February 2, 2010

Fight the Extra-Curricular Avalanche

It's hard to find the balance these days with extra-curricular activities. It seems like everyone who's anyone has had their kids playing soccer, violin, piano and baseball or softball, not to mention ballet, gymnastics, karate, football, basketball, voice, guitar and other instruments. And that's not taking into account some of the other unique activities kids are trying, everything from golf to cooking lessons to raising show dogs.

So what's a parent, or a kid, to do?  Hit the link to check out the tips.

  • Are you pushing?  Well, are you?  If your child is going to spend their time on an activity, make sure it's something they want to do, not something you want them to do.  
  • Evaluate your motivation.  Are you encouraging or allowing your child to take on a ton of extra-curriculars just to keep up with the Jones's?  There's something to be said for having activities to list on your college applications, but don't go overboard!  
  • Decide what's important.  Do you want more time as a family?  Do your kids complain that they don't ever get to be with their friends?  Can you remember the last time you had dinner together as a family?  Think of the answers to these questions, and decide as a family if you need to cut out some activities, or if you just need to shuffle the schedule and manage your time better.  
  • Downtime is good for you!  Downtime is good for you and your kids.  Make sure your kids have time to play outside, have friends over, be creative and get dirty.  Let them have some time to just be kids.  They have the rest of their lives to fill with schedules and deadlines.  
  • Do NOT force anyone to quit.  Don't just walk into the living room and announce that you expect each of your kids to drop, say, basketball and piano.  Talk it through.  See how they feel about their schedules.  Kids may not realize that their business is what leaves them feeling overwhelmed each day.  Help them come to the decision to drop an activity of their choice.  Don't turn it into a battle of wills, and don't choose the activity the child will give up for them!  That's asking for a fight.  
  • A note:  when it comes to bad grades or bad attitudes, you can take a stronger stance.  My parents made it clear that my "job" was school, and if I did not maintain my grades other things would have to be cut out to let me focus.  That's a policy I completely agree with.  The same goes for bad sportsmanship; if your kid yells at the ref in soccer three games in a row, you have to consider A) where is he learning that behavior? and B) he may not be mature enough to play.  Don't just mutely tolerate poor behavior because your child "loves to play."  
  • In the end...Extra-curriculars should be giving your kids great life lessons, not making them crazy or leaving them no time with family or friends.  Keep the balance and your kids will find their lives happy and enriched.  

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