As a parent, what is my role, and what can I do to best support my child’s education?
Page 3: How Do I Set Routines and Behavior Expectations for My Child?
At the beginning of each school year, teachers intentionally spend time setting consistent routines and defining clear behavior expectations with their students. These routines and expectations are the foundation for building a successful learning environment. Have no fear, you can also do this from home! Whether your child is just transitioning to virtual learning, or has been learning virtually all year, setting a routine and expectations for behavior will help you and your child have a smoother, more productive experience. Read on to learn more about how to do each of these.
Set a Routine
Keep in Mind
Every child is different. Some kids need more physical activity, others some time to just sit and get lost in a book. Some need more structure, others more flexibility. You know your child best.
Be willing and ready to adjust the schedule to meet your child’s needs. This may be particularly helpful for students who struggle with learning or for children with disabilities.
When kids have a routine or schedule, they know what to expect. This helps them feel safe and secure. On a normal school day, your child probably has a morning routine (waking up, getting dressed, going to school) and an evening routine (dinner, homework, bedtime). On days when your child is not at school, schedules are still important. Here are some pointers for creating a schedule.
Start with your school’s online learning schedule. By now, all schools have requirements for online presence and take attendance each day. Build your schedule around these required learning times.
Create the schedule with your child. When your child helps to create a schedule and has some choice about when activities happen, she or he is more likely to follow the schedule.
Consider how long your child can stay focused. You might notice that your child’s teacher includes a variety of learning activities in each lesson. These changes keep children engaged and are based on their age-appropriate learning needs. You can do the same thing when setting your schedule. How long should each learning activity last? See the table below for suggestions.
|Age||Length of Activity|
|5–8||10 to 15 minutes|
|8–10||15 to 25 minutes|
|10–12||20 to 30 minutes|
|12–14||25 to 35 minutes|
|14–18||30 to 50 minutes|
Plan harder learning activities for times when your child is more alert. Younger children are typically more alert early in the day, but middle and high school students might be more alert later in the day.
Offer a mix of activities.
- Include online and offline learning activities. For more on finding resources, see Page 4.
- Schedule time for breaks, meals, physical activity, fun, and time to connect with friends and family. For more on how to support your child socially and emotionally, see Page 7.
Be flexible. There will be days when it’s not possible to stay on schedule. It’s OK to make changes! For example, your child might need to stop working after 20 minutes instead of the 30 minutes you scheduled. Again, this is normal and expected. On these days, try to find a balance between the school’s attendance requirements and your child’s or your family’s needs.
Tweak the schedule as needed. After using the schedule for a few days, you can change the parts that aren’t working. For example, your child might need a longer break after a math lesson.
Resources to Create a Routine and Schedule
As we discussed above, your child has routines—activities he or she does each day, usually in the same order (waking up, getting dressed, going to school). At school, there is also a schedule—a planned time for activities (such as math at 9:00).
Below you will find sample routines and schedules for elementary school children and for those in middle and high school. First, click on the routine to see what types of activities to include in your child’s day. Next, click on the schedule to get an idea of how much time each activity should last.
Click on each schedule or routine below to see an example.
Ready to create your own schedule? Click here for a blank form to get started.
Click here to read a short article about how to set a schedule with your child that will also help develop independence. Note: Though this article focuses on students with cognitive disabilities, it has tips that are helpful for parents of all children.
Below are some common challenges you might run into while creating your schedule. Click on each for possible tips.
- Use a visual schedule with pictures for younger children. Click here for an example.
- Use different colors for different learning activities. For instance, use orange for reading and green for math.
- Try to figure out what your child is struggling with. Does she:
- Not understand the topic?
- Struggle with reading the instructions? For ideas on how to support a child who has difficulty reading instructions, see Page 8.
- Not understand how to complete the task?
- Set times in the schedule when you, another adult, or an older sibling can answer questions or offer help.
- Remove any distractions from your child’s learning space.
- Break the learning activity into shorter amounts of time. For example, schedule two 15-minute sessions for reading with a 10-minute break in between instead of one 30-minute block.
Set Expectations for Behavior
You probably already have rules and expectations for your child. These might include things like pick up your toys when you’re finished playing or put your dish in the sink when you’re finished eating. Now that your child is learning at home, you probably want to talk to your child about what you expect during learning activities throughout the day. For example, when your child is working independently, you expect him to work quietly and to the best of his ability.
Your child’s school might also have expectations for behavior. For example, on virtual days, schools might expect students to be logged into class and actively participating. They might also have developed guidelines for online behavior. Be sure to find out what your school expects and go over them with your child.
Some children will need more support than others to do what you expect them to do. Here are some tips that can help you prevent problems before they occur.
Tell your child what you expect. You might need to explain what that looks like. For example, you might explain that do your work means stay in your learning space, stay focused on your work, and stay quiet.
Make sure what you expect is reasonable. Keep in mind your child’s age and what is realistic when you set expectations. Older kids may be able to work independently for longer amounts of time. Younger kids might need more breaks.
Actively monitor your child’s online learning. This is especially important during the first weeks of at-home learning. Is your child paying attention to the lesson? Is she actively engaged in the class activities? If she’s not, then show her what she needs to do. Over time, as she learns the daily routines, you can step back.
Include parent-child time in your schedule. When children know there is a set time they can be with you later, they are less likely to interrupt you.
Teach your child how to ask for help. For example, “Knock on the door when Mommy or Daddy are in work meetings.”
Praise and reward expected behavior. For example, “You finished your math assignment. I know that was really hard. Great job staying focused.”
Below are some common behavior challenges. Click on each for possible tips.
- Remind your child of what you expect.
- Reward your child when he does what you expect.
- If the problems continue, use a behavior contract. For a blank behavior contract, click here.
- Make it a rule that your child is not allowed to have a device during learning time, unless it is needed for learning.
- Block applications using the settings on your child’s device.
- Change the Wi-Fi password or turn the Wi-Fi off once your child has downloaded learning materials for the day.
Helping your child adjust to virtual learning can often be difficult. For more ideas about how to support your child or deal with behavior issues, check out the following resources.
How can I help my elementary child stay focused during online learning? Learning at home via a virtual environment can make it hard for younger kids to remain focused. This tip sheet from the IRIS Center offers some ideas to help. Este recurso también está disponible en español. ¿Cómo puedo ayudar a mi hijo(a) que asiste a la escuela primaria a mantenerse concentrado(a) durante la enseñanza virtual?
How can I support my teen while he learns online? Whether your teen has been learning online for a while or has adjusted to a hybrid schedule, he may be struggling with current or changing expectations. This user-friendly resource provides a few tips to help support your teen. Este recurso también está disponible en español. ¿Cómo puedo apoyar a mi hijo(a) adolescente durante la enseñanza virtual?
How can I keep my teen engaged while she learns online? It’s likely that your teen has faced challenges that may have caused her to become less engaged in one or more of her virtual classes. This tip sheet from the IRIS Center offers some ideas about how to address this issue.
My child says she doesn’t like online learning. How can I help? Created by the IRIS Center, this handy tip sheet offers practical ideas and strategies for helping your child adapt to some of the challenges and frustrations of learning in a virtual environment. Este recurso también está disponible en español. Mi hijo(a) dice que no le gusta la enseñanza virtual. ¿Cómo puedo ayudarlo(a)?
Supporting Families with PBIS at Home. This resource from the Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports offers advice on how to use PBIS to minimize behavior issues.
Using Rewards To Improve Behavior. This short document describes the types of positive rewards you can use to encourage or reward your child’s desired behavior.