Friday, April 3, 2009

Benefits of Structure and Routine

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Children really thrive on structure and routine. So many of the difficulties that can arise during toddler years can be diminished if not eliminated all together with structure and routine. In On Becoming Toddlerwise, there is a quote from the book Simplify Your Life With Kids: "Kids who live without structure can develop behavior problems. Frequent tantrums, whining, a disregard for rules, inappropriate or aggressive behavior, constant demands, and an inability to share are some of the signs that your child needs more structure" (page 43).

You can then correctly assume that a child with the appropriate freedoms will have fewer tantrums, whine less, obey rules, share (or at least be better about sharing), etc. Those are some excellent motivating factors for having structure in your child's life.

As you think through and add structure, be sure to keep in mind freedoms. Too many freedoms will lead to naughtiness. You can structure your day so that you eat, play, and sleep in structure, but still allow too many freedoms, which will cause behavior problems with your child. For more thoughts on this, see:

In order to have structure and routine, you need to have a plan. See this blog label for posts on More Than Making it Through the Day .
When you have a routine, you can be more organized and use your time wisely. You can accomplish personal goals. People often ask how I get so much done. A lot of it has to do with the structure I have in each day. I have time to work on projects. I can clean, read, work on hobbies, and more. You can also accomplish goals for your child. Perhaps you want to spend some time teaching your child various skills each day. With routine, you can do that.
Your child will find comfort in the predictable routine. I can't tell you how often Brayden lists all the things that will happen in his day. If he is looking forward to an evening with grandparents, he will list off all the things that will happen between breakfast and the time he will visit his grandparents. It helps him get the concept of time and helps him to have patience for exciting times.
It also helps with things Brayden doesn't look forward to. Brayden never has and never will enjoy sleeping. But naptime happens every day. He knows when it will happen; it comes as no surprise. He also know when it will end.
You will find less need to correct your child with structure and routine. When children are left with too much time on their hands, they find mischief. When you have a routine, you have goals for each activity. Also, you move along at a predictable pace and the child just doesn't have time to look for trouble.
As you decide how to structure your day, keep this advice from Toddlerwise in mind, "Make sure your daily plan fits you, not someone else's ideal" (page 46). There is no one right schedule out there for all people on earth. Look at the options and figure out what works best for your family based on your unique situations in life. Remember Let Your Schedule Serve You: You Don't Serve Your Schedule (Don't Stress). The list of benefits for a routine are for you and your family, not for anyone else, so be sure your schedule is suited for you, not anyone else. You can certainly get ideas from other people, but you will need to adapt them to your own family.
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Matt and Amy said...


I hate to even ask you a question since you have such a new little one right now, but my 8 week old son is in sleep training (since week 2), and the crying it out is breaking my heart!

My question is this: For about 3-4 weeks, for most of his naps during the day, my son will go to sleep on his own without much fuss. But once a day, he screams on and off (mostly on) for the whole nap (usually the just-after-lunchtime nap, but not always). So I end up picking him up at 2.5 hours even if I planned on feeding him at 3 hours from the last feeding. His waketime is usually 35-40 minutes, so that is a lot crying. He is usually so upset that he doesn't even want to nurse much. Sometimes he actually calms down on his own, but most days he goes the full time for that one nap period.

It just doesn't make sense to me why he does so well the rest of the day and not this one nap! Any ideas or suggestions? I try to put him down at the optimal waketime.

I've looked through a lot of your index, but didn't find something along this, but I am sorry if I missed it.

Enjoy your new daughter!

Thanks so much,

Ben and Jenny said...

Your post could have been something I wrote about our 7-week-old daughter, only our rough cycle is around the dinner time. It may be that fussy time of day, but I'm starting to wonder if she's just awake after the accumulation of sleep throughout the day (she takes about 1 3/4 to 2 hr naps each cycle). Maybe I'm not paying enough attention to sleep cues and she needs less of a nap at that time?? She does well with CIO at other times of day and the crying is getting less and less or none at all. So confusing. It's tough to know when to "give in" during a cycle and just decide to "reset" everything. If she cries most of her naptime, she will fall asleep while feeding (much less have a waketime) and the vicious cycle begins.

We have also tried to help her get sleepy by singing or rocking, as long as she's still awake when we lay her down.

I'll be curious to hear if there are other ideas.


Ben and Jenny said...

I began keeping a detailed log, as described under Tips & Tricks. THis helped me to learn the subtleties of my (now 8-week-old) daughter, which has been difficult with a toddler (and a sleepy brain). I've learned and am following her sleep cues and have also noticed that she is awake longer around dinnertime, usually. So, we now have very little crying at naptime. This issue seems to have resolved!

