Over Scheduled Kids Update
April 18th, 2022
- A parent's ultimate goal is to raise a capable, energy filled and happy child into a responsible, honorable and successful (depends on your goal) young adult. Historically in the 60's and 70's, parents mostly just let their children play while focusing on one instrument and random recreational sports or clubs. They were not pushy. There was ample time for family, friends and achievement. This attitude was based primarily on the economic times where middle class jobs were achievable without major educational investments.
Fast forward to today's reality of the over scheduled parent and child.
The knowledge that a higher education and hard work are very necessary for economic advancement in America has borne this change. We all want our little joy maker to experience more and more things in order to be "well rounded " and "ready" to advance in society. They bang the piano on Monday, flip in gymnastics on Tuesday and Thursday and attend religious education on Wednesday nights. Saturday is the all day gymnastics event. Thank God for Sunday. Oh wait! Joy maker's little brother, whirling dervish, has two soccer games on Sunday. You return home Sunday night, sunburnt, exhausted and knowing that tomorrow is Monday.
What have we done? Is it really helping to make the whirling dervish the next Pele? Is joy maker the next mozart? What about the homework? Yes, they have to do this as well.
We know that organized sports and the arts provide a child with frustration tolerance skills development. Random and differing events may hit upon a passion that the child will carry with him forever and could be a career choice. There are many positives to the activities that are undertaken. Yet, what are the downsides to the volume?
STRESS for all. Exhausted parents now see that joy maker is developing anxiety and feels exhausted. She quits gymnastics and says no to everything. Everyone feels lost. Whirling dervish is struggling in school. Homework is hard to complete and he feels overwhelmed. Dinners are an afterthought and fast food is the norm. Two legs of the health stool are compromised, nutrition and spirit/mind. This is a recipe for disaster.
Check in with how you, the parent, feel about the schedule. Check in with your child and see how they feel.
There are some children who absolutely want to devote themselves to one thing. This is appropriate if they still have time to be kids. Kids should only have one parent installed demanding activity at a time. This is defined as an event (piano, language education, arts) that we need them to do in order to be cultured. This does not include school work which is mandatory for all to succeed.
A better rule of thumb is a day free per day scheduled. This is regardless of whether it is parent or child inspired. Plan family meals on the free days. Plan game time or reading time as a family. Be present moment with them as they are only 4-12 years old once and only once. You do not get a do over.
I found the movie King Richard very illustrative here. Richard Williams, as portrayed in the movie, was singularly focused on his children's success and health to the point that he fought back against the system that was in place that rushes children into the spotlight of stress way too early. He maintained a family centric, love centric, work centric ethos that shunned pride and self need over the process. He protected his children so that they could BE CHILDREN until the time came for change. The rest of the story is well known.
Based on this belief, I find that when I go to my kids events, I choose to watch the games and meets with headphones on to tune out the noise and appreciate the process. At practices, I run or read to make the time productive and not interject my views into their work until. This allows me to be with them after practice in a present way. It also helps me to stay balanced. Our family has events on three days during the week. Weekend events are intermittent. We are able to have home cooked family meals at least 4 days a week. (thanks to my wife) I find this to be imperative and such a joy to connect.
We are all acutely aware of our children and our goals for them. Temper your authoritarian well meant plans and look to a 1:1 ratio of schedule to play time. Kids really need to be kids. They will learn and succeed best when they are: (in no apparent order)
1) Nourished with whole, natural and real food
2) Allowed to sleep adequate amounts nightly
3) Encouraged and allowed to run and play until tired
4) Loved unconditionally
5) Taught that they are in control of THEIR destiny and mistakes are ok while desire and effort rule the day
6) Encouraged to find THEIR passion and seize the day for it
7) Allowed to succeed and fail as the events of the day dictate
8) Believed in
9) Unfettered by chemicals (affect neurologic function)
10) Hydrated with water
For the parents: You do not need to give up your life for your children! If you follow the 1:1 ratio, you should be able to find balance for yourself. Free time should exist for all. Balance is always the key to happiness and longevity of spirit.
Always trying to practice what I preach!