Adults are already over-scheduling themselves; do we have to do it to our kids too?
Hey there! You’re listening to the Mighty Mommy with some quick and dirty tips for practical parenting.
We have a local rec center that distributes a seasonal catalog full of great children’s classes, clubs, and activities. When one mom mentions that she’s received her catalog in the mail, the rest of us rush to our mailboxes to see if ours have arrived. Those of us that are Internet savvy go online and start scanning through the class listings to see what we can fit into our schedule. I mean, we see what we can fit into our child’s current schedule. We have to hurry because classes are inexpensive and they fill up fast and we may not get a spot if we don’t hurry. So, without thinking this through, we give the rec center our credit card numbers and put the new classes on our calendars and then we sit back and feel like we are the best parents in the world!
Something happened to me this year. I looked at my daughter while I was planning all of these wonderful things and noticed that she looked tired. I don’t mean the type of tired from playing outside for an hour. She looked exhausted. I had to take a step back and look at what I was doing. It took me a minute to decide that we needed to cut back. I think a lot of parents feel the urge to get involved in what is now called hyper-parenting. This is the act of scheduling your child for something healthy and educational for every minute of every day. I’m guilty of this and I’m taking action to stop. I was seriously considering enrolling her in a gymnastics class that takes place every Monday. This would have filled up her weekday calendar. She’d have at least one non-family-oriented activity once a day for five days in a row. She’s only four and she’d be busier than me.
I’ve talked in previous shows about the benefits of schedules, and I still believe that it’s healthy to have a regular routine, but we need to remember that children should have some say in the decision making process. Kids need time to be kids. When making your schedules, I think it’s important to schedule some time off. That could mean one free day per week where you don’t plan an activity or you plan more leisurely activities such as a family game night. Kids who are in school full time are already busy with their education, homework, and social activities. When you decide to sign them up for sports, band, or the academic decathlon, make sure it’s something they want to do. If they are interested and can fit it into their schedule, that’s great, but you’ll need to make sure your kids are still getting plenty of daily down-time, sleep, and nutritious meals. If you start to notice a decline in your kids’ energy levels, appetites, grades, or interest in activities, be sure to address the issue immediately. Adults are already over-scheduling themselves; do we have to do it to our kids too?
Another thing to keep in mind when planning all of these great things for our kids is how much time they are now spending away from their families. As a parent of toddlers, I’m around other parents with pre-school-aged children. We all talk about how we look forward to our kids being in school so we can go back to work or have some time to ourselves. This is normal, of course, but I think we have to be careful just how much distance we wish for. Our kids will be in school full time very soon. If one or both parents already work full time outside the home, I’m sure those parents are aware how precious the time they have with their children is. We need to make sure that we are planning activities that surround and involve the family. A good, strong, close family is, in my opinion, the best environment for a child of any age. It’s true that no family is perfect, mine included, but the strength and security a child learns from being a part of a good family unit is valuable to a child’s development. When you have everyone in the family running in opposite directions, it can get crazy and cause a lot of stress in the household.
Finally, don’t be afraid to try things out before committing to them. Earlier I mentioned a gymnastics class I was considering for my daughter. I called the school and they let her come in for a trial class. It was a great class, but we didn’t sign up. My daughter wasn’t that interested and she would have had to give up something else that she loved. She made the choice. I’m sure she could have done it all and I would have had the extra time on Monday mornings to get some extra things done with one less kid around, but I miss her when she’s in school. I like having her around, even when she’s driving me crazy in the way only four-year-olds know how to do. If you aren’t sure if an activity is right for you or your child, look further into it before you commit. Make some calls or ask for a trial. Find out what other times they offer or if they combine classes for different ages so you can have your kids together. Look for parent and child interactive activities for all ages. Participate in activities with your child as well as letting them choose some independent activities for themselves. Take weekend trips to museums, parks, zoos, and unique stores. Learn and grow as a family. If you have to plan ahead, schedule pajama-days where you plan to do nothing but hang out inside watching movies or playing board games. Make sure you have time for your spouse too. If one of you is always running off to one kid's ball game while the other stays home with a toddler, you may be missing out on each other. There are a lot of activities and classes to choose from these days. That doesn’t mean you have to do them all. I learned my lesson and I am happy to have had this opportunity to share it with you.
That’s it for now. Thanks for listening.
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Music – “Golly Gee” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons "Attribution 2.0" http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/"