Quick Parenting Tip: Don’t Fear a Schedule

Heather says:

If there is anything this week has taught me, it is that my young children thrive on a schedule.  When it gets thrown out of whack someone steals my children and replaces them with cranky, irritable, tantrum throwing, ill -tempered beasts.  When I first had my son I naively thought, “Schedules are so restrictive, they don’t allow kids to be kids, they make them robots” or something along those lines.   Let me just say, HA!  We have learned to mold our schedule around the needs of our kids.

In general, small children are happier when they know what to expect.  I am not suggesting a plan for every minute of the day, but a loose guide for meals, snacks, naps, and bed.  No, a schedule won’t preclude all bedtime and naptime battles but once they know that bedtime is bedtime and nothing else exciting is going to happen things do get easier.  I have found when the kids aren’t cranky I’m less likely to be cranky.*

Sometimes things happen that make a schedule nearly impossible.  This week of company has been fun, but I will be glad to trade in these cranky little beasts and get my children back.

For the parents out there, what did you assume in your pre-kid naivety?**

*Hey, I’m human, sometimes my hormones get the best of me, but as an adult I have greater resources for self-control.

**Remember Home Eccers, parenting is one of those areas where what works for Sue may not work for Jane, but it doesn’t mean either are misguided or wrong.


  1. Margaret on March 21, 2008 at 1:36 pm

    We have a rhythm at our house 🙂 My husband, king of spontaneity, hates the words schedule and routine. I’ve told him to stick with the rhythm because I’m the stay at home parent who has to deal with the fallout if he lets the toddler stay up til 9 because they lost track of time (I tutor several evenings a week). We make exceptions for special occasions. I myself prefer a rhythm and am loathe to part with it. Sunday afternoons are for crashing on the couch, reading and dozing. Period. I’m never persuaded to a social event on Sunday afternoons, but sometimes will take a walk!

    Pre-parenting, I used to get bored when I played with kids as a babysitter. Now I realized that is so not my style to sit on the floor and play; my daughter prefers trying to do what I’m doing as I work around the house anyway! We still do fun activities together (reading, painting, swinging at the park) but not everyday and not when she could do it herself.

  2. Alli ~Mrs. Fussypants on March 20, 2008 at 11:35 pm

    I needed that one!

  3. Pam on March 20, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    I think one of the best “tools” my daughter used with her children when they were little was the “warning” system……ie….in 10 minutes we are going to leave the playground so if you want to do the slide again now is the time….. then in 5 minutes we are going to leave…..gather your things and tell your friends goodbye….. OK….here we go…… thanks for listening and following directions…..it really seemed to work 99% of the time. I often want to share this idea with moms when the kids are having a ball at the play table at Barnes and Noble…..rather than saying….OK that’s it we are leaving NOW!!!! give them advance warning that their time is almost up…..

  4. Bramble on March 20, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    I had planned never to let my kids watch tv, never to give them fast food, and was only going to breastfeed for 6 months. And then it turned out that TV was a great way to get a shower when i hadnt had one in a week, the drive through was sometimes the only way for me to get a hot meal in my stomach, and bottle feeding wasn’t an option for a child who projectile vomited every formula on the market. I’ve since learned to be a little more flexible lol

  5. AllisonWonder on March 20, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    I’m with Leigh- I thought my kids wouldn’t watch TV… well, not much, anyway. I don’t use it as a ‘babysitter’ or anything, but my little man sure loves him some Wiggles!

  6. Shanele on March 20, 2008 at 11:58 am

    Both of my children have been on a strict routine from the time they were born. Now as they are getting older (5.5 & 3.5 years old) and become more active, it has gotten more challenging to stick with it. I have recently returned to work full-time, so I am having personal issues balancing motherhood and my career. It is tough especially when I am trying to stick to that routine. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. We thrive on our routine!!

  7. mamacita on March 20, 2008 at 11:40 am

    I thought you could reason with children — that’s how stupid I was.

  8. Sarah on March 20, 2008 at 11:09 am

    I’m totally a “routine” gal…my kids would be nuts without one! Well, at least my oldest would (he’s 2). When things are out of whack, even in a good way, he tends to be crankier and even more energetic than is currently the norm.

  9. Leigh on March 20, 2008 at 10:25 am

    Oh my goodness… there is so much I assumed before I actually had kids! Like, parents who let their kids run around with snotty faces, dirty shirts, and crusty strollers are just lazy. What?!?! WHY in the world would I think that? And it’s come back to smack me in the face, over and over! Also… I would NEVER let my kids use a paci… or watch TV before age 2… heh heh heh… I also assumed I would be able to breastfeed for the whole first year (I was lucky to get one month with each child)… Oh, if I only knew then what I know now. It’s not that I would do anything differently now. I just wish I wasn’t so smug about things then.

  10. Jenn @ Frugal Upstate on March 20, 2008 at 10:15 am

    I think a schedule is much more palatable for some folks when they think of it as an “order” of things rather than specific time slots.

    For young kids, it isn’t so important that snack is at 10, reading is at 1015 and then nap is at 1030–what’s important to them is that they have a snack, followed by a story and then their nap. . . somewhere roughly around the same time of day

    Although obviously you can’t let that nap time get too far out of whack or you do have terrible screaming demons on your hands!

  11. Elizabeth on March 20, 2008 at 9:16 am

    I agree with you but say “routine” instead of schedule. I admit it, don’t like the word schedule. But routines (and predictability) work great for us too.

    I truly think that most families find this to be the casem there will just be variability in terms of how much control the parents want to have. I take care of the basics, and things like storytime, hands-on activities and when to play outside. Other than that, my kids have the freedom to decide whether they want to play with blocks or dolls or chase the cat or help mommy if she’s cleaning. 🙂 (which they always do…)

  12. imabug on March 20, 2008 at 8:37 am

    for those who have ‘kids’ of the four-legged furry variety, they also do very well on a schedule. However, they’re not likely to be cranky or throw tantrums (the cat might) because of deviating from a schedule. There might be a bit of a mess when you return though.