Recently, a commercial caught my eye. It showed a dad picking up his daughter from karate and rushing her to soccer practice. It ended with the girl shedding her karate robe to unveil her game uniform underneath. She runs onto the field and dad smiles. Something is wrong here. Are we over scheduling our kids to the point where it’s acceptable?
As a parent, we mean well. We just don’t want little Billy to fall behind his fellow peers. Alvin Rosenfield, M.D., a child psychiatrist and author of The Overscheduled Child: Avoiding the Hyper-Parenting Trap, says, “Overscheduling our children is not only a widespread phenomenon, but it’s also how we parent today.”
Could it start when our children are first born? The time when we are to soak up those precious newborn moments but are quickly stolen by the pressure to understand everything the baby is trying to communicate?
“Did you notice the change in pitch that time, honey?”
“Yes, dear, after consulting my ‘You are incapable and Mind as Well Give Up Book,’ I believe the baby is saying she pooped.” Forget our intuition just to check the stinky diaper; we go straight to the book.
Dr. Spock, a pediatrician and author of Baby and Childcare, had said that parents should trust themselves, “You know more than you think.” That’s reassuring. In between teaching the newborn to sign and watching Baby Einstein videos, it’s not looking too good. Did you know that Disney offered refunds to parents who bought the Einstein videos because there was no scientific evidence that it made a difference in a child’s intelligence? I know I was duped, but I was just trying to be the best.
Let Them Play
Today’s kids are shuttled from activity to activity: ballet, soccer, baseball, scouts, music lessons. Rest easy Fido; you are off the hook from the excuse “My dog ate my homework.” Instead, it’s, “I didn’t have time between soccer, scouts, and ninja lessons.” What happened to leisure play and free time? It’s almost like we have this little voice saying, “Hurry Up! Get them involved, or your child will fall behind all the others and surely fail.”
“When play is allowed to be child driven, children practice decision-making skills, move at their own pace, discover their own areas of interest, and ultimately engage fully in the passions they wish to pursue.” according to an article published by the American Academy of Pediatrics on promoting healthy childhood play.
What Can You Do?
Think about cutting back on your child’s activities, start with one or two. Most likely it will be less stressful because you won’t be driving yourself crazy chauffeuring them from place to place. Dorothy Sluss, president of the U.S. chapter of the International Play Association, says, “We may see sitting on a blanket in the yard, looking at the clouds as a waste of time, but children view that as a time to wonder, to grow. That’s when they develop and have sensory stimulation.”
Am I really signing my child up because I think it will benefit them? Or is this something for them to do to avoid the dreaded, “I’m bored” words that come pouring out of a child’s mouth. Choose wisely and allow some extra empty spaces on your calendar.
In the end, we’re all trying to be the best and provide the best for our children. Encourage the free play, the bike rides, reading together, time to just be. Remember, you know more than you think you do.