Routines and rituals have a real impact on your child’s brain.
When your child experiences consistent and predictable repetition, the pattern solidifies circuits in her brain that associate your action with a particular outcome. As she comes to realize that these outcomes are consistent and reliable (for example, you leave for work, say goodbye, take the Heart, and then return), her brain becomes wired to anticipate this outcome. Now, suppose you have to leave, but this time you’re going out to dinner with friends. If you repeat the routine and ritual, even though it’s a different time of day, your child will expect the same outcome. This will make her feel more secure, knowing that you will come home. Thanks to this sense of security, she may not make as much of a fuss.
In addition to the amazing brain-building benefits of routines and rituals, the consistency and predictability will give you and your child a sense of calm and stability that far outlasts the years of early childhood. Routines and rituals become inner narratives that help your child learn how to “talk” to herself. The language that you use with your child during routines and rituals becomes the model for your child’s ability to self-soothe. Your child will also develop the capacity to adapt and manage big and small transitions—a key skill that stays with her well into adulthood. Lastly, an added bonus of routines and rituals is that they reduce power struggles (the origin of tantrums!) between you and your child.