Are we stressing out our kids?

Families today are always in a rush. Before kids are even born, parents are putting them on the waiting list at the best preschools, looking for sign language classes and Mommy and Me classes, and Creative Movement classes.

By the time they are 4 years old, kids have been exposed to more “culture” than we had in all of our school years.

But at what cost? And does it make them “better people”? Will they be smarter than the kids who don’t or can’t do all these things?

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t see anything wrong with teaching our kids to be well-rounded. Or exposing them to multiple things so they can determine their likes and strengths. I just don’t believe it has to necessarily be structured lessons.

Are we raising Type A kids?

The problem comes in when all of this going and learning causes problems. Moms are super stressed because they are typically responsible for getting everyone where they need to be. Plus you’re stressing because of the cost involved in these lessons and programs that your kids are involved in.

And while these 2 reasons above are super important, the one that tugs at my heart the most is the fact that you may be stressing your kid out, rather than educating or entertaining them.

If they have back-to-back lessons, when do they have time to be kids? When do they get to run and play and imagine and create? While structured learning has it’s place, so does being able to learn and discover on their own.

Kids don’t have to have structured lessons to learn. Give them some every day toys and some space, and they will do quite well on their own. Playing in dirt, pouring water in and out of things, jumping from one rock to another, kids need time to do these types of things.  (Here’s a cute post of my grandaughter doing just this very thing)

Letting go of football

One of my Facebook friends, Kristen Howerton, (you can find Kristen at Rage Against the Minivan) posted this status update this morning:

I just had a coach scold me because my five-year-old missed his football practice – after the practice was scheduled at the last minute. Related: I just pulled my five-year-old out of football. BECAUSE HE’S FIVE. I realize there may come a time when our family has to take their sports commitments seriously. Preschool is not that time.

I applaud Kristen (and so did others on Facebook) for realizing that there was no need for that pressure. It was not necessary, especially at his age.

Our family’s story

When my kids were younger, there wasn’t quite the pressure there is now, yet I chose to limit outside activities. My kids played softball for 10 years with a low-key church league that had 1 practice and 1 game per week in the spring. My kids took Art lessons one year (we homeschooled). They also participated (the 3 of them together) in a community theater. My son did wrestle in his junior year.

I wanted to make sure that we were home most evenings, and that we had dinner together.

With my youngest, she was such a social butterfly, she wanted to do EVERYTHING by the time she got to high school. It was a constant struggle to keep her from overextending herself and getting sick or having panic attacks (seriously).

She was a manager for the wresting team. She took dance 3 hours a week. She worked on the school yearbook. She was an aspiring photographer. She also had a horse, with whom she once upon a time would spend hours just riding trails, by this point she barely had time to run by and feed him.

Now a young adult, I still remind her from time to time not to stretch herself too thin, but I think she is finally catching on!

Know your why

This post is not meant to bash you or criticize you if you have your kids in sports or lessons. What I hope this post causes you to do is to step back and reexamine WHY you are having them do these things? And then consider if they still have to time to be a kid, to just explore? And are their activities causing you unneeded stress? If so, are there changes you need to make? Or maybe like Kristin, it might just be time to pull them out.

The main thing is that you know and understand your reasons for doing what you are! And don’t forget to reassess of things start getting out of hand.

Here’s to less hours in the car and more in the backyard!

I’m linking up to Shell’s Pour Your Heart Out.

23 comments to Are we stressing out our kids?

  • Great post! I just finished a book that talked about this very thing. 🙂

  • I love this! Often times I feel pressure to get my 3 year old “out there” but when I take a step back, he is actually quite content to play at home in our yard or playroom. I am the one who wants to push him and I wonder why. We just started him in a 3/day preschool and it’s the perfect mix of in and out of the home time. He has the rest of his life to be busy. No need to start now.

    • Bernice

      Amen, Andrea!
      There is a big, busy world out there, and he will get his share soon enough! Good for you for letting him enjoy being a boy!

  • I think we definitely have to put limits on what our kids do. And realize that nothing is so important that they can’t skip every once in a while.

    • Bernice

      I know I tried to limit to one activity per child at a time, although it didn’t always work out that way! And I tried to combine activities, when feasible, to make the schedule easier.

  • Amen, sister. I am glad to find your blog and think this is a truly inspiring post. Many would not be so confident to take your/this stance. Our society of parents are still too consumed with the Joneses. Kudos to the mom who ‘quit on the coach’.

    • Bernice

      What people don’t realize is that the Joneses are mortgaged to the max, and so are their credit cards. Everyone in the family is in therapy, and Mr & Mrs Jones on the verge of divorce. Give me my simpler life any day!
      Thanks for your comment Cindy!

