Monday, February 19, 2007

Competitive Parenting

Another volleyball tournament this weekend really reminds me how obnoxiously competitive parents can get over their children's achievements. I get tired of overhearing parents' disparaging remarks about their children's play or their concerns for their child's future in athletics. We live in a particularly frenzied area when it comes to achievement, and it wears me out. Ugh.

While some of our kids have gravitated towards sports, others have talents in other areas. We are constantly trying to find the balance between giving them opportunities to pursue excellence and to learn through teamwork, and giving them plenty of time to be kids.

We're not perfect at it.

Right now our general principle is "one activity per kid per season." There have been times where seasons overlapped and we were clearly overcommitted. However, in general, we do not feel compelled to force our kids to be in an activity (sport, academic, or church), just for the sake of keeping them busy. Our preschoolers, aside from going to church and swimming lessons in the spring, do virtually no structured activities (but we have a very overflowing dress-up box!).

(The only problem? Many of our kids' friends are simply not available to play because they are busy with their activities!)

The trap is not just the competition, but using activity as a substitute for relationship with our kids. Sometimes it's easier to say, "Get ready for soccer," than to say, "What shall we do tonight?" (or worse, "Today is chore day."). A hurried lifestyle keeps us from looking into the eyes of our children and hearing what's on their hearts. It is a constant battle to keep outside activities from overtaking family life.

Here's a nice article called The Perils of Competitive Parenting from MomSense that has some good thoughts about keeping from becoming too competitive with our kids. Although it is geared for parents of preschoolers, the principles are valid no matter what the age.

I'm going to be in and out this week - speaking of activities - lots to do for the Beth Moore simulcast. Very exciting, but lots of work!


Beckyb said...

VERY wise words - we see that ALL the time in hockey with our boys - it can almost be a competition as to who does the most - NOT US - we love our down time!! By the way, I started Beth Moore's new book - Get out of that Pit - and I AM LOVING it!!!

Emily said...

Katherine... could I just, like... come live with you and soak in your wisdom by osmosis, when it's time for me to be a mom?


Susanne said...

Your like us. We let the kids choose 1 activity they wanted to pursue. I have had some parents in my dayhome whose children were in 3 activities and they weren't even 5 years old yet. Every minute of their time was booked up. I've always found that so sad.

Julie said...

Amen!!!! I have friends that are crazy busy w/ their kids schedules. I cannot handle the stress and our family needs the hanging out time. Our kids are allowed max of 1 activity at a time and we haven't even pushed that. I remember my senior year in high school it was my "last chance" and I ended up working a part-time job, being in the school play and running track. I nearly lost my mind!

Beck said...

One of my friends told me that her children are in, on average, FOUR HOURS of after-school activities every night. They are 6 and 8 years old. That's just insane.
Right now, our kids go to one activity during the school week, and it's church-related. Our little girl would like to start piano lessons again and with that, she'll be busy enough.

Carina said...

I have felt exactly the same way when watching the parents at our local Christian school games. (My kids are still unscheduled pre-schoolers)It really makes me angry to hear them yelling at the refs and grumbling about "bad" calls. I've even heard them cursing. Hello! Christian school! Christlike witness!! Sorry, I'm back to normal now. My own little soapbox. =)

Deborah said...

My kids are still little: ages 9 and under, so we have kept activities to a minimum. Our 2 oldest have music lessons on the same evening. This year, that's all we're doing is their music. Nothing else is structured or scheduled. We also do some church activities as we choose. We enjoy our down time and just hanging out w/ the kids.
I did NO structured activities until junior high. So I figure, when they're in Jr High/Sr High, they'll be able to handle a little more and it gives them something to look forward to as well. Why do people think they have to do it all before their child is 10?

Laura said...

Yep we are a one activity each family around here as well.

I'll be attending the Beth Moore Simulcast here in Canada and I'm so looking forward to it!