What is the difference between routine versus schedule? And why does it matter?
Routine is defined as a sequence of things performed one after another in a regular sort of way.
Schedule is a plan of action in which things will take place at a specific time and date.
While schedule can be imposed on a set of routine and routine can be reinforced by a schedule, they don’t necessary have to follow one after another.
So? You may ask. I’m getting to it.
Routine versus schedule: the difference that matters
Many parents confuse routine with schedule, thinking one necessitates another and therefore shunning both in the process. But the truth is children, even babies crave routine and without one in place, it can prove devastating to the entire family.
Routine provides structure and predictability
For example, in our house, our kids are required to get their beds made, clothes changed, and personal grooming done before they are allowed to come downstairs. This routine has been firmly in place since their infant hood: they got their diapers changed, dressed to go out (whether we do or not), and then fed.
As soon as they are old enough, our kids are also required to perform basic chores such as vacuuming, feeding our various pets, and watering the yard while we get breakfast on the table. These routine activities are not only perfect training for their naturally energetic but unfocused minds but they also serve as a guard against looseness and complacency — whether they be physical, psychological, or social… but more on that later.
Routine saves your sanity
Yet another benefit is that they save the parents time and a bit of sanity. It keeps the flow of the household moving in a more or less, choreographed and organized manner.
Routine keeps the parents in check
Lastly but definitely not least, routine keeps the parents in check because it cannot achieve its intended purpose of providing structure and order if the parents aren’t fully on board. We definitely may not sleep in till mid-morning when our children are busting their chops cleaning and feeding, weekend or not. Therefore, we pretty much held to these routine activities for the past 10 years, with exceptions made when we were on vacation.
Where a bit of scheduling does us good
While scheduling every aspect of one’s life with start time, end time, frequency, and priority level suits certain life-styles and personalities, I find that children work best with the comforting and rhythmic pattern that a routine offers, with some time line mixed in.
For example, I’m very much a eat-by-the-clock kind of person. I like lunch at high noon and dinner at six. It’s also highly important to respect children’s rest time. For the first two years of each of our daughter’s life, my husband and I would not go anywhere after noon or before 2 p.m. because that was the baby’s nap time. Bed time has been set around 9, for as much as possible. Everything else can be done in a one- to two-hour window. Time line can be tightened and loosened according to different needs and circumstances and that’s the beauty of routine.
The big idea: routine makes children feel safe and happy
With routine, children can rely on its stability and predictability in a seemingly chaotic and at times, overwhelming new world they are growing up in. Every day, new information bombard an infant in the form of new faces, sounds, colors, smells, moods, and so on. Though born inquisitive, these new things can get quickly overwhelming and a baby can be overstimulated and cranky in a matter of seconds. One form of protection these young ones get comes from the routine that we carefully craft and faithfully perform for them, day after day. Our children can come to expect when playtime is done, warm milk is brought and downed, and a cozy bed made ready for a satisfied soul to rest in.
Routine promotes respect, trust, and a sense of well-being and these in turn lays the foundational work for a life-long cultivation of other virtues in these little beings.