Once again, I’m delighted to feature a guest post from Elisabeth Stitt, author of Parenting as a Second Language and esteemed parent coach. Elisabeth is the founder of Joyful Parenting Coaching, which specializes in helping parents understand and communicate effectively with their teens. In this article, she explains how the saying, “structure will set you free,” can be a game-changer in your family.


The tagline to my business Joyful Parenting Coaching is Be the Architect of Your Family.  With that, I really mean to parent deliberately.

Here are three reasons I see structure as supporting a happy, harmonious family life:

1.  Routine allows everyone to know what to expect. 

In a world that is as uncertain as ours is now, it feels good to know that some things are the same.  Children of all ages like to know what is to going to happen.  As adults we tend to keep the agenda in our head and spring it on our kids at the last moment.  With routines, we provide our kids big chunks of the day that they can count on.  To your mind there may be no reason why you should brush teeth after bath time rather than before bath, but when you keep the order the same, it helps your kids regulate themselves and prepare for what is next.

2.  Systems allow for independence.

No one likes to be told what to do from moment to moment.  No one likes to be corrected for doing things “wrong.”  When we set up systems for the household and teach them to our kids, we set our kids free to get things done in a way that won’t draw our criticism.  If the dishwasher is loaded in the same way every time, you can work out what is the most efficient–what gets the dishes the cleanest, what way fits the most dishes in, and what configuration makes unloading the dishwasher the most efficient.  Life is too short to be fighting the dishwasher every day or, worse, to be fighting with your kids because while they did load the dishwasher, it was so haphazard, half the dishes didn’t fit.  Figure out what works and stick to it.

3.  Ritual allows for connection. 

My favorite kind of structure to implement in families is the kind that intentionally brings the family together.  Here are some examples of rituals from families I have worked with:  Lighting a candle for each member of the family at the dinner table.  Saying grace or 3 good things before dinner.  Having a family circle in the hallway before each child goes to his own room for bed.  Opening the regular family meeting with sincere compliments for each person.  Ritual helps us to slow down and to make the ordinary and the day-to-day special.  We stop to take stock and appreciate the good in being part of a family.  If there has been a lot of fighting and tension in the house, ritual has the power to remind us that we are loved and supported.

More from Elisabeth:

Elisabeth Stitt Encourages Clarity, Connection, and Consistency

10 Things Kids Need to Be Able to Do on Their Own by Middle School

3 Metaphors: Advice for Parenting Teens