Parenting – August 2012


Getting ready to excel
Creating the best school year begins now

With summer winding down, you may be concerned that the healthy habits you worked so hard to develop in your children have been lost during the summer. Not only do sleep routines change, but the daily habits of homework, chores and practices often evaporate. 

These healthy daily routines do require a certain ‘momentum’ to make life easy. If successful, your child develops a ‘habit’, which makes for an easy, predictable life. For some children, gearing up for these changes is not a problem; however, for many this transition from summer freedom to a more structured school routine is a huge struggle. 

There are several simple tactics to begin right away that will make the transition to school routines easy. Perhaps more importantly, these tactics will very likely set the course for a better school year and improved performance. 

Here are my top five tactics to ensure a more enjoyable and successful start to the school year.

1. Start early to change routines
Children, as well as adults, thrive with consistent daily routines. Most of us do not easily adjust to changes in routine. Studies suggest that children benefit immensely from consistency in daily routines. Yet, while most of us view this conclusion as common sense, we don’t honor this simple life rule. But now is the time to change this:  start today with getting the whole family on a routine that will last throughout the year. 

2. Bedtime’s first, then mornings!
The easiest place to begin is with bedtime routines. It is a battle to get the kids up early, when they haven’t had enough sleep. Thus, it’s not wise to start on the morning side, when trying to change routines. Instead, begin with bedtimes and get the kids to bed early.  Then, once this is in place, turn to morning routines that resemble school day routines.

3. Ask once…and then take action!
Here’s your secret weapon: rather than harp on the kids to get to bed, take another tactic. Turn off the TV, the computer, the games and lock the toy-room door. In other words, take action! Control the goodies at bedtime and during morning routines rather than just battling over getting them to listen. This is really the secret weapon to getting the kids on track with healthy daily routines. Remember: Ask once, and then…take action!  Shut it down. Cut the power. Turn off the lights. Kill the Internet connection. All of these are actions that give you power to move the kids along to bed, and help to eliminate the battles.

4. Start the ‘pre-school’ homework habit now!
The homework habit is really the habit of excellence for most children. Without it, even the most intelligent child eventually fails. With it, the most average child can excel. Start now to require at least an hour of daily work before the school year begins.  Perhaps it’s reading a few chapters or solving some math problems or even conducting research on a project. The goal is to have this habit in place a good month before the school year begins.

5. Don’t worry that your kids won’t approve
Most children will fight you on your plan.  They will argue for freedom, flexibility and try to make you ‘justify’ your decision.  Don’t get caught in this ‘smoke’ from your children. Of course they will not approve.  Of course they will not be happy with you.  Of course they will say horrible things about your idea.  And, of course, their friends will not approve. Please don’t get hooked on needing your kids’ approval when starting these essential habits. Just remember that you’re doing them a favor, even if they don’t realize it at the time. 

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


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