Rules and Routines for helping your kids succeed in life, but that doesn’t mean these are free and easy life hacks. They can actually be quite difficult because some of them go against the way you were parented. Some of them seem too soft and others may make no sense to you at all, but hear me out.

Setting Your Kids Up for Success

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Growing up I had little desire to be more than a Stay at Home Mom. Sure I had other dreams but the Mom thing over shadowed everything. It got to the point of not really knowing what to do in college because I didn’t anticipate having a job. That’s why it was easy for me to quit college time and time again. Fast forward through all my struggles and I eventually found the right job on a whim which lead me back to school for the right degree… Special Education.

I toughed out those final years of college while pregnant, having a baby over Christmas break, jumping right back into school in January, and another pregnancy. I had loads of reasons to quit, but I knew where I belonged finally and I couldn’t wait to jump in the waters of Special Education.

As some of you already know, another pregnancy foiled my future as an educator temporarily (teacher salary is much less than daycare for 3 kiddos) and I was panic stricken over becoming a SAHM… the life I dreamed about for most of my life was becoming a reality and I was scared. I didn’t know if I wanted it anymore. I didn’t know if I could accept this new role. Though I couldn’t wait to actually be with my kids more, I really didn’t know what to expect.

Lucky for me Special Education is pretty universal. In a nutshell Special Education is just figuring out what works for the individual child. Therefore most things you use at schools for kids with challenges, you can also use at home with your own, because we all have our own set of challenges.

Now I’ve come up with some guidelines for helping your kids succeed in life, but that doesn’t mean these are free and easy life hacks. They can actually be quite difficult because some of them go against the way you were parented. Some of them seem too soft and others may make no sense to you at all, but hear me out.

Setting the Rules

The first thing you and your family will want to do is discuss making rules. If you want your kids to try and abide by these rules it will help them to be apart of setting the rules. Allowing children to come up with rules can sometimes be rewarding for parents because you might be surprised at what they say. That being said, you ultimately still have the say over what becomes a rule, but be sure to bring them up in such a way, that your kiddos can “finish your thought process” and come up with the rules. Why is that important? Because it will be in a language the children know, it came from their head, their heart, and they’ll have ownership.

We started rules very young, and our kiddos didn’t help make them, but now that they’re older, we’ve discussed the previous rules and talked about making new ones. The question of the hour, “Can you think of a rule that will help another family member out?” Thinking of others helped our kids provide good house rules. But getting back to BEFORE the kids helped… We implemented rules to help our sanity. Below I will discuss each rule, and why it helped us.


We have a toy room/area where all the toys belong. There are not toys in the kids’ rooms (so they don’t play at night when they’re supposed to be in bed), and there are no toys out in the living areas (so we don’t trip over them, break them, or what-have-you. We’re very firm with this rule, because with 5 kids the toys have increased greatly.

The toy room is cleaned up every night, and sometimes during the day, but ALWAYS every night before bed. There are two reasons for this rule. The first reason is because kids don’t like to play among the mess. They’ll try to bring the toys out of the toy room because there’s literally no more room to play. When that happens we clean what’s not being played with, and move on.

The second reason for cleaning up every night is because we are teaching our kids responsibility. All your actions good/bad have consequences. If you get things out to play with then you’ll have to put them away. If you have favorite toys out in the mess, they could get broken or slobbered on by the baby. Take care of your things, your siblings’ things, and take care of the house.

Screen Time

Best practice would be absolutely NO screen time, in my opinion, but for most families, including ours, that isn’t a possibility, yet. So make subtle changes until you get to a better place. This would be a great time to allow your kids to say how often they should be able to use the Computer, the iPad, play video games, or watch TV. Often they don’t feel like they’re on it very long, so they’ll choose a lower amount of time than they’re participating in now. Then, when the screen time is over, you can freely say, “It was your rule.”

Screen time is a VERY sensitive issue for most kids, which is also why it is necessary. We had tablets for awhile, and even by limiting them to a total of 30 minutes everyday, my kids had BIG tantrums when screen time was over. It’s a shame because there are some great teaching tools on there, but behaviors are top priority… even over education. Think about it, if you cannot get along without poor behaviors, you limit your ability to learn in school, play well with others (and thus sports by default), and working in groups or working any kind of job will all be very difficult.

Shoes and Jackets

Every time we walk in the door from being out and about, or just playing in the backyard, my kids come in and know they have to put their shoes and outerwear away promptly (They know it, but they still try to avoid it).

No matter how many children you have, there’s no reason to be tripping over anyone’s shoes when you walk in the door. If you have a mud room, make sure there’s a designated location for these items that DO NOT involve tossing shoes somewhere, or over piling jackets so they’re falling all over the place. Get yourself just a little more organized than that.

Rules Recap

  1. Toys stay in the toy area.
  2. Clean up ALL toys before bedtime.
  3. Limit or eliminate screen time.
  4. Put Shoes and outerwear away promptly

These are the rules you want enforced, and then you add some more to fit your family. Just remember to start out small. Having a list of 15 rules will feel like a lot to a child at any age. You can always add more later, once your new set of rules is established and almost second nature.

