Sticking to Routines

One of the most effective ways to limit the potential for tantrums is to establish and stick to routines as much as possible. Routines help children feel secure by giving them a structure to rely on. When children know what events to expect because their daily routine is familiar to them, they are more easily able to learn how they are supposed to behave at most times and in most situations.

Eat, Sleep, Play

Two-year-olds are always busy: They play, explore, and interact with you and the world around them. Some activities, such as sleeping, mealtimes, and play time, need to occur on a set schedule. If you create a schedule around these daily events, you'll find that you have time to do things for yourself.

Essential

Whether your child has a nanny, goes to day care, or stays at home, you can use the following suggested routine to create a schedule for her day. Fortunately, day care centers typically follow a schedule that they stick to reliably. If they don't, try to find new day care, because routines are important wherever your child spends the day.

At two, your child is probably napping once during the day, for a longer period now than she used to. So start planning the day around that information, because reliable naptimes can really help a child to feel good and have energy throughout the day. Even if your child refuses to nap, set aside an hour or two of downtime to allow her to rest, if not to fall asleep.

Then figure out your meal times based on naptime. Do you want your child to eat an hour before her afternoon nap? Do you want her to eat soon after she gets up and then go a few hours until dinner? Answering these questions will give you some basis for how to plan your day.

Play time, errands, cleaning, and the rest of your to-do list can be scheduled around naptime and meals. Be sure your child also has some unscheduled time to play each day, whether at home, on a playground, or at a friend's house. Once you schedule all of these activities, chances are you'll find time to accomplish what you need to do and you may even come to rely on this routine.

Why Routines Work

Routines work not just for children but for parents, too. That's because everyone in the family follows different timetables that need coordinating. And though you don't want to be too strict about sticking to your own schedule — after all, children have their particular rhythms and sometimes will nap for a longer or shorter period than you expect — you will feel calmer if your day goes according to plan.

As emphasized previously, daily routines provide children with a much-needed framework. Time designations are difficult for them to put in perspective (“later” or “two o'clock,” for example, are abstractions to a two-year-old), but even two-year-olds are able to remember the pattern to regular events day after day. A child knows, for instance, what to expect when you tell him, “It's naptime.” A two-year-old's body becomes accustomed to a daily rhythm, which helps your child's moods and energy levels stay steady and reliable.

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  3. The Myth of the Terrible Twos
  4. Sticking to Routines
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