99 Rules for new dads

SPH Radio One FM deejay Shan Wee, a father of two young boys, dispenses humorous advice to first-time dads in a new book launched ahead of Fathers' Day next month.

Rule 45: 
Routines 

One of the most important policies when raising a child, and perhaps most importantly in the first year, is to implement routines. You might consider yourself a free spirit man… I go where the wind takes me, bro… que sera sera, homie. But even if you ARE Bodhi from Point Break, even HE knows that routines are the sound backbone of raising an infant. You might think that a free-and-easy approach would be best to give you, as the new parent, maximum breathing space to fill your day in a no-pressure way, but in my experience, the opposite is true.

Running on routines (and I don't mean OMEGA time-keeping deadlines, I mean "approximately the same thing happens at the same time every day") helps the baby feel settled in the world, and it gives the parents a fair expectation of how the day will unfold. You should aim to have him sleep in the same bed around the same time every night. You should plan ahead so that meals are on the table at around the same time, every lunchtime. Routines mainly deal with Sleeping and Feeding.

If this is your first time round being a dad, you might be clueless about what a day's schedule might look like, so here's a rough outline of a fairly normal day for a two-year-old.

(Note that a newborn has a very different day, with much more frequent cycles of nap/feed/play).

•8am - Kid wakes and eats breakfast

•Play

•Noon - Eats lunch

•1pm - Falls asleep for a two-hour nap

•3pm - Wakes up, has a snack

•Play

•6pm - Dinner

•7pm - Bath

•8pm - Stories and bed

The best you can do is to try and settle on a routine and stick to it as closely as life lets you. Yes, there will be daily events that throw your timing off - meeting friends for a dinner that runs later than expected; traffic jams on the road as you go here and there; work commitments when you have to rely on Granny and Granddad to step in and oversee bedtime.

You might think that because kids have no concrete understanding of time and clocks, that being 20 minutes late will not make a difference to their mood, but 20 minutes really can change things.

A later-than-usual breakfast might lead to you fighting in vain to get him to eat a single morsel at lunchtime, but then he will be roaring like a starving Kraken by 4pm and that tantrum might ruin everyone's day. Arriving home 20 minutes later than usual may throw the bedtime ritual out of whack so that you are rushing through dinner, and then rushing a bath time, and then reading one bedtime story book instead of three.

Firstly, this might irritate Little Nathan because he enjoys a slow bath and then three full-length books. More importantly, this deviation might make little Nathan "over-tired". Kids have this bizarre upside-down logic response whereby, if they are Over-Tired, instead of falling asleep like a normal human, they decide to rage AGAINST sleep harder than they ever have before. So instead of your over-tired child settling down like an angel on his bed of clouds, you will have a raging anti-Christ still going at 11 o'clock at night.

It might sound like keeping to a careful routine, on both weekdays AND weekends, is a recipe for a very boring life, but I would take calm, predictable, composed dad any day over uncertain, on-the- edge, frazzled dad who at 10pm has been feverishly rocking the Kraken for two hours, desperate for him to fall asleep, when he should be chilling back with a new episode of Game of Thrones to enjoy.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 21, 2017, with the headline '99 Rules for new dads'. Print Edition | Subscribe