Want to raise smart, confident kids? Why parents should teach ‘repetition and ritual’

The first few years of parenthood is a huge adjustment, especially if you’re a working parent. All of a sudden, your baby is walking … and talking. Then they turn three, and demanding to know why you have to leave them to go to work.

While transition moments (e.g., the daily goodbye, helping them cope with a caregiver or spending afternoons at daycare) are critical, so is the rest of the limited time you spend together.

Whatever your work schedule, those mornings, evenings and weekends can feel very short, and you’ll want to make them enjoyable and high-impact in building your kid’s confidence and self-esteem.

The key technique to getting there is through teaching repetition and ritual.

Harnessing the power of repetition and ritual

Watch any episode of a TV show made for little kids or any children’s book that’s part of a series, and you’ll notice that it’s remarkably similar to the next one.

Characters always wear the same outfits, plots always unfold in the same way, and the theme song plays at exactly the same time. The producers and writers know that predictability helps anchor children — that it helps them look forward to watching the program or having the book read aloud and that they’ll enjoy it when they do.

For you, repetition is dull. But for children, especially toddlers, it’s wonderful and reassuring; the world is a brand new and complex place, and when they can see patterns in it or accurately spot what’s coming next, it gives them a sense of security, mastery and delight.

Small habits, bigger rewards

So borrow this technique — and create rituals of your own. The ones that work best feel natural, happen frequently and involve both you and your child. Above all, they are easy to do.

If your son knows you’ll pick him up and hug him in the same way when you come through the door each evening, he’ll look forward to it — and be thrilled when it happens. Sing that favorite song together each day on the way home from daycare. Begin each Saturday morning with breakfast at the same time. Tuck him into bed in a consistent way each night.

Get them involved, too