Do your children follow the same routine every day when it comes to eating, sleeping and other daily living habits or is every day a new surprise with behaviors occurring unpredictably and arbitrarily? If your children are doing chores or homework, do they seem to do them at regularly scheduled times each day or week or do they seem to do them at a different time each day?
Every person is born into this world exhibiting his or her own unique body rhythms. These patterns of regularity are one of the ten temperament traits we all possess to some degree or another and are a contributing factor in helping to make every person a unique individual.
A person’s temperament is inborn and defines how they respond to the world around them. While these traits are ones that will remain consistent throughout a person’s life, there are certain skills and techniques that you can use to help you and your children manage those traits that are more challenging.
What is Regularity?
Regularity refers to the predictability of your children’s biological and behavioral patterns. When children are younger, regularity can most easily be determined by observing their biological functions like appetite, sleep, and bowel movements. As children reach elementary age, in addition to their biological functions, you can assess their degree of regularity by looking at how predictable your children’s daily schedules and personal habits are.
How can you determine your children’s regularity?
When trying to determine your children’s degree of regularity, it helps to think about the extent to which they are regular versus irregular, on a scale from one to five, with regard to the following questions:
- Do your children get hungry or tired at the same times every day?
- Are their rooms and belongings organized?
- Do chores and homework occur about the same time every day?
- Do your children enjoy days that follow an established routine?
- Are habits easy to put in place?
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If the majority of your responses are “yes” and fall toward the left side of the scale, then chances are you have children who are fairly regular. This result means that your children tend to be predictable. This trait makes it easier for you to set up routines within your household and have children readily follow them.
These children like set schedules for eating, sleeping, chores and homework. It is also easy for these children to adapt to and stick with the habits and structure introduced through new projects or activities.
- The challenging times for children who are highly regular occur when there are unexpected changes to their routines, like during the holidays or vacations.
- These children may have a hard time adjusting and may need your patience and guidance to help them learn to be more flexible.
Conversely, if most of your answers are “no” and fall toward the right side of the scale, your children tend to be temperamentally irregular. The unpredictable nature of irregular children can make life for parents a lot more challenging. These children seem to have random body rhythms that do not always match up with predictable routines and schedules established in most households and schools.
- It can be hard for these children to adapt to set routines and they may need help from parents to stick with and establish habits.
- Irregular or unpredictable children can also have irregular mood patterns. Parents should learn not to take these personally.
- The positive side of children who are irregular is that they usually are not bothered by changes in routines or unexpected events and they can be quite flexible, spontaneous and creative.
- They do well in activities and careers that call for or allow for odd hours, such as medicine, the food service industry, or computer work.
Things Parents Can Do
- Understand that the behavior might be a result of your child’s in-born temperament. Your child is not out to get you.
- Learn to maintain a balance of structure and flexibility to help all children adapt.
- Develop routines using external cues or predictable signals to help irregular children learn to adapt to a more regular schedule. For example, if allowance is part of your family’s routine, it can be given every Saturday after breakfast; or if your children do chores, they can be done immediately following dinner.
- Highly regular children can be helped to become a bit more flexible by encouraging them slowly to delay eating and sleeping past their normal times.
- Create schedules that fit your children irregular schedule:
- They may need to be allowed to perform tasks over a set period of time rather needing to be done immediately and all at once.
- Rest time can be a quiet time without the expectation that your irregular child will necessarily sleep at the allotted nap time.
- Emphasize the social aspects of mealtime. Separate snack and meal time from eating time: ‘Everyone sits together at these times but no one is required to eat if they are not hungry.’
- Provide a “goody plate,” a plate of acceptable snacking foods (carrots, broccoli, celery, raisins, grapes, etc) for children who are hungry before a schedule meal and/or did not eat sufficiently during the mealtime.
- Teach children self-help skills; for example, how to get their own snacks when hungry, how to entertain themselves when not sleepy.
- Learn to work together. Understand how your temperament fits or does not fit with your children and create strategies to help each other.
- Send messages to your children that help them to feel good about who they are and their temperament.
“You like to do things in your own time frame.”
“You are very flexible and spontaneous.”
For more information about temperament, check out the following books. Purchasing from Amazon.com through our website supports the work we do to help parents do the best job they can to raise their children.
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