I think it is pretty safe to say that getting a kid to put his shoes on is one of the universal struggles of parenthood.
I’m not talking about learning to put shoes on. No. It makes sense that learning how to wrangle your tiny foot into a tiny shoe for the first time might be challenging.
I’m not even talking about getting those shoes on the right feet. They don’t have to be on the right feet. I pick my battles.
I am talking about getting him through the simple act of putting two shoes on his feet. Just putting his shoes on so we can leave. To go anywhere. Even to places he likes.
There are a myriad of reasons why getting my four-year-old to put his shoes on might be an ordeal, including but not limited to:
- he doesn’t want to,
- he doesn’t like those shoes today (just today),
- he doesn’t want to wear socks,
- he does want to wear socks but not those socks,
- he doesn’t want to stop playing Legos,
- there is a fly somewhere in the room,
- his sister is looking at him in what he deems to be a “mean” way,
- he wants a kiss first,
- now he wants another kiss,
- he needs to sing a song,
- he needs a snack, and/or
- he needs to show me something he forgot he needed to show me until this exact moment.
So what I’m wondering is, if getting my child to put on a pair of shoes is an ordeal of such epic proportions, how on earth do I expect to convince him that 9:30 on-the-dot is time for chores, 9:45 exactly will be snack time, and 10:05 we will play blocks together?
But I did. For a long time I had our morning mapped out into half-hour to hour-increments, with expectations for each block. And every day I ended the day frustrated and feeling like I had failed because I couldn’t wrangle my busy, opinionated little humans into that box.
Then I came across a lovely article by Kara Fleck on Simple Kids about creating a daily rhythm with your kids. I felt like someone pulled the cord on that little lightbulb over my head!
Rhythm vs. Schedule
By definition, a schedule is a defined map of your time. It is also inflexible. And life with kids cannot be inflexible!
A daily rhythm is more about a rolling pattern that your day can follow. It moves with you, and flexes with the needs of your kids. It has an order, but it isn’t quite so firm about when each thing needs to happen. Which allows you to undergo the shoe-battle (or the vegetables-for-lunch battle or whatever else you need to take on) without feeling like you’re falling behind.
Establish Anchor Points
While it is nice to be flexible, building your entire day around the ebbs and flows of a child’s unpredictable mood can also be really discouraging. So to keep your rhythm within boundaries that you can control, start by setting what Kara Fleck calls “anchor points.”
An anchor point is a dependable point in each day that you choose to keep at a consistent time. At our house these are:
- Morning routine (getting ready for the day & eating breakfast, school drop-off for the oldest)
- Nap/Quiet time
- School Pickup (during the school year)
- Bedtime routine (prayer, story, song, and tuck-in)
They might be different at your house, and that is okay!
Maybe you eat breakfast at different times every morning, but you are for sure at the gym for a class by 10. Maybe your children have preschool only twice a week, but they eat lunch at the same time every day. Maybe you want to add snacktime in as an anchor point, too.
Find the anchor points that work for you, and build your rhythm around them.
Create Open-Ended Space
One of the hardest things about motherhood for me is my craving to get things done. I love checklists, to-do apps, and sticker charts.
But my kids don’t always want to stop their play to do the next item on my list. And sometimes they want to play when I had mentally scheduled myself to clean. So instead of scheduling playtimes, cleaning time, and outings by the clock, I’ve started looking at our days as having some loosely defined open-ended space.
Once the morning routine is over, I either plan for us to be “At Home” or “Out.” Those are pretty much the only parameters I have on our mornings until lunchtime comes at 11:30.
On our “At Home” mornings the kids play and I work on stuff around the house as their needs allow. I usually try to break my tasks into small pieces so I can handle interruption gracefully. Sometimes I ask them to wait until I’m done, and sometimes I stop to play with them for a few minutes or read a couple of books. I usually have an hour of PBS Kids on at some point when I really need to get to work, but I also let them get bored and work out their own entertainment.
On our “Out” mornings we could be doing anything from running errands and going to the grocery store to just visiting the library or the park. I don’t pack too much into one outing–today we hit the park and did one errand–and I always bring emergency snacks. (Nobody’s happy when they’re hungry–not even me.)
Afternoon is almost always an “At Home” block for us right now, but if you have kids in extracurriculars that will be different for you, too.
A Sample Day
It always helps me to see something in practice when I’m learning something new, so here’s a sample from our weekdays. This is what our Monday-Friday looks like for the most part during the school year:
7am: Morning Routine (get dressed, beds made, breakfast, and school drop-off for the oldest during the school year)
Open Block: At Home or Out
12:30: Nap/Quiet Time (independent play for the big kid(s), nap for the toddler)
Open Block: At Home (homework, dinner preparation, playtime)
6:30pm: Bedtime Routine (pjs, brushing teeth, story, song, prayer, and bed)
In summertime this changes a little. We have a later morning routine time, no school pick-up, and I add “Learning Time” to the end of our lunchtime anchor.
Rhythm = Reasonable Expectations
The point of a rhythm is to allow yourself some grace and some margin (for the four-year-old to put his shoes on) without giving up control of your day. Letting some things be flexible and some be firm. It creates a sense of security and relieves the pressure of being “on-time” all day long.
Your rhythm is not another nasty “should” to keep in the back of your mind. If you get thrown off, don’t beat yourself up! Your daily rhythm is a tool to help you find your way back when things get rough, not a dictator demanding that you stay on schedule.
And as we all know, change is one of the most constant parts of parenthood.
You’ll be going along with a nice little rhythm, and something will shift. You’ll add a new baby to the mix, your kids will have summer break and be home from school all day, or someone will start piano lessons and throw off dinnertime. Don’t panic! Just be willing to shift your rhythm and change your anchor points so you can really make your plan work for you, not the other way around.
What are your family’s anchor points? Do you have a fixed schedule or a flexible rhythm?
Some posts may contain affiliate links. That means if you purchase through my links, I will receive an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks!