One of the tasks of the growing child and one of the functions of parenting is to bring the child into rhythm. It may seem as if the life of a newborn completely lacks rhythm. Feeding and sleeping occur at irregular intervals and the baby’s breathing is erratic. The first hours, days, and weeks of my son’s life seemed timeless and otherworldly to me. Like most new parents, I was enamored, emotional and exhausted. Gradually a rhythm began to develop and it brought peace and purpose, calm and contentment.
An ordered, predictable daily structure provides the young child with a sense of security and a sense that life has real form. Knowing what’s next enables him to go with the flow with greater ease. It is a great comfort for a child to know what to expect and what is expected of him. Strong daily rhythms and repetition reduce unnecessary decisions and allow us to be more present in the moment for our children and ourselves. Our family rhythms needn’t be dull. They can be loving, nurturing, balancing, interesting, joyful, beautiful, and fun. They nurture our sense of life.
Discipline issues are greatly reduced when we’ve established strong rhythms. Activities are taken as a matter of fact and become habits. Have you ever observed a child struggle when he is occasionally asked to clean his room? Regularity is the key to creating good habits. If a child has participated in dish washing after eating each day since he could reach the sink, what aggravation we are saving him and his partner or roommates as a man! He shall be liberated from woeful glances at a sink overflowing with crusty dishes. As children grow older, they transform the outer structure that we have helped establish into inner self-discipline.
How do we create rhythms and rituals with our children? We begin by forming our lives around the essentials, nourishment and rest, with plenty of outdoor play in between. Consistent bedtime and meals reduce tension and confrontations at what can be the most challenging times of the day. These sacred times can be held by ritual such as a blessing before meals or a lullaby at bedtime. Regular meal times, naps and bed times help orient the child to the passing of time. Establishing these external rhythms allow internal rhythm to develop. When dinnertime and bedtime are consistent, a child becomes hungry at dinnertime and sleepy at bedtime.
Young children need at least 10 hours of sleep at night. Pediatricians recommend a total of twelve to fifteen hours of sleep for young children each day. Bedtime routines can revolve around hygiene and bonding. At our house, we ease into the evening by lowering the lights immediately after dinner and preparing a warm, lavender bath. The radio and television are quiet. Our voices are lowered. After bath time, we have some cozy playtime in the dimly lit bedroom. The room has been warmed with a space heater, so we take our time dressing, allowing the children to learn to put on their own pajamas. This gentle pace sets the tone for the evening.
The little ones find comfort at bedtime when we do the same preparations, in the same way, at the same time, every night. One simple story from a book, or better yet an oral tale, can be told again and again for weeks. This allows the child’s mind to calm and relax into sleep. When we watch television or read many books before bed, the mind becomes filled with images and it is difficult relax. On the other hand, the quite presence of loving parents can bring a sense of peace to a child as he prepares to slumber.
Let your day breathe life, balancing in-breaths like painting, quiet play, bathing, and sleep with active out-breaths outdoor play, exploring, singing, going to the market and visiting friends. There are times for drawing our children into our embrace, and times to release them unto themselves and their world.
Your daily life is your temple and your religion….
Our Daily Rhythm
Indoor Play… greeting, playing, singing, domestic and artistic activities, tidying, cooking, table setting
Snack… hand washing, blessing, passing, pouring, eating, dish washing
Outdoor Play… dressing, climbing, running, jumping, digging, dancing, singing, exploring
Lunch… hand and face washing, table setting, blessing, eating, thanking, dish washing, clearing, sweeping
Nap… tooth brushing, tucking in, story telling, lullabies, listening, resting, waking, snuggling, and hair brushing
Snack… hand washing, farewell to Miss Jaimmie and family, story and snack with Miss Monica
Outdoor Play… enjoying each other and the outdoors until families reunite for the evening
Sources: Seven Times the Sun, Shea Darian
You are Your Child’s First Teacher, Rahima Baldwin Dancy
Beyond the Rainbow Bridge, Barbara J. Patterson and Pamela Bradley
Jaimmie Stugard has been a caregiver at the Milwaukee LifeWays for nearly ten years. She is grateful that she is able to bring her own little ones with her to LifeWays each day. She is also the music teacher in the Wisconsin LifeWays Training.
We thank you for stopping by to enjoy this article. If you would like to share your experiences working with children in a LifeWays home or center, please feel free to contact Mara Spiropoulos at firstname.lastname@example.org. She would be thrilled to work with you to share your wisdom and experiences on the LifeWays blog.