(27)iStock-494782295_New family routines_when, why and how to make them

When do you need a new daily routine?

If you feel your family doesn’t spend enough time together having fun or family life isn’t running smoothly, a new routine might help.

A new routine can be useful for hectic and stressful times of the day. For example, you might need a new routine to help your family get ready for school and work.

A new routine might also help if something is regularly causing conflict in your family. This could be when you’re going shopping, or when the children fight over whose turn it is to feed the pet.

If you’re constantly asking or nagging other people to do things, or you’re getting frustrated and angry, this might also be a sign that you need a new daily routine. For example, a new routine can encourage children to complete chores, practise instruments or do homework.

Routines are particularly useful when you’re trying to help family members develop new habits, like good hygiene.

As your children grow and develop or you change jobs, you might want to revise your routines or create new ones to take these changes into account.

Thinking about a new routine

Here are things to think about if you’re working on new daily routines for your family.

Family involvement

It’s good to start by talking about new routines with your spouse before talking about them with your children. This way you can make sure you both agree and understand what your goals are.

By the time children are about five years old, you can get their help with new routines. It’s especially good for teenagers to have a say in their own daily routines – for example, routines for doing homework and spending time with friends.

Family goals

Routines need to meet the everyday needs of individual family members, but they also need to meet more long-term goals. For example, if having regular quality family time is an important long-term goal in your family, try to have routines that help you achieve this goal.

Changes in family life

It helps to have routines you can adapt as things change. For example, as children grow they can take on more responsibility for things like getting themselves dressed for school.

A new routine could also be part of an old one. For example, if your child needs to take a new medicine, you could add this to your child’s routine, just before brushing teeth.

Family strengths

Successful routines often build on family strengths, so you can think about what your family members are good at and work these strengths into the routine. For example, if one child is better at getting up early, that child could have the first turn in the bathroom.


Building fun or play into a routine can help it run smoothly. For example, you could make your morning routine into a game, and your child could earn rewards for getting ready on time.

Age and ability

Routines work well if they’re suited to your children’s ages and abilities. For example, your preschooler might help with the evening routine by carrying cutlery to the sink, while your older child helps by washing the dishes.


If you’re setting up a new routine, you might need to remind family members about it until everyone gets used to it.

You can also use prompts to remind your child of the routine. For example, the end of a television show can mark the start of a bedtime routine. Or an older child could use an alarm clock to get up in the morning. Simple lists can be good reminders if you put them where everyone can see them. Young children could make a picture book showing the family routine.

It takes time to overcome old habits and learn new ways of behaving, so you’ll need to give your new routine time to work.

If your children aren’t happy about changes to a routine, try making smaller changes over time rather than one big change. Celebrate effort, cooperation and success by giving your children praise or even rewards until the routine becomes part of what they regularly do.

How to design a new routine: Steps

These steps can help when you’re designing a new routine.

1. Work out a goal

The goal of a new morning routine might be that your child is ready for school by 6.45 am – dressed, shoes on, had breakfast, teeth and hair brushed, and school bag packed with everything they need for the day.

2. List the individual steps in the order they need to happen

The steps for a new morning routine might be:

  • 5.15 am – get up.

  • 5.30-6.00 am – have breakfast and put plates in sink.

  • 6.00-6.15 am – clean teeth, brush hair, put on insect repellent.

  • 6.15-6.30 am – put on school uniform, socks and shoes.

  • 6.30-6.45 am – leave home to catch a bus to school.

This step involves working out the timing of the routine. How much time does each step take? What time will you need to start so you can get everything done and allow time for the unexpected?

3. Work out what your child can do independently and what you’ll need to help with

For example, you might need or like to get your child’s breakfast, but perhaps you can teach your child how to get dressed.

4. Think about ways of setting up the routine for success

This is about making sure everyone knows what they’re expected to do in the routine. You might also need to remove distractions. For example, if your child gets distracted by their phone in the morning, the phone could stay in a family area until your child is ready for school.

5. Consider any new family rules

If you make some simple, clear rules about the kind of behaviour you expect, it will help your child know what to do. For example, you might have a rule about sitting at the table to eat breakfast.

6. Try to build in time for talking or fun

For example, if you allow 30 minutes for breakfast, you might have time to eat with your children and have a chat.

7. Talk through the steps of the routine

Before you put a new routine into action, talk everyone through the steps of the routine. Be prepared to do this more than once until it’s clear for the whole family.

© raisingchildren.net.au, translated and adapted with permission