Stay-at-home dads might feel like they are at a disadvantage when it comes to holding down the fort. Likely, stay-at-home dad wasn’t the occupation you started planning for in seventh grade, and information you could use in your new stay-at-home profession didn’t seem relevant enough to remember at the time. Now you find yourself in the position of stay-at-home dad amid the chaos of getting kids to school, keeping house, cooking dinner, and doing homework and chores. You remember that your stay-at-home mom had ways to get you to do your homework, eat your carrots, and brush your teeth, but try as you might to remember, the details remain a fuzzy part of your past. And without a network of stay-at-home dads, you may lack the benefits that your female counterparts have been relying on for years—sharing proven programs to keep you sane in the hubbub of raising children.

A great thing that stay-at-home dads can learn is to start using routines. Dads, routines are an important part of raising children and are good for both children and dad. For the children they offer structure giving them a sense of stability, the gift of knowing what is expected of them. For you, Dad, they offer respite from the chaos, the gift of knowing what you can reasonably expect from your children. To be sure, Dads, flexibility is key to happy childrearing, but flexibility doesn’t mean constantly flying by the seat of your pants.

If you’re new to routines as a stay-at-home dad, don’t try to do too much all at once. As a stay-at-home dad, your role is to mentor your children, not control them, and the following pointers will help you set up a routine that works.

  • If your children are old enough, Dad, make them part of the process. Decide together what needs to be accomplished. Write it down.
  • Determine a schedule for the routine. Homework after school or after dinner? Chores in the morning or afternoon? If it doesn’t matter. Dad, let your children decide. If it doesn’t work after a week or so, make some changes.
  • As stay-at-home dad, you’re a loving counselor not an evil foreman. Be sure your expectations are realistic and help your kids when necessary.
  • Remember, Dads, rewards can be a powerful motivator. If your children get through their nightly routine in record time, reward them with an extra bedtime story. If they remembered to clean the bathroom without being reminded, offer praise and some extra dad-time.
  • Punishment for non-compliance should fit the crime. If your child dawdles his way through his bedtime routine, then it’s your job, Dad, to turn off the TV half an hour earlier each evening to allow him the time he thinks he needs to get ready for bed. If your child didn’t get his chores done because he was too busy playing Xbox, then Dad, maybe it’s time to put the Xbox away for a few days.
  • Create a chart that lists specifically what needs to be done and when. Dad, let your child help decide the (reasonable) rewards and consequences.
  • Remember that the key to a successful jaunt as a stay-at-home dad is flexibility. After a month rethink the schedule, keep what works, tweak what doesn’t. But don’t give up, Dad, and don’t give in.

Stay-at-home dads are foraging through infrequently traveled terrain. Setting up and using routines can pave the way for a successful experience for the growing child and for the stay-at-home dad.

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