3 Areas Your Child Needs Consistency

Routines and consistency between caregivers is beneficial for child developement


If you pick up any baby book, you will read about the importance of consistency and routines. Routines make our lives less stressful; we know what to expect and can anticipate the events of the day. Many parents start a routine from birth, but early on a routine may be more for the parents than for the baby. Babies tell us what they need and gradually develop their own natural patterns. Once a baby forms a natural eating and sleeping pattern, parents can incorporate that pattern into a routine that works for the whole family.


As children get older routines become important for their development. Routines help children develop security and learn self discipline; routines make children feel safe and comfortable. Routines may also prevent tantrums and meltdowns! If a child knows that each day naptime comes after lunch, he can anticipate his schedule and mentally prepare to wind down during lunch. All caregivers should follow a similar routine. This does not mean every caregiver needs to do exactly the same thing at the exact same time, but it does mean that all caregivers should make every effort to remain consistent, especially in three main areas: sleep, eating and discipline. 

Three Areas That Benefit From Consistency: 


A sleep schedule is one of the most important routines for a child. Babies 4-12 months old need approximately 15 hours of sleep a day; children 1-3 years old need 12-14 hours a day; and children 3-6 years old need 11-12 hours a day.

Early on parents should establish nap time and bedtime rituals. These rituals help your child understand when it is time to go to sleep. Since different people may be putting your child down for a nap than for bedtime, rituals should be simple and tolerable. Choose rituals that make sense for the future.

 Reading a long book might work with a 4 month old, but a 13 month old probably will not allow it. Bath time, short stories and calm songs are popular rituals. Not everything done at bedtime will be done at nap time, but keeping the lights dim right before naps, singing or playing music and putting your child down around the same hour everyday will send the message that it is time for sleep.


Eating can get tricky when multiple caregivers are involved. If your child goes to daycare or preschool, her schedule will be predicted by the school. It may be beneficial to adapt to the school's schedule in terms of when snack and lunch are served. Keeping a consistent routine on weekdays and weekends will be easiest for the child. With eating routines, the most important consideration is that the child is fed three meals (with or without snack) at similar times each day. With others caregivers, a child may get more snacks than with you. That is okay and it is important not to be too rigid with your routine.

Grandma may be sneaking in some extra cookies, but the overall goal is to remain consistent so the child can anticipate the structure of her day.

Tips for picky eaters.


Being disciplined (or not disciplined) by multiple caregivers can be very confusing to a child. Children who are allowed to do certain things with certain caregivers and not with others quickly learn the tricks and may manipulate to get what they want. Parents should be specific about their discipline methods and make sure every caregiver is aware and on the same page. Communication between caregivers and parents is they key to effective discipline. 

Does your child behave for other caregivers, but not for you?

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