The one thing I found hard with having too many rules, was remembering to implement them as a parent. I would try to enforce too many do’s and don’ts’ around the house that I was forgetting what I wanted within each moment. That’s called mom brain overload. I had too many irons on the fire even before the new rules. So take it slow! Any kind of progress is still progress and the slower your journey takes, the more likely it will be your family continues to live by these rules.

Setting the Routines

I might be a routine snob, but I honestly don’t know how anyone could live without implementing routines. Routines help me get through the day with five kids and all the “stuff” that comes with having children. We have a few routines built into the day, which help us as parents give less commands. The less I have to nag, the better.

The best way to pull off a routine, is to practice, practice, practice. The best way to pull off a routine with multiple kids is practice, make lists, and practice. Make a list for each child stating the items that need to be accomplished before a certain time. Everything should be on there, do not leave anything off because it’s common sense. If your child can read well make your typical word list. If your child is close to reading, make a word list with a picture (photo or drawing) of what the word means. Lastly, if you have a toddler (yes they can do chores too) just make a list of pictures. Laminate them, make them fancy, just give the kids away to see what they’ve finished and what still needs to be done.

Morning Routine

  1. Eat Breakfast
  2. Take Dirty Dishes to Sink
  3. Wash Hands and Face
  4. Brush Teeth
  5. Get Dressed for the Day
  6. Put Dirty Pajamas in Laundry
  7. Make Bed
  8. Go to the Bathroom
  9. Shoes on (if leaving immediately)

This one is good for school and church days, but it’s also great for the “we have nothing to do” days. If you make this an everyday habit, mornings will inevitably go smoother, and you’ll be ready for any last minute trips or invites.

For Now, I’m still helping the 3 and under crowd with some of their chores, but you might be surprised at what they are capable of doing on their own. This morning routine is designed to create independence in each child, ownership of their space, and eventually added time and less stress for Mom and Dad.

Meal Time Routine

  1. Set Table
  2. Eat
  3. Take Dishes to the Sink
  4. Scrape Plates
  5. Save Leftovers
  6. Load Dishwasher
  7. Wipe Down Table/Counters
  8. Sweep Floor (Kitchen and Dining)
  9. Push in Chairs

Meal time routine goes quickly because everyone pitches in doing at least one job on their own. Having Dinner together is important to a good family dynamic, but so is cleaning up together. This is a good way to show unity and how to work with others. Bonus points if you can smile or make something fun of it all. The key here will be to delegate certain chores to certain family members. If you need to create a rotating chart for fairness, then do so. Ultimately, though, you’ll want to push for everyone pitching in on their own doing any job you ask, or to do so without asking… independence, humility, taking care of one another… there are many lessons to be learned here.

The more time you spend together working with the same goal in mind, even petty chores, the better your communication becomes.

Bedtime Routine

Most people know about bedtime routines and how they help get the kids into the habit of going to bed without a fuss. It’s the truth. We’ve altered our bedtime routine to make it absolutely perfect for our kids. What happens before entering the kids’ bedrooms is pretty standard, but the actual tucking in is special for each child.

  1. Put on Pajamas
  2. Read Books as a Family (on the sofa)
  3. Brush Teeth
  4. Brush/Braid Hair
  5. Climb into Bed

    Here comes the pretty involved part….
  6. Grab one stuffed animal
  7. Choose the Color and Sound (see Hatch Baby below)
  8. Say Prayers
  9. Goodnight

My husband and I hate stuffed animals, but the school we’ve chosen for the kids has really pushed them at nap time. We didn’t have one stuffed animal in the house before our oldest started Pre-K, and now I’m too embarrassed to say how many we have. These “stuffies” do NOT go to school to get germs and lice and such. They are only allowed one and if Mom or Dad have to come in the room to say “Go to Bed” or “Be Quiet” (they share rooms) then the “stuffie” is the first to go! Bedtime is not for playing and so this rule is extremely important to our kids… they NEED their stuffies. {insert eye roll from Mom}

Setting Your Kids Up for Success

Hatch Baby

We used sound machines for the babies and now they’ve turned into a reward system for going to bed without tears (child #2 brings upon a lot of these routines, by the way. He’s constantly negotiating with us.) When the kids get ready for bed without a fuss, they get to choose which color the Hatch Baby light will be for the night (options are just about limitless) and which of the eight sounds (+1 “NO” sound… our daughter’s favorite) they want to hear. The dimness and brightness of the light are adjustable, and the sound can be extremely loud, hardly audible, and everything in between.

This little system is amazing and has helped us sleep train our babies, keep the kids in their room until an appropriate time (read as NOT 4am), and it has allowed us to have friends over after kids go to bed. How has it helped with that last one? Well, our house is small, the “hanging out” space is right outside the kids’ bedroom door. We put the sound machine on higher volume to drown out our conversations. Once the kids are asleep we turn the sound machine down a little lower. Once our friends leave we turn it down once more to suit a better sleeping environment.

You can find more on the hatch baby in this article: What to Put on My Baby Registry Or you can find it Amazon here:

Other Little Routines

  1. Getting into the vehicle safely with little kids
  2. Walking around the grocery store.
  3. Picking up and dropping off at school
  4. How to leave a park safely
  5. How to walk around the zoo, aquarium, museums, etc.
  6. Eating out at a restaurant.

Ask Away….

Do You Have More Questions About these Rules and Routines? Ask away! I Love talking on this subject!

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