North Dakota State University
NDSU Extension Service



Routines for a Reason

You stubbed your toe when you got out of bed.
The hot water faucet ran cold water instead.
The kids aren't dressed, and the house is a mess.
Have to be at work in 15 minutes or less.
From this day on there's going to be
A routine schedule for you and me.


A routine helps calm children and parents. Routines help your child develop self-control, independence, responsibility, and decision-making and problem-solving skills. When parents are caught in a rat race to beat the clock, chances are the child's anxiety also rises.

Most people have a time of day when they function best. If you are not a morning person, organize a night-before routine to allow minimal thinking in your semi-conscious state of mind. If you prefer waking early, getting up 15 minutes earlier is easy to do and very beneficial if you are ready before the children wake up. Your children also fit into preferred types. As a parent, you need to tune into their best time of day and adapt to it.

Establishing routines often means breaking old habits, so you must first be committed to change. As a parent, you are setting the example for your child. Once you decide to change a pattern of behavior, stick to it. Children need consistency. Your child will try many times to sway you back to the familiar pattern, but don't give up. It takes time and patience.

Be sure your preschooler understands what you are doing. For example, choose a time when you are able to relax and sit down with your child. Say, "I really enjoy this time with you when we aren't rushing around like we were this morning."


Bedtime Routine

There's a difference between putting a child to bed and putting a child to sleep. One is the parent's responsibility, and the other is the child's. Parents often don't have much energy at the end of the day, so to avoid conflict with an overly tired child, start early and develop an enjoyable routine. Once the child is in bed, the overwhelming feeling of the responsibility of parenthood decreases.

Children may feel separated from their parents and the activity of the day at bedtime. Isolation, darkness and quietness make them feel insecure. Offer your 3-, 4- or 5-year-old guidance in helping him fall asleep, but lying down with him or putting him in your bed can create routines you may not appreciate later.

The bedtime routine should be positive for the parent and the child. A parent shouldn't feel trapped or resentful, and a child should go to bed calmly and safely and fall asleep on her own.


Suggestions on Bedtime Routines

It's normal for children to wake up during the night. Many learn to get themselves back to sleep. Others are light sleepers easily awakened by the cry of a sibling or parents' conversation. Another cause of night awakening is bad dreams. Try to reassure and comfort the child. If the problem persists, explore possible causes and ideas with a trained parent educator or call the Parent Line (1-800-258-0808) for suggestions.

Routines help children develop a sense of responsibility for their actions and respect for others. The rewards are many for parents since consistency in establishing routines helps children uphold rules and limits.


This newsletter is published for North Dakota families with preschoolers by the NDSU Extension Service and distributed through your county extension office. See your extension agent for more parenting information and other home economics programs.


Parenting Preschoolers, Issue No. 15


NDSU Extension Service, North Dakota State University of Agriculture and Applied Science, and U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Sharon D. Anderson, Director, Fargo, North Dakota. Distributed in furtherance of the Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914. We offer our programs and facilities to all persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, age, Vietnam era veterans status, or sexual orientation; and are an equal opportunity employer.
This publication will be made available in alternative format for people with disabilities upon request (701) 231-7881.


North Dakota State University
NDSU Extension Service