A question from a reader...
Hi Dr. Singer,
We have 2 kids and my wife has scheduled each of them in so many activities their heads are spinning. I don’t like this and have told her that, but she thinks that because she always had every minute of her childhood scheduled that this is the right thing to do. I was one of those kids who had lazy summer days catching frogs and hanging out and I think I was and am better off for it. Which one of us is right and what do you think about this? E.F.
There are 2 sides to this issue and I don’t mean yours and hers. My first inclination is to agree that too much scheduling and too many activities are going to inundate the kids and may frustrate them as well. I think for kids to truly figure out what they like to do and what they have a strength with, they need to try things one or two at a time. Free time to just play and just kick back for kids is so important for them. I also have lots of good memories just hanging out and riding bikes and sun tanning. There were days that the sky was so blue it looked like an Everlasting Gobstopper. The clouds were so perfectly white and soft looking and I can remember lying on the grass with my friends and just being and doing nothing felt great as a child.
Now for the other part. This is not the same world anymore. Unfortunately, we have lots of predators out there and many parents are afraid to have their kids just wandering like we used to be able to. It makes me really sad and angry to think that our kids don’t have the same ability to just enjoy being free as we did, but the plain hard truth is that it exists and sometimes activities that are scheduled with adult supervision is the way to go, especially if the parent cannot be there all the time to supervise kids just being.
The best of all worlds is if a parent or parents can be there to supervise to let the kids just be, in a limited amount of space. You don’t let them just take off on their bikes, but maybe they can ride around the block if they’re old enough. If it can’t happen every day of the week, maybe schedules can be moved so parents can be there to have at least a few days of the week to let the kids just have unscheduled fun.
Let me say something else about all the activities. You didn’t mention this, but I have heard it enough times from other parents that I think it’s worth mentioning. Lots of parents I meet sign their kids up for an activity and then if the child doesn’t like it and wants to quit, the parent digs in and says “no way.” The parent wants the kid to stick it out so they don’t become quitters. I have had a lot of parents ask me if I think it is ok, with the clear agenda that they want me to support their idea that it is not. I don’t agree with that at all. I think that the healthiest, most successful adults are those who know what they like and know what they don’t like. They don’t just stay stuck in something they aren’t feeling good about. They use that information to move on and find what does feel good to them. Now, obviously if this is the 16th activity in 16 days, that’s a problem with commitment and I would ask for more responsibility on the child’s part for the decisions, but if it’s the first activity chosen and it isn’t working for the child, 86 it and let the child pick something else! That doesn’t make a quitter. It makes a person who knows how to make a moveand not be stuck if the surroundings are not right. It also helps the child find what his or her strengths are and what is fun for him or her.
The one place I do not budge with regard to too many activities is when the activities interfere with good sleep. It is imperative that kids have enough sleep to be able to function and do well with school work. Sleep deprivation has been mislabeled as ADHD and behavior disorders in many cases and the symptoms that go along with them can be a lack of sleep instead. To learn more about things that can get in the way of the school day find my ebook here ...
So, I’m not picking sides here, and I think you guys need to come to some safe compromise that will allow some free, fun time for the kids just to be, and some scheduled time for one or two activities, not ten. Hope this helps!
Btw...I am very proud that my daughter did the art work for the photo on this post!!!
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