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  • Writer's pictureJen Gonda

New Year: Re-Establishing Routine

If your New Year's Day was anything like mine, it was filled with crying, tantrums, and demands for the last bit of Christmas cookies on the counter.

The cause for this behavior breakdown in my household was the carefree parental decision to let my three year old stay up late on New Year's Eve after over a week of no real routine. Let's just say that this was a bad idea. So as I am dealing with the effects of a tired child that was just inundated with holiday gifts and no longer recognizes meal times after a week of grazing, I have resigned myself to look forward to next week to re-establish the best behavior intervention for this household: routine.

There are four big reasons for problem behavior that cannot be solved with any behavior intervention: hunger, tiredness, sickness, and boredom. The best solution is to prevent these triggers through a daily routine. And while routines may not always prevent sickness or boredom, routines will help identify if these reasons are behind problem behavior.

Routines do not need to be tedious or strict, all you have to do is establish general activities for certain times of the day that your child will consistently have access to. The best way to start is to establish approximate bed, awake, and nap (if applicable) times. Then determine general meal and snack times. From there, establishing the general activities for other times in the day that help vary the day. Instead of general play or screen time, you can provide some variation. For example, allow access to TV or YouTube various times a day for a shorter period of time instead of just once. I like to provide access to screens before meals in order to allow us to cook and to provide for a seamless transition off of the screen. We also differentiate between crafts, toys, and books in regard to play. This can be helpful to prevent boredom. Another strategy is to rotate toys in and out of view in order to prevent satiation on a certain toy or to make it easier to choose between a few options as opposed to all the options.

Routines do not need to adhere to specific times, but rather, allow for you and your child to get through the day with an activity to focus on. When changes have to occur, such as appointments or special events, you can easily prepare your child for a "special" change around the activities he or she is accustomed to during that time. We are very excited to get back to our daily and weekly routine next week. While the holidays allowed for more family and down time, these two weeks undoubtedly contributed to an increase in problem behavior for our toddler. Now, we can use some of our daughter's new toys to embed into our daily routine.

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