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Is It Time For Your Family To Hit The Charts? (And I'm not talkin’ Top 40)

routine chart children brushing teeth

Incorporating more routine and consistency can help decrease power struggles and increase cooperation and fun in your home!

Every parent at one time or another has either thought about or made a chart for their child.  It almost never seems like there is enough time to get out the door in the morning or get kids to bed without power struggles no matter how much time you have.  The type of charts that I suggest using are not reward charts, because there are no stickers or prizes that your child identifies or earns.  Yet, there are valuable gifts that are received...  the gift of life skills and responsibility!  Now, who doesn’t feel great about helping their child develop confidence, independence, and responsibility?!   

I love integrating routine or responsibility charts into the parenting plans of families that I work with because they help take the power struggles out of daily routines.  Most parents that I work with want to create more clarity and consistency in their parenting so they don’t have to keep reminding and repeating themselves. It is just too exhausting and time-consuming!   A routine chart is a beautiful tool that can help parents help their kids to do what they need to do without the hassles, power struggles or meltdowns.  This approach to creating Routine Charts comes from Positive Discipline, which is unique because it brings the child into the process by allowing them to identify what needs to be on the chart, how it looks and where it goes.

The secret to these charts is to create the chart WITH your children.  Start with either a bedtime or morning routine.  Ask your child to tell you everything that he or she needs to do to get ready.  If your child is too young to write, then take dictation.  Then narrow the routine down to 3-8 tasks based on your child’s age and ability.   When you are ready to actually make the cart get your budding designer/artist involved.  Have them design the cards for each task.  Children love pictures of themselves doing each task or pictures they have drawn of the task.   Then let your child hang the routine chart where he or she can see and reach it. This generally tends to be in an area where the routine takes place or a central passageway in your home.   Involving children in the creation of their routine chart not only increases their sense of belonging and significance but also reduces power struggles by giving them more power over their lives and increases their willingness to follow what they have helped create.

Once you have your chart ready to go and hung the next important step is to take time for training.  Walk through the process and practice the routine together.  Younger children will need more direction and assistance when using the chart initially.  But eventually, all children can manage their chart on their own.   This is a process and takes time, patience and energy.  But the payoff is worth the investment because your routine will begin to flow and the power struggles will begin to dissipate!

You might be thinking, “What happens when kids get sidetracked and derailed?”  The answer is:  We gently help them get back on track by either asking questions or using verbal or physical cues.  Some questions to ask might be: “What is next on your routine chart?” , “What are you going to do now?” or “Where can you look to find out what you need to do next?”.  Sometimes having a code word or hand signal can be helpful to redirect them back to the routine.  This keeps you out of the power struggle and keeps them focused on what needs to happen next.  The ultimate result is less stress and more joy in your home!

I have loved using routine charts with my own children, and the families that I work with report success when implementing with their families.   I would love to hear what you have tried or noticed using routine/responsibility charts and other creative ideas you might have!