music notes

What is your level of rhythmicity?

Do you have rhythm?

Not sure?

Well, if people describe you as reliable, predictable, and organized, you likely have rhythm. If you tend to have a routine time of waking up, eating, etc., you probably have rhythm. Rhythmicity relates to your inner clock, called the circadian rhythm.

According to the New York Longitudinal Study Dimensions of Temperament, rhythmicity is the regularity of body functions, such as hunger, sleep, and elimination (bowel and bladder). But this description was primarily focused on infants and toddlers. As your child ages, the trait of rhythmicity shows up in different aspects of life, such as the ability to sense time moving, organize his materials, and keep his room clean.

If you haven't thought about it, differences in your internal clock and your child's can cause friction, if not outright battles. Let's say that you have an irregular clock. It has gotten you in trouble with your spouse, boss, friends, and extended family. What if your child is your opposite? He becomes incredibly stressed if events in his life are not precisely on time or organized "just right." He could melt down if you are late or early in picking him up. He may have a tantrum if he is hungry, but you aren't and want him to wait.


Of course, it could be the opposite. You are very rhythmic, and your child isn't. Then you are stressed because he is never ready on time, he is not hungry at mealtimes but can be famished an hour later, and he is erratic in his ability to go to sleep at night or wake up on time. And let's not get started on his bedroom.

The point is that rhythmicity is not a choice. The wiring is individual to you. Individuals on either end of the spectrum are challenging and feel challenged by the unpredictability of life around them. Looking at the dysrhythmic child, you will likely find three possible types.

The first type is clueless. You and the world feel the passing of time. Your child, however, is unaware of this movement of time until you share your stress.

 He needs a great deal of help on your part to help him become aware of time moving and what he needs to get done. The same goes for his ability to organize, which requires recognizing patterns and sequences. The more predictable his life is, the less he will frustrate you with his chaotic grasp on time.

Although he can't feel time move, you will help him through visual schedules, timers, and other sensory-rich means of cueing him into where he is in time.

For organization in his room, it will help to have clear drawers or open shelves with the words or pictures of the items to be stored in that spot.

He may say he doesn't need these but remind him that he doesn't like it when you are upset with him, so these are tools to help him keep you calm.

The second type of child also has no sense of time moving around him but is aware that he is getting in trouble for this. So, he tries to find ways to keep track of time and where he is in it. He will ask you to give him schedules, provide a timer, or have you repeatedly given him updates on how much time he has left. He will also want everything in precise locations in his room and the house if he can since he is mind blind. Mind blind means he can't see where things should be in his mind. If they are out of place, even in plain sight, he will not be able to find his homework, his backpack, or even his meal. Working with him and his ideas of staying on top of time and organization will make him feel less stressed.

The third type of child is just a mixture of the first two children. He has times when he is clueless and other times when he works to be on top of it and demands your help.

You may not have a dysrhythmic child. You may have a child synced with the atomic clock. He is fully aware of time passing, second by second. This intense rhythmicity makes him super organized and punctual. But he expects the same of you and others. When you don't meet his expectations, he becomes stressed and demanding.

For example, as I mentioned earlier in this article, if you say that you will pick him up at 3 PM from school, but you don't get there until 3:05, your child will be a puddle of tears in the principal's office. He was sure that you had forgotten or that something had happened to you. To help him, you need to give him a schedule that has a time range (visuals help keep kids calm).

Another example I brought up before deals with meals and his hunger cycle. You can set your watch to when a meal needs to be ready because he will always complain of starvation at the same time every day. He won't be hungry 5 minutes before, but if you go even 5 minutes beyond the regular dinner time, he will swear you are starving him to death because he is so hungry. Again, providing him with a visual time range, plus having a small snack ready if you go past his internal clock's hunger alarm, will help.

Living with a child who follows a different internal clock can be challenging. It does not have to ruin your relationship, however. Your understanding of your rhythmicity and how he mirrors yours and when it doesn't will allow you to work with him to find a happy medium.

Here are links to some products that may help you provide your child with the structure and feedback he needs to understand better where he is in time and what he needs to do for organization and work completion. These are affiliate links for which I receive a commission. This income helps me maintain this site. I do not recommend products that would not be helpful to you or your child.

60-minute timer:

Revibe Connect:

  • US DEPT. OF EDUCATION-FUNDED WEARABLE aimed at improving users' focus and attention through vibrations.
  • GENTLE STRATEGICALLY TIMED VIBRATIONS serve as silent reminders to stay on-task for those who need frequent redirection.
  • REVIBE CONNECT APP TRACKS PROGRESS with daily reports on focus, attention, steps, and more!
  • CUSTOMIZES THE FREQUENCY AND FEEL OF VIBRATIONS to meet users' specific needs and reduce the chance that they get used to reminders.

Whiteboard Chore Chart/magnetized - good for multiple children

If you are interested in an in-depth look at three factors of children and adolescents that can create positive or negative futures, check out my program, Developing a Calm Classroom.