By Kelly Guidry, LPC-S
A few nights ago my family was sitting down to eat dinner when our 4 year old daughter announced that she had “made her calendar.” My husband and I looked at each other somewhat puzzled, as this was out of context, and then politely asked her what she meant. She informed us that she would be sleeping in her own bed and had created a calendar to track the days this happened.
We had been talking to her recently about staying in her bed all night and discussed that we could use a calendar to track her progress, and after a certain number of days she could earn a prize. Needless to say, I never fulfilled my promise of getting a calendar and the idea had been put on the back burner (at least in my head). After reflecting on this interaction with her, I realized that what she was asking for was structure.
As adults we often feel like we provide our children with structure, but in reality what we are doing is sometimes more like chaos. A simple thing like a calendar helped my daughter to organize her thoughts so that she could be successful in the goal that we desired as a family. How, as parents, do we become successful at structuring plans to set our children up for success?
Children thrive when they have a foundation of structure. They like to have an idea of what to expect and exhibit less behavioral issues when these expectations are clear. Some families are extremely structured with specific time frames for each activity every day. Other families are more flexible in their structure, and have expectations but not specific time frame. No matter the style that your family is more accustomed to, some structure is necessary.
So, how do you provide a sense of structure?
- Give your children a voice. Ask your kids for input into the family routines. Often at the end of the day they know what will help them accomplish their expectations.
- Follow Through. Like the example from my own experience, it was my lack of follow through that created a barrier to my child’s success. Follow through in all things, discipline and rewards. If you make the statement be prepared to back it up. Lack of follow through from a parent is a key ingredient to kids not being successful.
- Establish an accountability system. At home find a way to have some checks and balances with one another. This could be through writing expectations on a white board for everyone to see or having family meetings regularly to talk about everyone’s roles and responsibilities for the week.
- Give explanations for the structure being established. Kids are kids, but often times as their brains are developing they respond well to logic. Even if they don’t like a specific expectation, rule, or structure, offer an explanation providing the reason.
- Model Flexibility. At the end of the day structure, rules, and expectations are necessary, but remember your kids are learning. Through the journey of learning remember to model and practice flexibility.
For now try implementing a new expectation. Check out this website for a reward chart to help you establish structure.
If you’d like more help implementing structure in your home, give us a call! 281-210-6677