Embracing Rhythm – Teaching Successful Habits

One of the biggest regrets I have in raising my older children is that I did not spend enough time teaching the traits of the highly successful.  In my defense, I did not study and recognize the usefulness of these traits.  At least not until my older children were high school.  The good news is that these are qualities that most people would benefit from adopting.  Thus, it is likely young parents as well as their children can make learning the characteristics of the successful a family event.

The More The Merrier

These traits are relatively easy to turn into habits.  However, they are best developed in an environment that promotes them.  It is hard to diet in a family that eats pizza for multiple meals each week.  Likewise, it is difficult to learn time management skills in a chaotic environment.  Some of these skills are built into our nature and will be easier to teach young children than older kids that have learned bad habits in the “real world.”

Start Simple

 It is interesting to me that we build structure and embrace natural rhythms with children but throw them away as adults.  For children, there is a time to play, a time to rest, a time to bath, etc.  Make these cycles a part of the whole family.  Work with the children to get them into times of work, play, and rest.  This will pay off quickly in allowing the adults to have a semblance of a “normal” life.
In a previous life, I worked from home and was a single parent with a three-year-old (among other children).  He attended a mothers day out program twice a week but was home the other days.  I had to fit in a work day while raising him.  To be productive while still raising the youngster, we worked out a schedule that suited both of us.  Ben had a natural rhythm of about two hours of play followed by an hour of rest and eating and then repeat.  The pattern typically started around 6 AM and ended for the day around 9 PM.

Matching Rhythm

I am more productive at night and in the late morning.  Thus, I worked those times into my schedule while matching Ben’s cycles.  It turned out to be an easy thing to do.  It started with some challenges but allowed me to get my work done each week with time to spare.  I adjusted how I did work, so the challenging work was done in my peak times.  The other parts of the day were where I scheduled calls and routine tasks.

A Day In The Life

We started each morning with breakfast for Ben while I got the other kids out the door to school. By 7 AM Ben was ready to play, and I headed to the office to work.  He would usually play in the play room with cars or Legos.  It was an activity where I did not have to keep a close eye on him.  Around nine he would come down and want a snack.  We typically spent the next hour talking about his toys and activities.  We talked while I fed him and cleaned the dishes or folded laundry.
After the snack time, he would go back to play.  I would go back to working.  At noon he would come to my office and we would head to the kitchen.  We would eat lunch and hang out until around one.  He typically would then move to watching TV shows or a movie.  It allowed me to listen while continuing to work. The afternoon was a nap time for him so he would fall asleep watching the show.  On other days, he would just hang out on my couch for a nap time.
By three, the siblings would start to show up and help get Ben a snack.  They would entertain him through to dinner time. I usually had dinner started by 5:30-6:00 and had the evening open.  We could do baths and stories and get everyone in bed by 9.  This left me a couple of hours for additional work or relaxation before going to sleep.

A Successful Schedule

 My day had me working 7-9,10-12, and then 1-5 so I could easily fit in a full day of work including scheduling calls as needed.  If Ben had a bad day, was tired, or was sick, I had a love seat in the office that was perfect for him to rest and sleep on while being right by my side.  I could run errands on the days he was at mother’s day out and tended to stick to the schedule six days a week.
Life happens and schedules have to be flexible.  Thus, I needed Saturday to catch up on weeks when my schedule didn’t work out.  Sunday was a day of rest and Friday nights often were a time for me to “chill” since the older children could help out and allow me to go to a movie or eat out somewhere nice.
The key to all of this was finding a schedule that suited Ben and feeding it so it, became a habit.  The other children had differing schedules, but they quickly adjusted as it was a matter of nudging the natural cycles of each child until I could piece them together.  It is just like solving a jigsaw puzzle.

A Step At A Time

Setting a schedule is easier than maintaining one.  Thus, make sure there is buffer built into the schedule to handle surprises.  Rest and exercise are both critical to health (more on those later) so make sure you include time for those.  Most importantly, the goal is long term and setbacks will happen.  The key is to keep trying to move forward.  Take a step a day and if your schedule goes haywire just go back to it the next day.  Don’t try to make up “lost” time by cramming the schedule of several days into one.

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