Adventures in Unschooling

Musing: Are scheduled kids inflexible?

Posted on: January 3, 2010

Some childhood experts encourage parents to put their kids on schedules in order to eliminate power struggles over meal times, bedtimes etc. The child gets used to the fact that bed time is always at 7:30 pm or whatever and their bodies tell them that they are tired by that time. It’s a pretty cool idea. But I still don’t believe in scheduling.

I think it causes inflexible, drone-like children. For example. Snack time comes around at 10 am sharp. The children sit at their tables and eat their prescribed cookies or trail mix or apple. They may or may not be hungry but that does not matter. The cues are that it is now time to eat and so they eat.

Eating when you aren’t hungry causes you to ignore your body’s “full” signals. This is common in over-eaters (like myself). There are days when my boys will ask for a snack a mere hour after breakfast. Sometimes it’s closer to 10:30 and sometimes they play right up until lunch without asking for a snack at all.

When they are hungry they get a hand full of nuts, or an apple or orange, or veggies with dip. Basically whatever they ask for. I let them pick their own snack most of the time because everthing in the cupboards or fridge is healthy.

I was talking to a friend yesterday and she was saying that her son is so adaptable to late nights, early mornings, and whatever else the day might bring. And he does it all so joyfully. She is certain that he is this way because he is not scheduled. Now, some kids may need to be scheduled. Every child has their own personality and desperately crave order to feel secure (like autistic kids). It’s important to consider your child’s needs first.

I used to put my kids to bed at a set time. I believed that I deserved to have me-time in the evenings. Well, my me-time quickly became poisoned by my frustrations over tantrums etc. Some days they were tired and would go to bed willingly. Others they were wired and would get very upset  that I forced them to go to bed. This created anger amongst all of us and was really quite counter-productive as they wouldn’t go to sleep until they were ready anyways.

We don’t have a set bedtime anymore. That isn’t to say that we don’t corral our kids when it gets too late and send them off to bed but by that time they are happy to go to bed. And we do it all without fuss or tears.

And Trey will often tell us he wants to go to bed and then we go and get him ready for bed. And then he sleeps in a bit in the morning and that is such a treat!

I am also against bedtime routines. You can do it if you want to but I hate being scheduled and restricted like that. When you have a late night, the kids still want to have their bath and stories when they get home. You either have to run through the entire routine or let your kids scream their heads off. Making going to bed the “bedtime routine” has saved us lots of fights.

So in short, yes, I think that routines do raise inflexible children. As with everything it is all having trust that your kids will figure things out without your meddling.


1 Response to "Musing: Are scheduled kids inflexible?"

And to be clear, after my friend pointed this out, I am not against rhythms. Rhythms allow for changes (seasonaly or whatever) and are not inflexible.

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