Chaos is often the leading lady in our home, as many mothers with very young children can most definitely relate to. But with chaos comes rattled nerves, tears (mostly mine), and a home atmosphere that is better prepared for battle than for learning. For the last year or so, I've been recognizing the importance of routine. This simple little thing, that children tend to crave, might be the key to habit training in our homes.
The Chaos of the Past Year
When I sit down to tell you about the past year, my eyes can't hold back the tears. There was nothing tragic, and many could share their stories of far worse experiences. But almost everything that it contained was a struggle. There was the extremely explosive toddler, whom we realized had a Sensory Processing Disorder. The resulting therapy and work that we did with him drained us (me) to empty. There was the selling of our house, the buying of a new house, and the renovation that kicked us out of our home for five weeks (and is still going, ahem). And what I didn't prepare for was all the tears from little ones who were sad to have left their home, and didn't understand what was happening to their new one.
Through all of these circumstances, a common theme kept arising: we needed a routine.
My sensory guy desperately needed a routine so his little body could relax a bit and not feel the need to fight an overwhelming world.
With the chaos of moving and renovating and moving again, I craved a routine of happy mornings with my children.
Through blurry tears shed after losing the only home they'd ever known, my children needed a routine to show them that not so much had changed.
And yet, I couldn't give it to them. Our days were unpredictable and chaotic and far from easy. But, in all that time, God was changing my heart. I was learning and preparing for the day when the gift of the mundane would walk back into our lives. I was planning out our routines.
The Secret Weapon For Forming Good Habits
Our habits require some kind of cue to set them in motion. The habit cue is why we accidentally turn off the lights when someone is firmly planted in the room- it's a habit to flip that switch when we walk out of that door! When our cues are completely shaken, then our habits crumble. I imagine that this is part of the reason why the last year was so challenging: we were without our routines, so all of those habits that we had worked so hard on had disintegrated into that thin Colorado air.
Habits need routines.
If you have been struggling to help your children, and yourself, develop good habits, but there isn't consistency in your day, then you probably feel like you're shoveling during a snowstorm. Habits are entirely repetitive, and if we don't repeat those habit cues for good habits, then they will probably quickly morph into bad habits.
When we follow routines in our day, the cues happen naturally. If everyone goes upstairs to clean their rooms after breakfast every day, there won't be so much of a fight. If the kids are used to playing independently outside for an hour while I work or rest, there won't be so much bickering. Establishing routines into our days when our kids are in their early years yields a high return of investment.
All the while that I wanted to establish routines, but couldn't, I spent time planning them out. The first thing that I knew we needed in order to have healthy routines and habits was more time at home together. We needed fewer activities because good habits are seldom formed in the rush to get shoes on and get into the car.
After clearing our schedule a bit (and learning how to say "no" to some things, I thought about what our mornings should look like. What if everyone was really at peace, and if our home was filled with the sweet aroma of Jesus? I wrote a paragraph to describe it. This didn't factor in sensory meltdowns or teething toddlers, but I wanted to have a baseline of what I thought would be ideal.
With my paragraph in hand, I thought about all of the habits that might need to happen in order to have a morning like this. If we were to all sit together at the table for breakfast and morning time, we would need to work on our table manners. If the little boys were expected to play quietly during lessons, then we would need to work on the habit of being kind to each other.
Finally, I wrote out a routine that would help support the habits I knew we needed help with. Instead of letting the kids graze throughout the morning and eat when they woke, we'd wait and eat breakfast together so I could get everyone to the table simultaneously for our morning time. Before beginning lessons, I'd play with my little boys and model how to be kind to each other.
Habit Training Resources
Make sure to subscribe to My Little Robin's email list to get access to the subscriber library, It is full of great resources, including habit and routine planning worksheets.
If you are figuring out what habit training looks like during the early years, be sure to check out Habits for the Early Years: A Mother's Journal.