Overscheduled Kids and Burnt Out Parents

December 18, 2015

My wife recently asked me if we should enroll Sophie (age 6) in T-ball and Girl Scouts, and I said no. Sophie already takes Jiu-jitsu lessons twice a week, and she and I are part of a Daddy-daughter adventure tribe that meets about once a month.

Sophie

My wife and I already have a lot on our plate, so unless it’s a hell yes, it’s a no!

I know that a lot of kids today are enrolled in many more activities than ever before. Is it really the kids who want to be in the classes, or is it the parents? In most cases, I think it’s the parents who want to maximize every opportunity to make their kids become “successful”. The result: stressed out kids and burnt out parents.

But what is “success”? Is your definition of “success” the right end goal for both you and your kids?

I admit that I want my daughter to excel in one area. I’ve tried basketball, golf, swimming, bowling, and gymnastics. So far, she has lost interest in every one of them after some time. I’m actually tempted to enroll her in more things to see which activity would stick.

But instead of overloading her with multiple activities, I think that concentrating on one activity at a time will give her a deeper understanding and appreciation of each activity.

When an adult’s mind is over stimulated and overstressed, that person can’t retain all the information and process their experiences fully. Can you imagine what it would be like for a 6-year-old kid?

To truly enjoy an activity and enjoy life, everyone must have enough downtime. While the amount and the nature of this downtime would vary for each person, the necessity of it applies to everyone. I need to make space for my daughters to be able to play hide and seek, role-playing games, and just be silly.

For most of us, we grew up being enrolled in only one or two activities at a time. Despite that, I think most us were able to try a lot of different things in our youth, and found some that we really liked. I don’t think there is a need to worry about our children, not being able to try different things. Their friends plus time will take care of that by itself.

A lot of prodigies, like Wayne Gretzky and Tiger Woods, started in an activity at a very young age. Parents see this and they want their kid to be the next super star. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. If Sophie wanted to win national Jiu-jitsu competitions, I won’t object to her practicing 6 times a week. But she has to want it for herself. I would only encourage her if I knew that she really wanted to excel in Jiu-jitsu.

I’ve seen kids in her classes, both past and present, that really want to be good, but she doesn’t have the same drive as them. She just wants to goof around. She just wants to be a kid.

Am I worried that Sophie will never find that drive? Of course, I do. But if I overload her with activities, she may never find her passion. If I dictate what success is, she may never find her own success.

Many parents forget that a lot of “successful” people accomplished their feats despite starting late in that field. J.K. Rowling didn’t finish her first book until she was 30. Tim Duncan didn’t start playing basketball until he was in high school. I could go on and on.

Another thing that parents fail to consider are the people who do become “successful”, but aren’t happy. If Andre Agassi looks back at his childhood with regret, how about many others who have practiced as hard as him, but never made it?

Maybe it will take much longer for Sophie to find her passion. Maybe she never will. Either way, I’m going to help her find her own definition of success and encourage her to strive for it. In the meantime, my wife and I won’t be going insane trying to figure out how we are going to work, raise our kids, drive them to school and their activities, and monitor their homework.

Sophie, if you want to just be a silly kid for now, so be it. I’m sorry it’s taken me this long to figure out what’s best for you. Love, Dad.

Disclaimer: The thoughts in this article are simply my opinion based on my personality and my child’s personality. Since every parent and child is different, you must raise your child according to your family’s definition of “success”.

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