In my Simplicity Parenting classes, we talk a lot about rhythm; what it is, what it feels like to experience (I create consistent and dependable rhythms that repeat each class) and how to bring more of it into family life.

If you are not familiar with the concept of rhythm, which is different from scheduling and from routine, chapter 4 in Simplicity Parenting does a really good job of introducing it.

In short, having rhythm in your family means having certain touchstones that happen each day (or week), predictably and dependably; and those touchstones happen the same way each time. Examples are: mealtimes, bedtimes, the after dinner family stroll, the morning dog walk to the park, the Sunday afternoon trip to the grocery store, Thursday soup night etc. Rhythm is not based rigidly on time; it is not a schedule, but it is based on the sequence of events (i.e. making our beds happens after breakfast and before walking the dog). Rhythm is exceedingly “orienting” for children (and grown-ups!) of all ages and an oriented child is a well-behaved child; Kim Payne often says, “There are no bad children only disoriented children.” It makes perfect sense really; if we know what is coming (time to put our shoes on!), we are prepared, ready and willing; if things are coming at us randomly and from all directions, we are much more likely to shut down or protest.

Summer provides us with a blank slate; the chaotic and busy rushing around of the school year can be put aside. It is the perfect time to create more rhythm for your family, as long empty days can quickly shift from feeling like a gift to feeling sloppy and filled with bickering. With a few consistent rhythmic touchpoint throughout the day, you give the long summer days a little bit of needed structure.

As I teach in my classes, small changes have a much better chance of lasting than the complete overhaul does; so pick two or three rhythmic pieces to add to your days and weeks — maybe a breakfast schedule, a daily afternoon walk or reading time after lunch. Then, stick with them (this requires discipline and “parental resolve” at first) and, after several weeks, I’m guessing that the whole family will be counting on those rhythmic touchstones on those long summer days.