Routine care is a blanket term for helping babies, toddlers and young children with their eating, sleeping, bathing and diapering/pottying needs. It's most commonly used when talking about childcare situations. But how routine care is thought about represents an important issue for parents as well.
Let's face it…a huge part of our time with our kids revolves around routine care, especially for working parents and/or children who are in school or daycare. And yet, we often think about routine care as something we need to "get through." We "get the kids fed" or we "get them down for nap" – we push through these tasks, ideally as efficiently and simply as possible so there's something left over for that elusive "quality time." But what if we think about it differently – and challenge ourselves to turn routine care *into* quality time?
The most important way to accomplish this goal is first of all to slow down! Stop trying to rush through routine care tasks, and really try to experience them with your child. Use bathtime as a chance to talk about all the different parts of their body and exclaim over how fast they are growing and changing, sing songs, or read books. Allow your child to participate more in their diapering and pottying routine. Start bedtime routine earlier to leave time for reading together or snuggling and talking about the day. Create a family dinner where the kids can help prepare, serve and clean up with lots of time for family chat.
It seems like a lot to think about and a lot more time. But in truth, think about the power struggles and battles that occur as a result of trying to rush through routine care tasks. Taking a breath and slowing things down to your child's pace may not actually take any more time – it may simply be more pleasant, interactive time. Alfie Kohn, who writes groundbreaking words on teaching and parenting, has a concept he approaches as "doing to" vs. "working with." Anytime we can shift interactions from our child from the former to the latter, we are building lifelong relationship and not just reinforcing traditional authoritarian conflict. It's often not an intuitive concept, but rather than just establishing obedience, it creates self-control and confidence, where "authority" becomes a mute point. Sure it's not as black and white as all that…but start to think about the possibilities.
Because I think this concept is worth exploring in more detail for different types of routine care, I'll be creating additional articles on sleep, diapering, pottying, bathing and eating routines. By changing our approach to "routine care" and making something so much more than routine, we can change the hours of time we try to power through these activities, into the very quality time we seek to create each day.
For more on Alfie Kohn, check out "Unconditional Parenting" -- it's a really challenging book, but if you agree and give his concepts a try, it can be life-changing for your family.