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Getting Your Kids on a Schedule

Your two kids, a newborn and a toddler, desperately need a schedule.  You, your spouse, and your two kids have widely diverse wake and sleep cycles that increase your daily stress, make your kids (and you) a little crabby, and leave you sleep-deprived.  How do you get your kids on a schedule?

The structure that kids need comes from created and reinforced routine.  So, you should establish routine morning wake times, meal times, nap times, and evening bed times.  Put a lot of thought into what the routine should be before you implement it.  What wake time(s) work best given your work schedule and your spouse’s work schedule?  What does the altered wake time do to subsequent activities (i.e., meals, baths, etc.)?  For example, if you wake the kids up at 8:30 a.m., what time will they need lunch?  Is that lunch time workable?  Projecting further out, given their morning wake time, what is their anticipated evening bedtime?  Is that workable?

For your toddler (not your newborn), you should explain the new schedule and why it is important. 

Expect your kids to have trouble adapting to their new routines.  Some changes may be significant enough to require gradual change: for example, if your toddler typically sleeps until 10:00 a.m., setting a wake time of 9:30 a.m. in week one, 9:00 a.m. in week two, and 8:30 a.m. in week three, rather than forcing your toddler to change from 10:00 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. in one day. 

Be patient.  Persevere.  Don’t stray from your schedule, especially initially when the pattern of behavior is first being formed.  Minor variations will be less disruptive once the routine is already established.

It may be helpful to write the schedule on poster board and post it in some prominent location such as the kitchen. 

You may even post a rewards chart so that your toddler (not your newborn) can see their successes and experience rewards (stickers, snacks, etc.).

As time passes, you may need to revise your routine.  For example, when your toddler begins kindergarten or you or your spouse changes jobs.  When the routine changes, the process of creating and reinforcing routine begins again.

By following these steps, you can get your kids on a schedule that helps everyone in your household experience more sleep, less stress, and more peace.

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