When you're raising small children, setting up a schedule for meals, naps, and bedtime is one of the most important things you can do. It not only keeps your child's day predictable, but it gives you a road map for when thing should be done and builds in the downtime that you need.

The biggest challenge to keeping a schedule is being disciplined. There are many obstacles and temptations that can throw you off course. A play date might run long or a good friend might want to get together during toddler's nap time. You have to decide if that event is worth pushing nap time back or skipping it altogether.

Choose a Routine That Works for Your Family

The best way to stay disciplined is to decide on a schedule that works for you and stick to it. Is it better for your child to go to bed a little bit later and wake up later in the morning? Or are you a morning person who turns in early? Keeping a set schedule means that children tend to wake up at the same time every day, eat their meals at the same time, and give parents less trouble when going down for naps and bedtime because they know what to expect.

If you don't have an everyday routine, convincing a toddler to take a nap or a bath might be much more of a challenge. It will appear strange or out of place and, as most young children love to exert their control, they will likely fight you on it. Having a schedule from an early age teaches your children that naps or baths or meal time occur at a certain time with regularity. They grow accustomed to it, expect it, and embrace it, and they understand what is supposed to happen at a given time in the day and are mentally prepared for it.

Plus, the routine you've created allows a built-in break for you. If your daughter is ready for a nap every day at 1 p.m., then you can schedule phone calls, personal time, or rest time for yourself.

Daily Schedules Help Prepare Children for Real Life

Another upside is that you're creating a foundation for future success. If your son begins to understand and develop a routine for his day at an early age, chances are it will carry over when he is in school and begins to take part in activities. Keeping a predictable schedule now will teach him the skills he needs to manage his time and meet the demands he'll face as a student, employee, athlete, or artist as he grows up.

However, if your schedule gets off course for a day or two — especially when you're on vacation or dealing with an emergency — don't fret. Children are adaptable and will embrace the routine again when you are back in your normal surroundings or when the chaos is passed.

Nothing can be set in stone and there are challenges, anticipated and unanticipated, that we face as parents every day. Having a set schedule to rely on to guide your day will give you comfort and relieve some of the pressure on you and your kids.