Thanks for the tip!

Plowmanators said...


The most likely reason at that time of day would just be that it isn't happening at his optimal waketime. Either that or he is overstimulated OR he is falling asleep a lot during that feeding and therefore not tired enough when it comes time for the nap. There are a lot of variables.

I suggest you keep a log with pertinent details to try to figure this out more easily. Good luck!

Plowmanators said...

Thanks for your update Jenny! I am glad the log helped. It is always good to keep a log. I keep notes on feeding times, diapers, waketime length, if she wakes on her own or not, and any other pertinent information, etc. Thanks for sharing.

trishconway said...

First of all, congratulations on your new daughter! And secondly, thank you so much for all of the work you do to help us fellow "Babywise-Moms." Your advice is invaluable and I really don't know if I would have stuck with it if I hadn't found your blog. I have a friend who also uses Babywise principles and we talk and encourage one another often. We have both been wondering lately about all of the anti-Babywise stuff out there on the Internet and were interested in your thoughts about this. I am not sure if you have already talked about this on another post or not, but I haven't come across anything after browsing a good portion of your index. Neither of us made the decision to use Babywise lightly - we read through several books on sleep training methods and after much prayer and consulting with other trusted moms, determined that Babywise was the best fit for our families. We have not regretted our decision, but have nevertheless come across a lot of anti-Ezzo information online in the course of research and advice-seeking that we aren't sure what to think about. So, I thought I would turn to the expert and get her opinion!

What do you think about claims that the sleep-training techniques described in Babywise in general, and crying-it-out specifically, cause babies to suffer attachment issues, stop trusting their parents, or have their spirits broken? I have even read claims that CIO can cause permanent brain damage and an inability to handle stressful situations in adulthood, and is akin to child abuse. It can be quite disturbing to read these things!

Both of us have, and still do, utilize CIO with our little ones as part of our sleep-training, so obviously all the anti-BW stuff that we read has not changed our resolve in the matter. This is truly just pure curiosity - we were interested to know whether or not you have read similar assertions, and what your opinion on the matter is. Thanks!

Plowmanators said...

Trish,Thanks and thanks!

I don't buy into the trust issues and CIO. Why? Because Brayden and Kaitlyn both trust me. They both love me. They both hug and kiss. They are both really smart for their ages. They are both far advanced in every area (by advanced I mean ahead of what they "should" be doing at their ages). So my reasoning for not believing it is that I have two children who show no signs of issues and both did CIO.

When I recently read The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems, she talked about CIO breaking the bond of trust with your child. For a moment, I panicked. Then I let reality talk to me and point out that my children love and trust me.

I really think that following Babywise will teach your children to trust you more, not less. If you have someone who is supposed to lead you through something, are you going to trust them more if they take the lead and teach you what to do and when to do it, or if they step back and watch for you to tell them when you are ready for something...and you have no idea what that something is.

Babywise children don't need to "demand" their meal to get it. They get their meal regularly and predictably. That is something to trust. They don't need to become really irritable in order to get a nap. They get their naps regularly whether they want them or not :). That is a situation they can trust. Life is predictable. Mom and Dad know what they are doing and take care of the child's needs even if he doesn't demand it.

Also, if you are a religious person, I would look to what you know of God and trust that emulating Him is the best way to parent. He doesn't cottle us. We face experiences that are hard, and when we look back on them, we see that we are now stronger and the experience taught us a lot. He sets boundaries. He leads the way; He doesn't wait for us tell Him what we need. We have no idea in the eternal scheme of things!

Anyway...that is just a bit of my thoughts. I think I will write a post on it so I can ramble even more ;)

trishconway said...

Thank you so much for taking the time to write such a thoughtful response! I really appreciated all you had to say. I wanted to word my question very carefully, because I was worried you would think I was actually anti-BW and trying to be sneaky or something! :-) In fact, I love BW and we have had so much success using BW techniques. But when I have read things that caution (sometimes, very strongly!) against BW, and especially against allowing babies to CIO, I become very worried. I, too, had the same panic when I read through Baby Whispherer and she warned about losing your child's trust by letting them cry! My little girl has gone through a few particularly fussy phases and each time I have become very, very worried that by allowing her to CIO we have somehow damaged her and that is the reason she was so cranky all the time. But then she will come out of that fussy phase and be happy and content! I recently discovered a book called "The Wonder Weeks" that has offered an explanation about these fussy phases we have experienced, and I no longer worry so much that I have somehow harmed my baby by allowing her to CIO - the fussy periods are normal and to be expected, not something I have caused.

