Updated: Dec 8, 2020
Often, and I used to be guilty of this as well, Type-A parents tend to overbook their kids’ calendars, regardless of whether or not the child is actually interested in the activities. There can be many reasons for this but overachieving parents tend to want their kids to be overachieving children and, ultimately, overachieving adults. But this oftentimes tramples over the kids’ actual interests and passions for what their parents have decided should be their interests and passions.
The Measure of Success
And this overbooking is not necessarily coming from a bad place, I think, oftentimes, parents are concentrating so much on setting their kids up for success that they forget to ask themselves, what is success really? Is it cramming your kid’s calendar full of activities that you think will set them up for your definition of success? Or is it more about really understanding what your child is passionate about and interested in and focusing their non-school hours there?
By forcing kids, from an early age, into the mentality of sprinting through school work, community service, family time, and other extracurricular activities, we lead them into the trap of work-life balance and the sprints and marathons – and inevitable burnout – that comes with it. According to the CDC, ever having been diagnosed with anxiety or depression, for children aged 6-17 years, increased from 5.4% in 2003 to 8.4% in 2011-2012. To experience such serious mental health issues at such a young age is illustrative of what can happen when we overload our kids and don’t give them a chance to just be kids.
Master of One (Maybe Two)
There’s a phrase that has often come to mind as I was crafting this blog. “Jack of all trades, master of none.” Instead of trying to make our children generally knowledgeable about a lot of things, it’s time we encouraged them to pursue what interests them. Let them figure out what their passions really are and really emphasize that we, as parents, support that and give them every opportunity to dive deeper into that mastery.
For kids that are super driven self-starters that want to have sixteen extracurricular activities after school each week, slow them down. Really encourage them to pick one or two and really excel at those. In the modern world, they are already bombarded with ever-evolving information and technology. The world around them is changing at breakneck speeds. Take this chance to help them understand the value of focusing on one thing.
Now, just because they’re passionate about it, don’t overload their calendar with the new passion in a forced effort to make them “successful.” Passion-burnout is still a thing. Dedicate time to their interests but, also, just give them time to be kids. Let them play, socialize, imagine, run around, get themselves in and out of messes. Childhood is a wonderful thing. Be there to support and help guide them but let them be kids.