Xavier Magazine

Rules Rituals Routines

Move over, Mister Rogers. Tom Knestrict has arrived. The professor of early childhood education has entered the digital world—pure fantasy when Fred Rogers was starting his popular, child-focused TV show in the late 1960s—with DVDs and audio CDs of his special program aimed at saving troubled children.

The program grew out of Knestrict’s experiences teaching severely emotionally disturbed children in a Cincinnati area school district, and from research he gathered on the theory of the attachment needs of children. He concluded the values practiced in the home are as critical to children’s healthy development as their need to bond with a primary caregiver.

It’s all built upon a theory he calls the three Rs—rules, rituals and routines: Rules based on simple values like kindness and respect give children guidelines for their own behavior; rituals such as celebrating birthdays together help them feel connected; and routines such as regular bed times give children a sense of predictability and safety. Pretty simple stuff, it seems, but Knestrict says he’s amazed by the number of families he meets whose homes are chaotic and lacking values.

“The chaos at home sets them up for failure at school,” he says. “I’m interested in changing their behavior. You can’t do that unless you impact the home.”

Knestrict made his first video in 2005 to accompany his workshops. It shows him working with children and their parents. Then a company that produces educational videos asked him to create a video for them last fall. In it, actors portray his theory. He sells the videos at the workshops and on his web site,

Since the videos’ release, the number of workshop invitations has increased. He’s sort of surprised by the popularity of the workshops and DVDs, but he believes there’s a need for sound parental advice in an increasingly chaotic world. “I want to really make an impact on families,” he says. Just like Mister Rogers.

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