Most of us would agree that consistency is very comforting. We like knowing we have a job, how much money is coming in, what the weather is going to be like, if a natural disaster is around the corner, etc… Knowing what is coming, helps us plan for the future and helps us feel like we have some control over our lives and we feel safer because we know or think we know what is coming. When we have enough consistency, we are more emotionally capable of handling the exceptions to our consistency, or unexpected changes that come and even to manage changes that we expected.
Think about it, when you have a new baby coming, or are anticipating a move, or a change in employment, health care, living situations, or guests, you plan. We do the best we can to anticipate what will be needed and to provide or procure those things before they are necessary so we have what is needed while we manage the change. The more we prepare, the more secure we feel and the easier we manage things we did not anticipate.
Now let’s apply this thought to little people. Little people do not have the intellectual development to anticipate and plan for several years. We, as their parents, do what we can to provide for their needs. Sometimes we know them, other times, we are just guessing and trying to figure it out. It has been so much easier with my little Spike, Spike now that he can say, “Uh huh!” if he means yes, and “uhhhhhhh” with turning away his head when he means no. Just this week he will actually say “Mo.” sometimes. Life is so much easier when they can communicate just some basic! Even my teenagers, sometimes have difficulty expressing their feelings and what they need/want.
Back to the consistency idea…..
When we provide an environment for our little people that is consistent, they develop feelings of security and a knowledge that their needs will be met in a timely manner. They learn trust. They learn safety, security, peace. A consistent schedule is very soothing to little people. Bedtime is a biggie. Here are some helpful ideas for your little ones:
- Have a consistent bedtime routine. Do the same thing every night. At our house, we read scriptures as a family, have family prayer, put on our pajamas, brush our teeth, say our personal prayers and go to bed.
- Do it at the same time every night. We usually start talking about bedtime about 1/2 an hour before we are ready to put people in bed. “Go get your scriptures, finish up your evening jobs, we are gathering in the family room, we’re going to read and pray now, etc…” Then we start the routine. I usually put the little ones in pajamas before we read and pray so they know it is time for bed. We read and pray at the same time every night, regardless who is home. Sometimes Drew may be at a meeting, or the big kids might not be home yet, but for the little ones, it is the same time every night. We read and pray again with the big ones when they get home. For little people, consistency makes bedtime less of a conflict and more of a comfort.
- Also, if we happen to be out somewhere and we are not going to be home at bedtime, I consider three options. (1) I might get a baby sitter for the little ones so they can be home and in their bed when their bodies are tired. (2) I may leave the event early so the little ones can be home in time for bed. (3) I bring their jammies with them and about 8 p.m. put them into their jam jams so they know it is bedtime and their body is telling them the truth. I want them to learn to listen to their body. That may seem like a silly concept, but in our world of fix-it-with-a-pill mentality, I want my little children to learn early that if their body is tired, they need to rest, if they are hungry they need to eat, if they are full they need to stop eating, etc… Our bodies will tell us a lot about how to manage life, if we will listen to some of the things it needs.
Routines are also significant for getting ready for school, after-school chores/homework, getting ready for church on Sunday, attending Sunday meetings, Family Home Evening, lunch and nap time….etc… I am not suggesting that our lives have to be rigidly scheduled and certainly there needs to be flexibility and adaptation. But the more consistent life is for little people, the less stress they will experience and the less stress we will experience. They will not be acting out because they are confused or irritated as the consistency allows them to know what follows and that their needs will be met.
We have been consistent enough with bedtime that even when Drew and I are not home, the big ones will put the little ones in their pajamas, read and pray with them and put them in bed by 8, almost always. Now if I can just learn to apply this concept to our housework…..things would go smoother around here 🙂
When my little ones are really acting out, I ask myself a few questions:
- Are they hungry?
- Are they tired?
- Are they teething?
- Are they uncomfortable in some way….wet, dirty, have a splinter in their foot, having an allergic reaction, etc..
- What need might they have that is unmet? Sometimes that is listening to them, asking them to show me what they want, a need for comfort, they might even have hurt feelings (yes, little ones really do this….)
- Are they sick?
Most children are not obnoxious just because. They are real people and they have all of the needs the rest of us do. We just need to listen to them and help them learn to communicate their desires.