For those of you with children, how do you teach them to have balance in their lives? In today’s society, it seems like parents are living vicariously through their kids. They are pushing them to do everything: sports, take the hardest classes, volunteer with charities, belong to a church group, play an instrument or two, and to do scouts. How do they balance it all and still come out well adjusted instead of a basket case?
Back in my day, you went to school and maybe did one sport or two if you were really athletic. The competition was between schools, not between teammates. No one was trying to one up each other at the piano recital. If you took advanced classes you were known as the “brainiac”. Very few did scouts past elementary school. There was plenty of time to do homework, spend with your family and still get in what you wanted with your friends.
Today, however, it seems like we are constantly saying, “I wish I had more time”. More time to do what? If you wished you had more time, do you think your kids feel the same way?
Guess what – they do! They want more time to be KIDS. Parents are pushing their kids to always do more and be the best. Why? Are you trying to prove you are the best parent? Are you trying to have them accomplish something you were unable to do at their age? Think about it. When was the last time you asked your child/children what they wanted? I’m not saying give them the control at 8 years old or 12 years old in everything they want or don’t want to do. I am saying they should have an opinion. Then your job is to truly listen to them and not just persuade them to your way of thinking and doing.
For example, if Johnny is playing on his basketball team but is the slowest kid, can’t shoot a basket to save his life, and sits out half the game, maybe he doesn’t have the desire to get better to have more play time. Johnny might just want to get off the court and spend some quality time with you. He wants to play a board game WITH YOU. Their personalities are forming and we should only influence them in a positive way to reach their goals.
But let’s take a look at a typical day of an active kid.
7:00 AM – wake up and get ready for school
8:00 AM – leave for school
8:30 AM – at school
3:00 PM – come home from school, grab a snack, change clothes and rush out the door for xyz activity #1
4:00 PM – Participate in activity #1
5:30 PM – head to activity #2
6:00 PM – participate in activity #2
7:00 PM – head home
7:30 PM – dinner
8:00 PM – homework
9:00 PM – get ready for bed
The next day they do it all again but with different activities. What if they have a big test to study for? Does school come first or do the activities? Do you determine that or do they? Do they have younger siblings? Where are they during this time? Or is the other parent running them in the opposite direction? Will you sit down for dinner as a family? What is this teaching your kids about priorities? They only know what they are taught or are experiencing first hand. Every academic or extra curricular activity comes with demands. Those potentially but stress on your kids.
So, I come back to my original reason for writing this blog entry. How do kids BALANCE their lives? It’s your job as their parent to help them. Kids want to please everyone, they don’t want to let you down. They may not have the skills to communicate with you just how overwhelmed they are.
- Sports – If you notice your child isn’t contributing in a positive way on the team you need to non confrontationally ask them if they enjoy playing or want to continue. Don’t put the blinders on just because you want them to play. It will do them and the team a huge favor. Not everyone has the same skill sets and that is O.K.! Not everyone should get a participation trophy. Teach them humility on when to recognize when to call it quits. That skill will take them far in life, especially when so man feel they are entitled. It puts an undo pressure on them to perform better and only feel disappointed when they don’t. You won’t be so stressed out either.
Another comment about sports – There are so many “travel” teams these days. It is the advanced level from recreational play. The commitment is much higher on practice and monetary levels. Most teams want the players to get additional coaching outside of those practices as well. Where does it end? Now you have to figure out a time to squeeze these into their already packed schedules. Is it worth it? WHY? Do you really think they will get a full ride scholarship to college? They are 8-13 years old – they may not even want to play that sport by the time they get into high school. Considering only 2% or less of U.S. student athletes get scholarships (full or partial), the likelihood you will get your “money’s worth” out of all those lessons and tournament fees is slim to none. Don’t shoot the messenger. This is what coaches and college recruiters report. So, why not let them have fun and release them of the stress of always having to be the best? That is a lot of stress on a kid regardless if THEY ♥️ the game!
- Instruments – Are you plugging your ears? Maybe they don’t want to play after three months or three years of trying. It is not meant for everyone. What is the goal? Just to learn an instrument or to play in the school band? Music is generally a passion and those that enjoy playing will find the time to practice. No need to be forced.
- Academics – Are they taking the hardest classes? Do they cry over not understanding the material? Do they have a social life or is their noses buried in their books from the minute they get home until they fall asleep with their head on the table? Yes, classes are more advanced then when you went to school, but at what price are you pushing your kids to be the smartest. At 8 or even 13, they are too young to decide what their major will be in college. Heck, I remember most of my friends being undecided when they started college. So, unless they are gifted and school work comes fairly easy, don’t force them into the harder classes. It is better to take a class of interest and get a good grade than to take a harder class and get a lower grade. Colleges look at GPAs and standardized test scores.
- Volunteering – That is something most high schools are requiring as a prerequisite to graduate. It teaches many different life skills and makes them productive members of their community. I will assume this is done in moderation and not as a full time job on top of everything else being mentioned. I am big on philanthropy, so this is not one of those areas I would eliminate completely. Find an organization that has some meaning to them to support. Volunteering is a win-win for both sides. As parents, you can be proud of your kiddos for helping others in a society where it is vastly self-indulgent.
Studies show it is important for kids to feel connected in something that is important to them. Their interests may be different than yours. It is your job to help them explore without over doing. The key is to balance home life with academics and extra curricular. Every kid and family is different. The only advice I can really give is to not push too hard or extend yourself too much. Don’t blame your “I need more time because I’m constantly carting my kids around to do what they want” on your kids. You ultimately hold the keys to the car. Find one activity they enjoy and do that a couple days a week. You will ALL be happier in the long run. Go INSPIRE your kids. They will ACHIEVE great things. You will both THRIVE.