Parenting – July 2013


The healthy habit summer plan

Finally, the end-of-year school rush has come and gone. Now you have the opportunity to teach your kids some responsible habits this summer. Or for some, you may be concerned that the healthy habits you’ve worked so hard to develop could be lost. Many children develop the expectation of ‘it’s only play time’ during their summer vacation. 

Structure and routine can become way too flexible.  In the short-term, this does not appear to be a problem.  Within a few weeks, however, you will often discover that the more you bend, the farther you will bend next week. Some children will not take advantage of this, but many will. And the problem is that bad habits begin to form quickly, and these bad habits are hard to change. That’s just reality.

So, what can you do NOW to keep the kids on track so you maintain those good habits and even build a bit more responsibility during the summer? Below is a simple, healthy-habit plan for the summer!

Choose reality while you can. 
(This will protect your future sanity!)

Choosing reality means that you recognize that play is awesome and wonderful for kids. Yet, complete freedom to play continuously without any requirements is not the way the world works. In fact, play is better after we put forth a bit of work to get it. In other words, efforts (or responsibility) actually sweeten the rewards that come with play. 

Thus, starting today, build in some daily requirements of ‘effort’ BEFORE the ‘rewards’ (play) begins.  It’s a simple concept, but it makes all the difference because this formula actually gives you a tremendous amount of leverage and enhances your parental authority. During the summer you will actually have more leverage than any other time of the year – it comes in the form of all the summer fun. 

Key lesson:  Never give up your leverage!

How does this work?  Don’t let the kids promise you that they will clean their room after they get back from the pool. This is a major mistake.

Instead, leverage the daily trip to the pool.  In other words, the room is cleaned and their laundry is put away BEFORE anyone leaves for the pool.
Don’t bend on structure and routines.

This is about your sanity and your child’s sanity. Most kids fight for less structure, but all do better with more structure. In other words, what kids want is NOT what is good for them. Stick to your guns on chores and daily routines. Keep bedtimes consistent. Don’t let the kids sleep in until noon and stay up until 3am playing video games. These are toxic patterns that unfold over the summer and are very difficult to change.

Key lesson:  Bending the limits is easy.  Moving them back into place is painfully hard.

Stick to the structure and routines you had in place. If your home is lacking in consistent limits, then start today with setting them up. Getting up at a consistent time, having breakfast and completing small daily chores before the play begins is a perfect way to start the day. This is very hard to do if you haven’t ended the day in a similar way, with making sure bedtimes are regular and lights are out at a reasonable time. 

These are simple ideas, but they go a long way in making your summer enjoyable because your children will be calmer, more cooperative and better prepared for the fall. Good luck, and enjoy your summer fun!

Dr. Randy Cale offers practical guidance for a host of parenting concerns. For more information visit


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