Are we over scheduling our kids?

As I sat watching my two oldest during their swimming lessons this week, I couldn’t help but over hear the conversation between two parents near by.

Tuesday night is soccer and Wednesday night is baseball. Thursday night is drama after the math club. Friday night is greek school. Even the weekends are full with cooking class, dance lessons and Sunday school.

How do they do it?

I have my kids enrolled in swimming. I think swimming is something every child should learn. They also belong to their local Brownie/Beaver group and attend Sunday school. With just three activities planned I find our week busy; I can’t imagine having a program every other night.

And what about the kids? On nights we have swimming we go from school to the pool, homework and dinner are taken care of in the van before class and after swimming it’s time to head home and start the evening routine. They’re exhausted. How would they feel if they had to repeat a day like that every day? And what about free play?

My kids love their programs but not nearly as much as they love their free time in the backyard. They bond as siblings, they explore and discover the world around them, they imagine and pretend. In school they follow rules and focus on work. At their lessons they focus on the class and follow the rules. Where’s the yelling and running and sitting and dreaming and singing and laughing and doing nothing?

I can appreciate a parent wanting to give their child an advantage by enrolling them in special programs to expand their knowledge but I think scheduling all your child’s free time is a misguided decision. And it’s these over scheduled and structured kids that complain about being bored in the summer or standing around in the school yard doing nothing. They don’t know how to use their imagination, they don’t know how to occupy their time unless there’s a coach or instructor telling them what to do.

Of course we don’t help each other either. It’s those parents, the ‘I have my child in advanced chess for fun’ type parents who guilt and shame the rest of us into following them. I mean if we really cared about our kids why wouldn’t we have them taking Latin classes. Or perhaps our children just aren’t gifted enough to handle the extra work.

I think there’s a misconception with some parents that a child doing nothing is a child wasting valuable minutes of their young lives. But you know what, doing nothing can be one of the precious things only found in childhood. As adults we seem to spend so much time getting things done that we don’t appreciate doing nothing or goofing off.

So my children won’t be chess masters or learn how to do pleas, but there’s so much more they will learn by just swinging on the tire swing in the back yard.

I think it’s time we as parents just let our kids be kids.

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