Grandparents coming and going, travelling, any change for that matter, creates a change in routine. The problem with that is that the clearly defined boundaries that were established earlier, are now grey. As psychologist Dr James Dobson says, “It’s a parent’s job to set rules, it’s a child’s job to try and break them.”

I often refer to the car seat rule as a non-negotiable, consistent boundary: we know that all babies and toddlers have to be strapped into their car seat, whether they like it or not, for the sake of their own safety and because it is also the law. Most families can relate to this as non-negotiable (and all families should!). However, if you decide one time not to insist on the rule for your child, then every time you start the car thereafter they will argue because that time you allowed them to not use the car seat/seatbelt. If your boundary remains consistent, then the arguments don’t even begin. Children know it’s not an option.

Secondly, your tone of voice and attitude need to have a non-negotiable air about them. This can really work for other instructions too.

This brings us to the “back to the routine” part after a holiday. It starts with you. Your attitude and tone of voice, sets the pace. Changing routine, or rules, or habits, is not the child’s issue, it depends on you the parent.

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Here are 5 key points to remember:

  1. It starts with a sense of humour.

    The holiday might be over now, but no child is going to want to embrace a re-establishment of rules if it is presented purely as that: a return to drudgery. I often say “Rules without relationship cause rebellion”, and this means that simply laying down the law from on high is never going to work. Keep your sense of humour, make it fun and exciting to be back home too, and then you will have the right foundation on which to re-introduce the routine.

  2. Keep a non-negotiable attitude in your head

    Clarify in your mind what needs to be done and prioritise what behaviour or habits need to be worked on first. Although it is easy to doubt ourselves when we are instilling boundaries or rules that little ones may not immediately welcome, be confident that you are doing the right thing in your role as parent - the saying "fake it 'till you make it" can be useful here!

  3. Use a calm, assertive tone of voice

    Channel your “car seat” voice. Make sure you are as clear as possible: is this an instruction or an option? Say what you mean and mean what you say.

  4. Step into action

    The time to activate the routine you have decided on is now. Unless little one is sick then don’t postpone. The sooner you jump in, the sooner those boundary lines will be defined.

  5. Be consistent
    When you do all of this consistently, your word or rules will be respected. The 80/20 rule always applies though. When there is consistency at least 80% of the time, then the 20% that might not be so consistent won't overthrow the apple cart!

    Parenting coach, author and mother-of-four, Andalene Salvesen has become known as Super Granny under the auspices of the Munchkins brand. For the past 13 years, she has helped families by coaching them through issues such as tantrums, sleeping, eating and discipline problems, as well as healthy boundaries, understanding unique temperaments, and many more related parenting challenges. Based in South Africa, Andalene works extensively in the United Arab Emirates as a consultant.

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