I read a parenting tip once, “Do less and connect more” which I definitely agree with, but I also want to expose my preschooler to as many things as possible. What is a good balance between time at home and activities? What is too much activity?
— feeling pressure to raise a “super child”
Dear Pressure to raise a “super child”,
I am so glad to get this question! Having worked in education for 26 years I have seen many parenting styles. One of the most disturbing is the current one of “super parents raising super children.” Why? Let’s look at the long term effects: Children who are rushed around from one activity to the next and whose every whim is satisfied, grow up to be unfocused, over booked, harried adults for whom nothing is enough, who want instant gratification and who don’t respond well when it’s denied. Yikes! These are our future leaders!
Super parents give their children everything except what they really need, TIME! Time to connect, time to kick back, time to be a kid. We are raising a generation of “Human Doings”. Let’s switch our focus to helping children become “Human Beings.”
Sounds great! How do we get there? Make time for the nothingness. Make time for sitting together and looking out the window. Make time to lay on the floor and gaze at the ceiling. Make time to enjoy each other’s company in silence. Schedule an entire day a week when NOTHING is planned. The founders of this country did us well when they established the sabbath. We too must answer the call of connecting with our quiet places and sharing them with each other.
Now, about activities:
Up to the age of 6, one activity outside of school at a time. ACK! You say, how can I limit my child’s exposure to only one thing? Rotate activities: summer=swimming, fall=sports or gymnastics, winter=dance, spring=music. The actual activities and their sequence is of course up to your child and her interests. FOLLOW YOUR CHILD’S LEAD AND ENERGY LEVELS.
From 6 - 9 years add a second activity. From 9-12 years your child might be ready for a third. From 12 years on it should be mainly up to your child, with you offering guidance. Your child will tell you through her actions when she is overwhelmed. If your child experiences mood swings, melt downs, tiredness, not wanting to do anything then listen up! She’s over booked. You might also see the other end of the spectrum of responses; hyperness, over stimulation, frustration, throwing her things, or picking fights with others.
Childhood is not a race nor a competition. Your children have their entire lives to explore their interests.
Let your children claim their own childhoods. Work through your personal issue so that you don’t project your unmet needs onto your children and try to live through them. “I never got to take music lessons, so I want my child to take them.”
In this holiday season give your children the greatest gift: To live their own lives following their own passions and plenty of time in which to do it.