This was originally posted as a guest blog over at The Kids Did WHAT? on May 1, 2009 but I thought I would share it in case you missed it.
I am one those parents that finds it amazing that some parents over schedule their children. There are parents that actually push their kids to exhaustion with homework a.k.a. advanced placement courses, sports, after-school activities, computer classes, etc. just so their kids will someday be accepted at Harvard, Yale or another of the world’s fine higher education institutions.
It amazes how often I hear a parent say “All little Johnny (or Tammy or Mickey) does is sleep or lounge around when he comes home. You would think that with all the activities he is in that he would be bouncing all over the place” or another example “How come Tammy is so sensitive and always crying about something?” Come on, can these people give me a break! Is there a reason that Johnny or Tammy or Mickey are on traveling sports teams when they are under the age of ten and why don’t I get my little one involved?
Quite often, I get on my pedestal and say my thing when it comes to these overscheduled children and other times, I just look over at my happy children and realize that one activity (yes, locally) is just enough for them and for me as well. For those times, I get on my pedestal and open my big mouth, these are the responses I get back from the parents of these overscheduled children. “But Tammy loves taking ballet, soccer and volunteering with me at the center.” Tammy may love taking ballet, soccer and volunteering but there is a limit to that enjoyment.
Children are not adults and they should not be overworked or pushed beyond their limits. If they want to attend dance class twice a week and lounge around the house the rest of the week, let them! Someday, they will be adults and they won’t be children ever again. “I am giving my child opportunities I have never had!” While I do understand that many parents, me included, did not have all the opportunities that our children have these days, but it does not mean that they should be involved in more than they can handle. Children should be allowed to pick the activities that interest them and not necessarily what interests their parents. If Johnny wants to join computer club and Dad wants him to play football because Dad got injured in his senior year and did not get that football scholarship he really wanted – thus, not making it big like he wanted to – it doesn’t mean Johnny should be the one to fulfill that dream for him. “I am teaching my child responsibility.” You want to teach kids responsibility, have them help out at home.
After school clubs, sports and other activities should be something they enjoy and not something to teach responsibility. There are other ways to teach responsibility, i.e., having junior take out the garbage every morning before he heads out to school. “I am preparing my child for college.” This is one is one I can’t argue with, mainly because colleges today somehow expect our children to be workaholics. Colleges require them to have great resumes that include volunteer work, extracurricular activities, sports, etc. I am not quite sure what any of these things have to do with academics or the job market and I do feel that we should not pressure our children when it comes to what college they should get into.
If Tommy ends up attending Ohio State instead of Harvard USA or Cambridge, UK, who cares! When Tommy gets his first job in a law office, they won’t either. Tommy can worry about Jones Day London or Hong Kong when Tommy is 35, not 10 years of age. “If he/she keeps this up, it will land him/her in the big leagues/Julliard.” Good luck with that theory! Apparently, most parents believe that their child is the best baseball player/dancer/singer in the world. Dreams are good, but those dreams should be your child’s and not yours. In addition, forcing your child to be the best will only burn him or her down. So, for every parent out there who things that over scheduling their child is a good thing- THINK AGAIN!
While I am on my pedestal, here is a bit of advice:
• Don’t live your dreams through your children.
• Don’t push them beyond what they can do.
• Don’t make them believe that being a workaholic is a good thing.
• Most importantly, allow them to be children.
At the same time, I am not saying, allow them to sit around and do nothing. I am saying that kids should be outside playing or doing activities that they enjoy, but they should be doing these things for sheer pleasure and not because it makes mom or dad happy.