Encouraging Routine

Advent is here! Did you grow up with a chocolate filled advent calendar, too? Talk about routine! The chocolate lovers of our family sometimes hardly open the eyes before they reach for the calendar to receive THIS day’s sweet treat.

Goes to show, routine is a powerful motivator. Especially if it comes with a reward! The commonly accepted time frame to develop a new habit is 21 days. So, we’re right on with 24 little chocolate filled windows.

But, more seriously, if we want to develop good habits in our children, or even maybe ourselves, let’s create a pattern we can repeat, and maybe add a little reward at the end.  Any kind of list will do, as long it has fields than can be checked off.

Here is a fun one for little ones: create a caterpillar head, and then let them add on a new body piece each time a task has been completed. It could be a caterpillar drawn on a piece of paper you hang up in a conspicuous place, or a caterpillar craft from pompoms. Markers or hot glue gun, as the critter grows, so does your child’s satisfaction with him- or herself, while teeth get brushed, socks put away, or the dog walked – regularly!

Chore charts, or exercise charts, or “keep clean” charts work great for older children or teens, more items on a daily list, check marks are o.k., and rewards can be negotiable. Whether you want to imitate the “real world” and are comfortable with cash for work performed, and prefer other incentives; the trick here is while you want to keep certain things routinely maintained, switching out chores and assignments will lessen the boredom. Wherever possible, involve your children in deciding what to do when, but then don’t feel bad holding them to their choices.

Organizing tasks in a certain sequence also helps create routine, and will work for just about any age. Half the time we already do this without thinking: the alarm rings, we get up, shower, eat breakfast and brush our teeth. Or something similar… Creating two, and three subsequent task patterns will make them second nature to you – yes, even the ten minute exercise you had to force yourself to do the first 21 days! – and in the end we will barely notice any more. It has become easy!

Sandwiching tasks you dislike between tasks that give you satisfaction my be a good incentive as well: easy in, tough middle, easy out.

With all of that, just a short reminder: When was your last dental check-up? No need to come see us every 21 days, but make sure you have your teeth checked regularly to avoid unpleasant surprises later on.


Dr. Mead is an educator in the dental field, as well as an experienced family dentist with his practice located in Purcell, Oklahoma.
To schedule an appointment or to ask questions, please call:



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