  • Zoe

    I agree. What happened to organized sports that were organized but only a couple days of week in the summer, i.e softball?? Now everything is almost year round. My friend told me that a coach yelled at a bunch of girls (soccer) because they lost a game. He told them sarcastically to go home and play with their barbies. They are ten years old. They should be playing with barbies sometime! I see my daughter’s friends stressed out and never any down time. My niece plays volleyball in high school and while she is very good and the team does well, it’s almost year-round. Practices all summer, camps etc. It was so busy this summer that when her mom tried to wake her up to go to the basement (tornado warning) she said “No, mom, no I don’t want to go to volleyball practice!” It was funny but sad in a way. She is also is limited to vacations because they can’t miss practice. My kids take music but that is all right now due to budget and one car. Sometimes I feel guilty but all they want to do after school is play so for now that is plenty.

    • Bernice

      10 years ago we had a photography business that as part of our work we did pics of softball teams. We got asked to take pics of an All Star team just before a game. The girls were 8-10 years old. One of them had sprained her ankle and it was wrapped. Her dad was a coach and insisted that she was going to play the game that was just after our picture taking session. I really wanted to smack that father. Not very nice of me, I know, but that poor girl.
      You are doing the right thing! 🙂

  • I feel similarly; sometimes we are so preoccupied with getting them out and running that we don’t realize we are not giving them time to enjoy life.

  • Great post. My kids are grown & this was something we struggled with, even 15 years ago. When my oldest was 8, I told them “Next yr you can choose 2 activities for the entire year”. It helped slow down the outside activities, let our kids play with their friends, as well as enjoy more time together as a family.

    They are all grown and enjoy each other’s company. I credit that to allowing them to play together and have lots of family time when they were young.

    This encourages me to post an article I wrote several years ago with a similar topic, “Busyness”

    • Bernice

      I think it teaches kids the skill of prioritizing when they have to learn to choose the most important things to them. And while I don’t encourage kids to be quitters, they need to know when they have pushed beyond their limits and step back, and we need to help them hone this skill as their parents.

  • Such an important piece/message.
    I do parenting workshops on this. We’ve got to turn this crazy phase around. Kids desperately need to be kids with ‘free’ time to play, create, imagine, dream and just have plain old down time.
    We’re over-scheduling, over parenting, over protecting, over ‘perfectionizing’. It’s getting pretty dangerous. Kids are not learning the skills needed to be a functioning,adaptable, independent, creative, responsible, resilient adult. We’ve all got to help bring this back.
    Thanks for this wonderful post.

  • I agree. I homeschool my kids (1,3,4, and 5) and I get family and friends (who do not support homeschooling, mind you) constantly telling me that I need to put the kids in “activities” so they get “socialization. I know that I am doing what is best for my kids but it is hard when you are going against the social norm.

    • Bernice

      I homeschooled 3 of mine for 8 years and they got plenty of socialization! We chose very specifically the activities and groups we wanted to be a part of. One thing that eventually amazed people? How well behaved and well-spoken my kids were. You do what you think is best, you are the parent!

  • Yes we are! I am constantly trying to simplify our schedules by letting my kids do one activity per season. Good for that mom who took her son out of football. I think the men who coach these teams are sometimes vicariously living through the kids. It’s not the NFL buddy!

  • I believe that things have changed so much that very few people know how to slow down and enjoy life in general anymore. Kids are forced to learn so much stuff and a lot of it they really DON’T need in order to survive. Yet, they are expected to master it!!

    I agree that there are way to many parents who are pushing their kids to much. I am homeschooling our kids as well.

  • Crystal

    Amen, sister! I have a SIL who runs her 3 kids ragged. They are ages 7-13 and have never attended things for either of my kids. Why? Because they have had practice for one thing or another. She missed my baby shower because the kids had a game. Missed her sisters wedding reception because one kid had FOUR games that day and another kid 2. I mean really if I were the mom of a kid with FOUR softball games in one day you bet they would be missing probably two, that is how kids die. But on top of that, to miss your own sisters wedding reception because of softball games when they are in elementary and middle school, that’s a bit much. She sees nothing wrong with it. We see them once a year if we are lucky and they live 15 minutes away. Sad that its not just her own kids being affected by this it is our kids and the rest of the family. She told me it’s so they can get scholarships someday…..someday. To me someday doesn’t matter today does and today they are kids and need time to be kids not adults worrying about how to pay for college…at 13 and younger.

  • Jennifer

    My oldest son has high-functioning autism and his diagnosing psychologist recommended speech therapy twice a week, in addition to what he already receives at school. My youngest is 15 months and I’ve been tempted in the past to put him in Little Gym classes or something like that. However, with a mother-in-law with dementia and possibly a recurrence of cancer, my husband and I working (full-time for him/part-time for me), our kids, tennis (our one outside activity for us adults), and both kids in school or MDO, I’ve decided not to put either of them in any activities. The speech therapy alone adds enough stress to our lives that trying to add activities like sports is just madness.

    I’m going to let my kids tell me what they want to do. If that means I have to wait until they’re older to start, then super. It’s their lives, not mine, and I want them to have input in what they’re doing. I’m not going to overload any of us with outside activities until we know it’s something they want and are ready to commit to.