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. This 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 focused mostly 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, the ability to organize his materials and keep his room clean.

If you hadn’t thought about it, differences in your internal clock and that of your child’s can cause friction if not outright battles. Let’s say that you have a clock that is irregular. 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 have a meltdown if you are late or early in picking him up. He may have a tantrum if he is very hungry, but you aren’t and just 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 is erratic in his ability to go to sleep at night or wake up on time. And let’s not get started on what his bedroom looks like.

The point is that rhythmicity is not a choice. It is how your internal clock is wired. Individuals on either end of the spectrum are challenging and feel challenged by the unpredictability of life around them. If you look at the dysrhythmic child, you will likely find three possible types.

The first is clueless that time is moving around him and never seems stressed until you and his world are stressed due to his lack of awareness of where he is in time. 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 an ability to recognize patterns and sequences. The more predictable his life is, the less he will be frustrating you with his chaotic grasp on time.

Even though he won’t be stressed until he is told that he is late, disorganized again, it will help him to have visual schedules, timers, and other sensory rich means of cueing him in as to 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 what is supposed to be stored in that spot. He may say he doesn’t need these but simply 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 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, to provide a timer, or have you repeatedly give him updates on how much time he has left. He will also want to have everything in precise locations in his room, and the house if he can, since he is mind blind. This means that he can’t see in his mind where things should be. 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 how to stay on top of time and organization will make him feel less stressed.

The third child is basically 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 the child whose internal clock is synced up with the atomic clock. He is fully aware of time passing, second by second. He is 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 forgot or that something 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. Understanding your rhythmicity and how his 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 which may help you provide your child with the structure and feedback he needs to have a better sense of 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, however, recommend products that would not be helpful to you or your child.

60 minute timer:

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Revibe Connect:

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Whiteboard Chore Chart/magnetized - good for multiple children

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