Flexibility vs. Routine — Finding the Perfect Blend for Your Family

By Lauren B. Leiker, M. Ed., PCI Certified Parent Coach®

As adults, we tend to choose one or the other: relentless routine or freeing flexibility.  We find great comfort in either knowing exactly how our day will move along, or in knowing that we can choose as we go.  

The truth is, however, that there is necessity in life for both routine and flexibility and our aim should be to understand where each belongs in our lives.  As parents, we must aim to raise our children to understand the significance of each and the relationship between them.

Routines provide great benefit to parents and to children.  Also, practicing routines in the family setting is necessary for children to understand the benefit of routine and its place in their lives. They will apply this practice and understanding in adulthood. And, for parents, it is never too late to make positive changes in life!  

In the end, the true test of a healthy routine lies in the ability to comfortably stray from it on occasion.

Useful Routines for Families

Here are some routines you may have already adopted, or may want to consider.

  • Bedtime

  • Mealtimes

  • Quiet time

  • Getting ready in the morning

  • After school activities and homework

  • Chores

  • Family meetings and activities

  • Special parent/child time

Re-evaluate and Adapt As You Go

Routines can be daily, weekly, or monthly.  Routines with your 2-year-old will be different than they were when your child was an infant, but still, equally as important.  

As children get older and schedules grow busier, it is necessary to frequently re-evaluate your routines and adapt them to new family schedules.  For example, during soccer season, Monday’s afternoon routine might have to be different than Tuesday’s, but every Monday should look and feel the same, if possible.  When soccer season ends, you can re-evaluate the routine. Also, if you suddenly find you are not getting out of the house to work and school on time, it is likely time to alter the morning routine to better fit everyone’s needs.  Older children can and should be a part of this process.



Benefits of routine for children

  • Children who have normal daily routines are better able to deal with stressful events, such as a new sibling, a divorce, a move, or the illness or death of a loved one

  • Routines teach healthy habits like exercise, washing hands, brushing teeth

  • An organized and predictable family environment contributes to a child’s sense of security

  • Routines teach basic work skills and time management

  • Routines teach the significance of relationships and responsibilities.

Benefits of routine for parents

  • Organization and predictability lowers stress

  • Routines help you complete your daily tasks more efficiently

  • Consistency in routine reduces time spent nagging and “directing” your children

  • Routine leaves time for self-care!

  • Regular and consistent routines help you to focus on the positive and contribute to your sense of well-parenting.

Some routines involve holidays or special time with loved ones. Because these routines tend to carry more value and sentiment than the mundane tasks like brushing teeth or putting away laundry, they are defined more appropriately as rituals. Rituals, too, are an important part of a child’s life because they teach the significance of family history, tradition, and relationships.

Routines provide great benefits to families. Having routine schedules defines the routine expectations and responsibilities parents want to teach their children. Understanding these expectations and responsibilities clarifies the family’s value system. Involving children in re-evaluating the routines as they get older nurtures trust and respect and communication.       

The positive family relationships that are created by consistent and healthy routines allow for flexibility. As children get older, they can be given the flexibility required by adolescence. Families can enjoy a spontaneous outing. A low-stress family environment makes it easier to recalculate when a day doesn’t go routinely. In the end, the true test of a healthy routine lies in the ability to comfortably stray from it on occasion.


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Lauren is a Parent Coach at the Hallowell Todaro ADHD Center. Her work with families spans almost 25 years and includes the roles of nanny, preschool teacher, preschool director, parent education instructor, and PCI Certified Parent Coach®. She particularly enjoys helping parents with children who are experiencing the world in unique ways - including those with ADHD.

Find out more about Lauren’s upcoming Parent Survival Basket workshop designed for parents of children with ADHD.