Imagine this: an airline without any posted arrival and departure times.
This guy goes up to the desk and asks, “When does the plane board for Nashville?”
The answer: “We’re not sure, sir, but it could be any time.”
“Do you know when the plane will arrive from Orlando?”
“We’re not sure, sir, but it could be any time.”
He persists, “How will I know when to board?”
“We’ll make an announcement sir.”
Later he is reading a book, and an announcement is made. He misses it. Frantic, he asks someone, “What did they say?” For the fifteenth time it has nothing to do with him.
Approaching the desk again, he asks, “Why don’t you post schedules?”
“We don’t like to straitjacket ourselves, sir. Just look at it this way; we are never late.” The attendant smiles, showing that two teeth are missing. Our frequent flyer understands why.
It seems crazy, doesn’t it?
The wild thing is that we often run our homes like that. We don’t want to straitjacket ourselves, so we play it loose. Our kids are like the frequent flyer waiting on the announcement of leaving or eating or bathing. Sometimes they are out of sorts because we make them that way. They aren’t sure what to expect next.
Here’s what we recommend. Let’s take some baby steps toward a schedule at home. Ask yourself this question: When is the most chaotic time at home each day (usually)? Let’s take that hour and plan a schedule based on fifteen minute increments. Just one hour–one hour that can’t get any worse.
Step 1: Design a 2-column chart with times and activities. Add a column per child. Plan fifteen-minute intervals. Use something they like to do, something new, something active, something quiet, something together or something separately. You can certainly add more types of things that fit their ages.
Here’s a one-hour chart.
|Times||Activities for child #1||Activities for child #2|
|00||Something easy: Play-dough||Something necessary: Practicing piano|
|15||Something together: Family puzzle||Something together: Family puzzle|
|30||New: Coloring book||For school: Reading|
|45||What they like: Building with blocks||What they like: Making a dessert|
Tomorrow, sit with your kid(s) and explain the plan. Keep yourself free enough during that time to reinforce the schedule. Congratulations! You have taken the first step toward a little peace and order.
Step 2: Don’t get all stressed out if the schedule is not exact. You made it; you can change it. Bump it up fifteen minutes or knock it back a half hour. Either way, make the schedule your servant not your master. Maybe you need to master just 30 minutes of chaos in the morning and another 45 minutes at night. The boundaries of a schedule are like handle ropes on a swinging bridge—very much appreciated. So if things get shaky, bring out the schedule. (For more on schedules, click here.)
Step 3: As you use a schedule, and it grows to three hours or all day, remember to schedule some free time. Don’t straitjacket yourself. Everybody needs some free time to cool their heels and gather their emotional calm. So what you are trying to do is to find a balance between structure and non-structure. Like breathing, you need both inhaling and exhaling. It’s the same with schedules.
As Ecclesiastes 3 says, “There is an appointed time for everything.” Why don’t you appoint some times?