My Routine and a Needed Shift

“As long as habit and routine dictate the pattern of living, new dimensions of the soul will not emerge.”

– Henry Van Dyke

Lego family, dad making dinnerMy family is what matters to me. It is one of my core values. I spend the majority of my energy and time in the pursuit of this value. However, I’ve noticed a trend in how that time and energy is being spent.

It is being spent in service of my family, but it is not being spent with my family. This is something I hope to change, a shift I plan to make.

Allow me to explain. Most days start with getting my boys ready for school. This entails, feeding them a healthy breakfast, getting their teeth brushed, then showered and dressed for the day. Somewhere in the midst of the chaos of this routine, I’ll steal 10-15 minutes with each of them and have them read to me.

Phase 2

Once I’m done ushering them through this first phase of our morning, we enter into stage two: getting packed up and leaving. Now this sounds simple enough and some mornings it is. However, we live in a cold weather climate, which means that in addition to lunches, homework, and their water bottles, we also need to pack up snow pants, mittens, hats, and an extra pair of shoes (they wear their boots to school and then change them out once they arrive).

My wife usually makes my life a lot easier during phase two by packing their lunches the night before and filling their backpacks with all the necessary winter gear. However, I still somehow find myself searching the house for a missing mitten or lost shoe at least once or twice each week.

Once their bags are packed and I convince them to use the restroom one more time before we leave the house, I herd them downstairs and wrestle them into their coats and boots. It’s at this stage of the morning that I take a deep breath and we take 5 minutes before leaving for “prayer and appreciation” where we each start the day with something we are appreciative of and finish with a prayer.

Entitlement, not in my House

This exercise began several months ago when I noticed a tone of entitlement forming in my kid’s perspective. I wanted them to be aware of just how lucky they really are and the world owes them nothing. To help them understand that they should feel grateful for what luxuries they do have. So morning appreciation it is.

I usually use this opportunity to point out to them that there are many people in this world that don’t have the good fortune to enjoy the type of life we are able to enjoy.

Mission accomplished, the entitlement I had noticed in them no longer seems to be there. It is this moment that is the highlight for me (assuming it isn’t too overrun with silly giggling). This moment is my favorite because I am engaging with my kids and not just serving them (or from their perspective, telling them what to do).

Want to prevent entitlement in your kids? Teach them Appreciation! Click To Tweet

Back to Business

Then I’m right back into service mode and I wrangle them into the car, I do one more check to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything, and we’re off to school. The next fifteen minutes are great (most mornings at least).

I get to talk with my kids, listen to music with them, or just hear them talk and laugh with one another. I’m engaging with them again rather then just coercing them to do the next thing on the morning checklist.

Then I drop them off at school and head off to work.

Afternoon Routine

On the three days that I pick them up our afternoon routine isn’t much different. I pick them up from school, again enjoying the fifteen minutes I get to hear about their day. But the second we pull into our driveway I’m right back into execution mode.

Homework needs to be done. Play clothes need to replace school clothes, and dinner needs to be made. Then I usually get some relief, as my wife will take over for a while. Then the bedtime routine begins. I usually help out with the snack before bed and the teeth brushing portion and my wife will read them a book and tuck them in.

Some days this all runs smoothly, other days it is filled with meltdowns, willful disobedience, and emotional instability. But either way, I’m usually spent by the end of the day and herein lays the problem. Reflecting on my routine, it is filled with activities that drain me and void of activities that fill me.

The time and energy I spend with my family (mainly my boys) is spent on ushering them through the necessary items of the day. Which causes me to want to take a break (i.e. avoid them), when I don’t need to get them to do something.

The Shift

The shift I’d like to make is to spend more of my time and energy engaging with them. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to spend less time and energy on the other necessary parts of our routine. But I can spend less time “decompressing” on my phone or escaping when my wife gets home.

The goal is simple; spend 15-20 minutes each night playing a game with them. They love games, and assuming everyone gets along, I love playing games with them. So it’s a win-win.

There's a difference between 'Time spent with your kids' and 'Time spent dealing with your kids' Click To Tweet

UPDATE: If you enjoyed this post an want to read the exciting conclusion follow up post, click here.


  1. You are doing a great job with your children. My wife is a teacher. She says that her best behaved and most focused students have parents who are as dedicated to raising them as you are with yours. Your dedication to them will benefit them for their whole life. Great stuff.

    1. Thanks Dave, that is really encouraging to hear. I’m not sure you’re wife would feel the same way if she had my kids in her class 🙂 But all kidding aside, I’ve noticed a huge improvement in their behavior when I started creating more structure for them. Tell you wife, Thank you for the work she does. I can barely handle my two kids, I’m not sure how teachers handle a whole classroom!

  2. Really enjoyed reading this. As a parent of 2 young kids (3 year old daughter / 9 month old son) I can relate to the challenge of not just taking care of the necessary business of the day to day but also being engaged and present with them. The love for your kids and family clearly comes through. The effort, time and attention you take thinking about it is important and will lead to great things.

    1. Thanks! The logistics of managing kids can be such a drain, it is hard to remember to enjoy your kids as well. I remember when my kids were the ages of your kids, the challenges were different back then but finding the balance between logistics and being present will likely always be a struggle. I appreciate the comment!

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