Parenting: Emotionally Intelligent Routines and Structures | 065

Routine and structure can mean different things to people – for some, structure can feel restrictive and so suffocating, while, for others, structure can feel like safety. 

In this episode, hosts Candice Dick and Liz Cunningham discuss being aware of what structure or routine means to us, how our approach to routine can affect our relationship with our children, and how we can reset and turn routine from our prison into our servant. 

Life is so scheduled, particularly with our kids
Tool: Being aware of what structure or routine means to you

As soon as you think of structure or routines, it can often feel rigid or binding.  For some people, structure feels very holding and routine feels safe. But for some of us, or at some stages, at different places, it can feel so suffocating. The first departure point should be awareness. Step into the quadrant of awareness –

How does my body feel when I think the thought that tomorrow is Monday or tomorrow is the first day of a new school term? 

  • Do I feel heavy or light? 
  • Do I feel contracted or expanded? 
  • Does it feel like, ‘Oh, I’ve just got to put my head down and grind through this’?


A change in rhythm

Liz:  I think what I’ve realized is that it’s not really the routine that’s the issue. It’s the fact that there’s a change in rhythm. 

So one gets into a rhythm of a weekend or a rhythm of a weekday or the rhythm of a new month. And whenever there is a pending change, it’s actually the rhythm that gets out of kilt and someone needs to establish a new rhythm because, then, the body feels okay again.

Tool: Reset

A reset is like that awareness of transitioning from one routine to another or from one rhythm to another rhythm depending on your particular preference. 

Do you like to just flow? In which case, rhythm would probably feel more comfortable. Do you like to have structure? In which case, routine would feel more comfortable. 

Tool: Resetting with mind dumps – Get the thoughts off your head onto paper

There needs to be a period of transition and reset where one can get a bit of a helicopter view. which is awareness of what is coming up. 

In that awareness and that transition when one is looking at what is ahead, it’s very useful to get all the thoughts out of the head – almost like a mind dump – and onto paper

Tool: List making vs Mind mapping

Liz: Now, because I’m not a very linear, sequential-type person, I personally don’t like making a list. I like to do a mind map. 

Even the act of creating a list and starting at one and going to two and three and four, there’s something within me that resists that. 

I’m not sure there’s a sequence, so I don’t try and put it into a sequence. I just get it onto a piece of paper in a kind of radio way, which allows me to hop between the different branches of the mind map. 

Perhaps people might like to Google mind maps and research that because there’s a wealth of information available on the internet about how to go about mind mapping. 

Candice: And there are a number of apps that help with mind-mapping as well.

Turn your routine from your prison into your servant

Review your own relationship to your routines. And you may want to explore this with your children in an age-appropriate way. 

Take time to notice what your relationship to routine: 

  • if that is held with a tension in your body, 
  • if there’s a perfection that you’re clinging to, 
  • if it’s a sense of control, or 
  • if it’s something that you can start to find with ease and flow with. 

You may not change the routine itself, but you can transform how you approach it. This way, you step into your routine with more elevated emotions – peaceful, open, curious, gratitude. 

You can’t control what happens in the classroom, but you can take charge of the activities that you do get involved in

Liz: We have no control over the external way in which the routine of a school year is going to come at us. 

And what I’ve found over the years is most important is for me to remain in that space of being open, and not trying to control everything because that just seems to put pressure on my child who’s trying to find her way into whatever routine the school threw at her. 

Dealing with over-scheduling

Candice: Kim John Payne talks about how overwhelm in our kids and ourselves, over the long term, causes post-traumatic syndrome as though you’ve been through a huge traumatic event.

So, extreme over-scheduling that causes us to live in overwhelm actually leads to all these symptoms of anxiety and stress and things we don’t want. And he recommends the rhythm of a full and stimulating day and, then, a peaceful calm day.

Sort out your internal space

The most important person in this mix is yourself. If your own internal space is not feeling calm, then that’s where the work needs to start. 

First, we need to be able to work within the parameters of what we can and can’t change and get a rhythm and routine that works for us as adults so that we can have oxygen to take care of our kids, instead of reacting through a filter of adrenaline and reactivity.

On many occasions, our reaction to whatever comes down from the school and our resistance to that can create more stress for our children in those moments because they don’t really want to be on the receiving end of upsetting us and having to deal with our negative energy in that moment.

If we sort out our internal space, we can change how we go forward. We can start to make it safe. 

Pay attention to your triggers around routines
  1. What triggers me? 
  2. What triggers the other members in the family?
  3. What also brings relief? 
  4. What can I do and bring to the table that can support somebody who needs something different than what I need?
Parenting with respect

Candice: It’s important to me to parent our children with that level of respect that they’re human beings too. Even at the age of two or four or 10 or 16, we are equals as humans.

We are in the leadership role as parents, as people with more experience walking the earth, but we are all worthy of equal respect. And it’s always disheartening for me to watch both kids and parents suffer when there’s that disrespectful dynamic going on. 

And if we can have that, we can certainly be open to how kids might approach the problem differently, to what they might need, or how they may serve their own needs in a way that is respectful of themselves and those around them.

Tool: Have a conversation with your kids around how to better set up your weekly routines and structures

Have a full conversation with your family or your kids around how to better set up your weekly routines and structures so that you support each other, and that you’ve got the best outcome for everyone.


Resources mentioned in this episode

Listen to Understanding Change | Episode 49 and Download the Change Model

Listen to Transactional Analysis | Episode 53

Listen to Problem-solving with your children | Episode 63

Check out Kim John Payne’s The Overwhelm of Boys and What We Can Do About It



“For some people, structure feels very holding and routine feels safe. But for some of us, or at some stages, at different places, it can feel so suffocating.” Candice Dick

“We’ve got to be prepared for the fact that, even though we have found a bit of a flow or routine for ourselves, there’re going to be curveballs.” – Liz Cunningham

“It’s important to me to parent our children with that level of respect that they’re human beings too.” – Candice Dick

“If we’re clear on the intention or the goal of what we are doing, then it’s not about the credits or who’s in charge, as opposed to clarity around where we’re trying to get to.” – Candice Dick