I also really appreciated how you put the concept of our children learning to trust us because they know what to expect from us and when to expect it into a Biblical perspective! I had never thought of it that way, but it makes so much sense - God does make His boundaries and expectations very clear to us. And because He is the same yesterday, today, and always, we can trust Him. Great point.

I think that I am, five months into this, finally feeling confident in our decision to use BW (and CIO) because we are truly seeing the benefits and rewards. Like any first-time parent, we spent a lot of time second-guessing ourselves and worrying. In the end, though, God is greater than any mistake we can make, and that is always comforting!

I'm looking forward to your post on this topic!

Plowmanators said...

You are welcome Trish! I remember feeling really uneasy as a first time mom, also. It does get a lot easier as you get more children, but there is still doubt that creeps up!

Zane said...

Hi! Not sure if this is the right place to post this question, but I wasn't sure where else to post it and I didn't get any responses from the Yahoo Group :( Hope you can help!

I just finished Toddler Wise and loved it, but was hoping for a little more
direction on naps, eating, and weaning. My DS will be 1 on the 4th of March and
I am looking forward to weaning him off formula, but am wondering how many meals
he needs during the day? How do I transition him so his meal times line up with
ours? Can he go more than 4 hours between meals now?
Current schedule:
7am-Wake, get dresses, eat
-6oz solids, 4oz formula and usually some apple juice
7:30-9:00am-Free Play, structured play, Learning Time with Mommy
9:00-10:30 Nap
10:30am-Wake, eat
-6-7oz solids w/ a protein, 4oz formula, 1-2oz water
11:00am-1pm Free Play, structured play, Learning Time with Mommy
2:30-Wake, eat
-6-7oz solids, 4oz formula, Cheerios, 1-2oz water
3:00-3:30-Free Play
*We take a break in the day here to go pick up my hubby. Hubby and I eat an
early dinner right when we get home about 4:30
4:30-eat dinner with D&M. Usually just a few finger foods from whatever we're
5-6:00-Play Time (and occasionally a 1/2hour nap)
6pm-Bath Time, Bottle, Story Time
-6-7oz of formula

I'm wondering if I still need to stick to a "4 hour schedule", or if I can move
away from it and the pattern or eat/wake/sleep? The book doesn't seem to say
anything about this. I would love to do a short morning nap with him and a long
afternoon nap right after lunch, but that would move us away from eat/wake/
sleep pattern? Is the important thing to have a routine and set schedule?


Polly Gamwich said...

My question is about schedule vs. routine.

I have been following what I thought babywise was teaching since birth with my 9.5 week old son.

However, now I'm concerned that I misunderstood it!! I still can't tell if the BW method advocates scheduling or routines??

SCHEDULING: Do I need to feed my child exactly at 7a, 10a, 1p, etc. everyday?

... or can I feed him at 7a and then feed him every 2.5-3hrs depending on my day's schedule?

ROUTINE: Is it enough to establish the anchor feed (7a) the bedtime feed (7p) and a routine feed/wake/sleep every 2.5-3 hrs as the family schedule determines?

(BTW, I've been doing the "routine" version since birth, not the scheduling. For example, if I'm at home and we've got nothing going, if he wakes at 2.5 hours I will feed him rather than holding him off until 3 hours. When he wakes anytime between 2.5 and 3 hours I feed him. I have always put him to a nap drowsy or awake, never nursed him to sleep. At this point, our LO doesn't cry/grumble for more than 10 mins when going down for naps and doesn't grumble at all for bedtime or dreamfeed, he has appropriate wake times [consistent with what I've seen on your site - right now ~60mins] and before he got sick at 7.5w he had 5-6 hour sleep stretches at night with one night of a 7 hour stretch, but since being sick, I've only gotten him to do 5 hour stretches. Things seem to be going well ... but should I be heading toward the SCHEDULING of his day and less around a routine??)

Thanks so much!

Polly Gamwich said...

Double post - sorry.

Plowmanators said...


Meals per day: 3 solid. The liquid can vary from child to child. It will be at least 3, possibly four. Consult with your pedi about number of ounces and see how many you need to do based on how much your child will drink at each meal.

For aligning with family, see post "aligning mealtime with family" or "aligning meals with family"

He could go more than four if he is fine with that.

You can move away from eat/wake/sleep. Just be sure you have your meals at consistent times and naps at consistent times and so long as those times work for him, it should be fine :)

Plowmanators said...


From your definition, BW advocates routine.

I call it a schedule because to me it is really more of a "tom-A-to/tom-AH-to" type thing.

It sounds like you are doing things perfectly.

When they get older--say around 7-8 months, things become a lot more scheule-esq--but that doesn't mean you still never feed "early" if needed.


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