Building Structure for Children

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Quakerdale Parent Resources

Structure is very important in the lives of children and families.  In an interesting TEDS talk by General Colin Powell  he talks about the importance of structure

A building needs a frame like a child needs daily routines and structure
A building needs a frame like a child needs daily routines and structure

for children and young adults.  General Powell talks about how structure changed his life and how it makes a difference for young people.  It is interesting to hear how the words of the General’s parents molded him and set him on the road to success and happiness.  Parents can set the framework of the child for their future just like a building’s walls and roof are first set in place by the underlying framework.

The Center For Parenting Education says when you provide structure, children:

  • feel a sense of safety that rules will be in place when they can’t control their own impulses – you will be there to stop them, guide them, and be in-charge of their well-being.
  • learn to tolerate a reasonable amount of frustration and disappointment when they don’t always get their own way.
  • discover that the world does not revolve totally around them.  As a result, they becomeless egocentric.
  • learn responsible behavior and that they are capable of doing things.
  • learn from their mistakes.
  • gain experience making decisions.
  • become more self-sufficient and capable as they learn the skills to become independent.
  • internalize your rules and values.
common stresses and cures


One of Quakerdale’s programs serves girls ages 16 1/2 to 18 transitioning to independence.   We work on life skills to help these young ladies to success on their own.  We agree with General Powell that structure is important in children’s lives no matter what age.  We want to introduce you to the structure that we use which can also give your family success.  Not everything works with every family, but you can take what works for you and leave the rest.

Daily Schedule or Routine

The first type of structure we use is a daily schedule or routine.  We want to allow the girls personal time because they need to practice self governance.  A good routine lowers stress and provides time for preparation and reflection and in general improves mental well-being.   With routine we provide clear expectations that things need to get done.   There are certain times to be up in the morning, eat breakfast and on the bus for school.  We have planned exercise, study and free times.  Young people need to be able to manage themselves, but it doesn’t happen unless we provide them structure.  They must learn to recognize if they are behind schedule.  A lack of structure and routine results in wasted time and failure to accomplish goals.  We all know what it is like to realize at the end of the day we didn’t get the things done we needed to do.

Concerning the daily routine one regular problem young people have today is getting enough rest.  We cannot make someone sleep, but it is important that we teach the value of rest because it can have an effect on all areas of their life.  We do require them to have time that is scheduled for bedtime and they need to put their phone, computer or iPod away so they can rest.  There is a lot of research about the problems that can arise from lack of rest and relaxation, so structure is a big deal!  This article says sleep is food for your brain and children must feed their brains with rest if they are to be at their best.

You noticed we have exercise time.  It is important to keep active and have some variety in physicality.  Going to the gym seems to be one of the favorites.  Endorphins have been referred to as the “Happy Hormone” because they have the characteristics of Morphine.  Physical activity causes this chemical to be created and released in our brain.  Endorphins improve our mood and block pain inside our brains so it is important to make time for exercise in the daily routine.

Often, following a daily routine and providing structure can be difficult especially when life gets hectic and distractions occur.  One of the most important things to do when the routine gets off is to observe and talk about it.  “Wow, that was a big thing we just went through and now we need to get back on our routine.”  It is an important skill to learn how to move through life’s problems and distractions and then return to the daily routine.

family rules

Three tips we use to provide structure


  1. Creating a monthly calendar . At the beginning of each month, every child gets a calendar outlining the activities for the month which includes times to volunteer, Church activities, grocery shopping, meetings, and personal things. Plannning ahead takes time but it relieves a lot of stress and sets children up for success.  This is such an important part for children learning to structure themselves.
  2. Enforcing rules with consistency. We have rules established within the cottage and do our best to ensure we consistently carry them out. This provides healthy structure for children to know what is expected and what will happen. When caregivers enforce the rules we are modeling for our children to hold high standards for themselves.
  3. Building strong communication between youth and adults. Remember how we acknowledged getting off schedule because of a big thing? As caregivers, we communicate daily about what has happened so everyone is informed in the cottage. The youth are also encouraged to contribute their thoughts and opinions regarding their day to day routines and challenges.   We encourage families to use mealtimes for these activities.  As a matter of fact there is a movement called the Family Dinner Project esteeming the value of eating meals together.  You will be surprised at some of the data they have about this interesting topic.  Eating meals are something everyone does and to miss the opportunity to be together by watching television or looking at a smart phone is a missed opportunity.  No text will ever take the place of a face to face conversation.

Remember have fun with your children but keep a structure that works for your family.  You’ll see your children blossom when they have structure in their lives and you’ll position them with skills for lifelong success and happiness.

If you have any insights to add to this discussion please share with us!  If you have any questions please share.  If this is valuable let us know in the comments.