rewards soon after the positive behavior as it allows them to connect the positive action to the prize. 

When Rosie finishes her morning chores, she could earn a small piece of candy, the ability to choose a song to listen to during breakfast, or a token that she can redeem later for rewards.

Older children can wait longer between the positive behavior and the reward. 

It’s okay to switch up rewards as your child grows. What they were interested in six months ago may not be the same thing now. 

If the schedule isn’t working anymore, it’s likely due to the reward not motivating your child anymore.

Using these skills, you can create a schedule that works for your family!


Ep #114: Helping kids focus

Ep #114: Helping kids focus

In this episode, Parenting Coach Siope Kinikini answers questions about anxiety and helping kids focus, especially for remote learning.


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