Creating Good Habits and Setting Routines

October has arrived. The brand new backpack now has crumpled papers swimming around somewhere at the bottom, along with cookie crumbs and old gym clothes. The "pep in the step" attitude of an exciting new school year may be wearing off, replaced with the thought of another challenging school day ahead.

Reality sets in during the month of October - for students and parents. Somewhere between the first day of school and around this time, kids tend to forget their good intentions for the school year, such as "I'll do my homework right when I get home from school, every day!"  or "I promise I'll wake up when my alarm goes off and be ready on time in the morning!". 

It's not always easy to transition to a different schedule or get in the groove with new expectations that this year's teachers may have. This is why building good habits are important. It takes time and it is hard work, but building good habits and following routines can help to counter-act back pedaling into former, unproductive practices. 

Check out this great list of routine builders to learn how parents can help their kids (and the whole family - why not?) follow routines and make the day-to-day less of a battle and more enjoyable for everyone involved. Routines give kids a sense of security and help them develop self-discipline. 

Antecedent Strategies: What Does That Mean?

Last week, I attended an important workshop at the NYU Child Study Center. The center schedules a series of workshops, given a few times a month on various topics geared towards parents and educators. Thursday's workshop focused on ADHD in the classroom. The facilitator, a professor and clinician at NYU, addressed numerous points on this topic including the concept of antecedents. An antecedent is something that came before something else and may have influenced or caused it. 

You can preempt negative behavior by changing what comes before the behavior. This includes changing environmental and external factors. Being sensitive to triggers and implementing antecedent strategies will stop negative behavior before it happens.

Let's look at an every day example of an antecedent strategy. If you're planning to take a flight with your children, you typically think about what to pack in their carry-on bag beforehand. What goes into that bag? Snacks (lots!), books, games, drawing materials, maybe an iPad - all tools that will decrease the likelihood of your child having a meltdown mid-flight. This is an antecedent strategy; you are putting measures in place beforehand, to deter a negative behavior.

Take a look below at three antecedent strategies that support building good habits in children:

1. Make instructions clear and explicit. Rather than sending your child to her bedroom to "clean up your whole room", break down the task into specific subtasks. These subtasks can often be turned into a checklist:

1. Make your bed

2. Put books on bookshelf

3. Put dirty clothes in hamper

4. Put toys in toy chest

clean your room checklist.jpg

2. Provide organizational structures. Providing cubbies or storage bins for toys and sports equipment and hampers for dirty clothing makes teaching organizational skills easier. If everything has it's own place, it's easier to stay neat. Study areas such as desks should be kept clear. Use filing cabinets for important worksheets and notes, and bookshelves for textbooks, binders and notebooks. School supplies such as pens, markers, etc. should be kept neatly in a drawer or in a desk organizer. 

3. Build in choice or variety. To boost low motivation, provide your child with  choices so he feels he has a sense of autonomy in the situation. For example, let him choose the order in which he complete his assignments, or if he prefers to study on the floor for an exam instead of his desk, let him try it out.

kid studying on floor.jpg

Implementing strategies such as these (and there are a whole lot more!) will set the stage for positive outcomes and help kids build good habits. The key is to be consistent and provide positive feedback. 


Every student has a different learning style. For an individualized plan customized to your child's needs, please contact Dana Aussenberg at or email