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More good-kid tips: Routines create safety for children

By Sandy McDaniel

Ding! Dong! The school bells have rung and now it is time to get back into the routine. Routine means you have a schedule of what to do when and you follow it in order to bring order to chaos. The problem is that the children have been free for a couple of months and have no interest in routines. Nevertheless, here are some ideas to consider:

1. Regular bedtimes, regardless of homework. A student does better going to bed and getting up earlier than dragging on into the night. That early bed-early rising practice also motivates a child to get going on doing the work.

2. No media (TV, iPads, phones, etc.) before bedtime. Studies on the brain indicate that children sleep better if there is no stimulus before sleep. Violence promotes bad dreams. For brain development, health and heart health, children need lots of sleep every night.

3. Have a set time for homework. Have your child show you what he/she is going to do, then after it is done, have them show you what they did. Boys leave school and they leave it totally. Most girls remember they have homework. By showing you what is to be done, the children organize their brain. By needing to show you their work, they are less likely to be sloppy or skip corners. If something isn’t the way it needs to be say, “You need to do the problems you skipped. I will set your alarm for six o’clock so you can get it done.” Do that once and work gets more attention.

4. Keep communicating with teachers. The worst thing that can happen is to get behind. Tell the teacher, “Hailey’s work is showing signs of not understanding the material. Please talk to her and let us know if we may help.”

5. I think it is the job of the school to discipline a child. The exception to that is if lying, hitting, disrespect or unkindness is involved, then an additional consequence may be administered at home. (Hint: time off of media time gets their attention!)

Note: I once spent a morning in my son Scott’s fourth grade class because he started a fight the day before. I told him, “If you need someone to coach you on being kind, I’m your person!” He begged me to leave, promising to always be kind.

6. If you put your children in too many after-school activities, you will be a candidate for the funny farm in two months’ time. I think three or four practices and one or two games on Saturday is too much. Given I am not in charge of your child’s well-being, I leave it to you to lessen the pressure cooker they live in by saying no to endless sports. The good thing about sports is that the kids are not on their electrical gadgets — and two wrongs, according to my father, don’t make a right!

7. Help children to eat food that helps their body grow and promotes good health. Fast food once in a while is great, and there are tons of recipes for children on the internet.

Note: Fix scrambled egg mix with 12 eggs. Put mixture into muffin tins that have been sprayed. Add anything you want: bacon bits, cheese, dried tomatoes, spinach, etc. to each tin. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Can heat and eat after first day.

8. Children can still do chores when school starts. From age 9 up teach them to do their own wash. Be sure to teach them not to put bleeding colors with white or pale colors. Have a timer on yarn to put around their necks; set it to ring when it is time to move wash to the dryer and then rings again when it’s time to take clothes from dryer to basket to room. Have a sign-up sheet as it is likely that all kids will want to use the wash on Sunday night. Chores teach a child what is necessary to do in order to manage a home; they are also done for the right to live in your home.

9. Have traditions that bring your family together. Eat dinner at a table and talk to each other whenever possible. Have Friday night pizza and movie time. Go on bike rides or other fun activities together. Children who feel like they belong to a “pack” are less likely to look for a place to belong with less desirable people.

10. Be emotionally available to your children. Listen! Hush! Don’t judge what they say, just listen. Children stop talking to parents who lecture, moralize or judge. If you have an opinion, state it as such: “I can see where you are coming from, and another way to look at it might be…” If you want your children to talk to you, you need to be emotionally available.

Investing time and love in a child is the glue to help a child learn to be all that he or she can be. There are no re-runs in this game. Invest now!

For more than 55 years, Sandy McDaniel has been an international speaker and recognized authority on families and children. Author of five books, columnist, founder of, she is a resident of Meridian and loves spending time with her three Idaho grandchicks. Semi-retired, she speaks to schools, churches, and MOPS groups and provides parent coaching sessions in person and on the phone. She is available for parenting talks/trainings in the Treasure Valley and may be reached at Also, go to YouTube: Sandy Spurgeon McDaniel to see videos on specific parenting issues.

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