The Power of Predictability – How to Foster Healthy Development for Kids

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If you are a parent like me, you will most likely agree that it is extremely rewarding but also very exhausting.  Having a few tricks in your back pocket can definitely help with efficiency and also preserve some of your energy, especially if you are outnumbered!  If you aren’t a parent but plan to be someday, you may benefit from the content of this blog as well so keep reading!  In my professional and personal life, I am with kids all day.  I work with middle school aged children as a school counselor and then see many children at my private practice in the afternoons and evenings before coming home to my own children.  I absolutely love watching kids develop and grow as I typically counsel kids and students for an extended period of time.  What I have learned in my experiences is that in order for kids to grow and take healthy risks, they need some sort of stable ground or predictability in their lives.

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Develop a Constant

In one of my blogs, Consequences of Complacency, I talked a lot about the value of taking risks in order to expand your comfort level.  I believe this is especially important for kids to help them develop a stronger sense of self which can also lead to a stronger self-confidence and self-esteem.  However, in order to foster healthy risk taking for kids, they need to also have a constant in their lives.  This constant can vary and may include weekly special time with a parent, an after school activity that meets consistently, an expected routine, or private lessons in a particular area of interest (i.e.: musical instrument, gymnastics, etc.).   Regardless of what the constant is, in order for it to create stability for kids to foster healthy development, it needs to be consistent and predictable.  For example, on Fridays, your daughter knows that you pick her up from school, take her to the park and have a picnic with her.  Over time, this becomes something that is expected.  Your daughter thinks about this during the week and looks forward to spending quality time with you on Fridays.  Whatever else happens throughout the week that is unpredictable or out of her control, her time with you keeps your daughter focused, comforted, and stable.  This also goes for the after school activity or musical instrument lesson.  Essentially, it is something that your child looks forward to and expects.  Something that is safe.

Incorporate a Routine

At the beginning of the school year, teachers go over classroom procedures and expectations with their students.  This helps establish ground work for the year so students know what is expected of them.  They know that when they get to class on a daily basis, they need to take their folder out of their desk, take out their homework from the night before, complete the “do now,” and then wait for further instruction.  This routine makes it more manageable for the teacher to oversee 25 plus students and it also helps kids develop a sense of responsibility.  It is predictable.  It is expected.  It brings comfort to the class and promotes an environment that will lead to healthy risk taking and active participation.

It is also helpful to utilize this strategy at home as a parent.  For example, does your child have the same routine when they get home from school?  Do they help themselves to a snack, complete their homework in the same place, and then go outside to play for a few hours before dinner?  What about at dinner time?  Do they set the table or maybe pick some herbs outside to help prepare the food?  Whatever it is, it should be predictable, consistent, and expected.  Again, this will give your child a sense of responsibility.  The more children you have at home, the more valuable this technique will be.  It will help you manage your household similar to a classroom teacher, and it will provide each child with a feeling of purpose and connection, which in turn will develop their level of confidence and self-worth.

Manipulate your child towards growth

If done correctly and consistently, it is possible to manipulate your child towards growth.  For instance, taking risks is uncomfortable for everyone.  It is unfamiliar and can lead to failure.  A sport or other activity that your child may be unacquainted with may sound boring or uninteresting.  They may be resistant to trying it or taking a risk.  However, if you take them to a professional soccer game or a college lacrosse game regularly, this may spark a new interest for them.  As a result, they may be more likely to want to try out for a team in middle school or ask to participate in a community league.  This will develop into a constant for your child that I spoke about earlier in this blog.

If your child is young like mine, sleep may be a hot topic for you and your family.  Growth can sometimes be a fine line as you may either enjoy co-sleeping with your child or you may want them to develop more independence and sleep through the night in their own bed.  Regardless, having a night time routine that is predictable can provide comfort for your child.  For example, a bath, banana as a snack, bedtime story, and a guided meditation can provide for enough comfort that will allow your child to have the confidence to drift off to sleep on his or her own.  If you are looking for your children to sleep on their own, slowly transitioning the routine to you leaving the bedroom can be helpful.  For instance, you may go through the routine above, kiss your child goodnight, and let her know you will be right outside their room.  The first few nights, your child may get up and open the door.  Simply walking them back into their bed, kissing them goodnight again, and walking out will eventually lead to your child falling asleep on his own.  In essence, you manipulated your child towards growth as he has now developed the confidence to sleep through the night in his own bed.

Good luck as you put together a system of predictability that works for your family.  Check back soon for our next blog.  Have a great week and enjoy the weather!

 

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