Q: I feel that we live in a very impulse-driven world, where my children only want one stimulation after another. “Bored” is the most negative word in their dictionary, and a set and consistent routine seems to be beyond boring.
Picking up socks and hanging up coats are optional activities (why can’t the cleaning lady — i.e., I, their mother — do it?). Brushing teeth is also optional (after all, the dentist needs to earn a living, too). Unfortunately, homework falls into that category as well. (“I can do it on the bus tomorrow, on the way to school” are my children’s famous last words at night.) Learning alef-beis is exciting for little ones, but for older children, chazarah of today’s lesson sometimes seems superfluous.
Unfortunately, this attitude affects their Yiddishkeit as well. My coaching them to wash negel vasser when they get out of bed can sound like a broken record, and several children resent being reminded to make a brachah acharonah. It’s like no one wants to be bothered, and they want to be entertained all day. What happened to hard work and involvement in more humdrum activities? The thought of how many meals I will probably need to prepare for my family for the rest of my life is a very boring and overwhelming thought. Yet, that’s not what I focus on.
What are helpful ways to help instill daily routine in my family’s life?
A: Much of life is an accumulation of details, and details, by nature, are exacting and tedious. For some people, remembering what to take to work or school is an acquired skill. For others, being organized and focused seems to come as second nature.
We live in a society that praises spontaneity even as it borders on impulsivity. A well-known veteran methodology teacher has said that most students want to be mainly entertained — to hear jokes and stories interspersed with the actual lessons. However, our children need to be reminded that all masterpieces in all areas of life are created with a lot of “boring details.” The ability to learn to deal with non-immediate gratification is a lesson that needs to be learned by anyone who hopes to achieve great things in life.
Performing daily, repetitive activities with simchah will help your children cope with life in the future. A parent needs to create pleasant associations with daily routine. Make up a song about young children washing negel vasser, mentioning their names to personalize its message. Use a timer to see how quickly children can brush their teeth, or reward them for having their clothes ready the night before school. Leaving notes on knapsacks — “Please put me away. I’m getting cold!” — can help get a message across as well.
Using humor is a way to avoid power struggles with children, especially between a parent and an oppositional child. For children who resent daily routine, uplifting the military-like motions of such routine makes it less of a chore. Put a positive spin on these activities.
For your older children, having a “problem-solving-directed conversation” with you is a most helpful endeavor. Discussing their required activities for daily success, and creative ways to perform these repetitive activities, can be a productive joint effort.
If homework is a problem, suggest ways to make it more interesting. Taping the child studying and letting him/her listen to it, could be a suggestion. Having a definite goal after completing homework could be another idea. Time management does not have to be a rigid concept but a synthesis of what needs to be achieved, in a new thought-out system.