Parent Talk: Say No to Over-Scheduling, Why Less is More
As the school year kicks off, learning to say no is imperative and recommended by a Defer Elementary teacher and mom.
Less is more. The Italians call it “Il far bel niente”; the beauty of doing nothing. That should be the mantra of a new school year, not only for our kids but for parents as well.
Most of us have experienced the feeling of having too much on our plates at one time, and rarely is it a peaceful experience. Not only does having too much on the agenda create stress for parents, but it can affect children just as much, and can even contribute to mental health issues in some circumstances.
I often see kids in treatment who are struggling with anxiety or mood disorders. One of my suggestions is ensure sufficient down time in the child’s life, and to find things to eliminate to create more ‘me’ time.
Cheryl Lapensee, a second grade teacher at Defer Elementary and mother to a 9-year-old daughter, said she often tells parents to make sure they always leave room for family time.
“I tell parents that a child having time to make choices is equally as important, if not more important than time they spend on homework. Kid’s lives today are sometimes too adult-directed and as a result they may have a hard time making decisions on their own," Lapensee said. "Kids need to have time for free play, and to make choices to enhance that decision making ability as they get older.”
Lapensee said she and her husband limit their to no more than two extra-curricular activities at a time, and that as a teacher she uses “ 10 minutes per grade level” as her rule of thumb.
An article in Psychology Today discusses the idea of ‘the over-scheduled child’, a concept that many of us are familiar with, and gives a broader perspective on the downside of having too much going on. Usually, becoming over-scheduled is not something we necessarily set out to do, but over the course of time our planners become saturated with practices, meetings, play-dates and other obligations.
Even though we don’t see ourselves as those kind of parents, we end up with much more on our calendars than we intend.
Here are some tips to help:
- Embrace the beauty of saying no
- One sport is good; two is too many in a given season. Sports takes time, energy and commitment, not just on kids but parents too. Less time chauffeuring to practices and events equals more time letting little life-moments with your child evolve organically.
- What’s good for the goose is good for the gander--take a good look at what’s on the family calendar, and make an executive decision regarding anything that takes a disproportionate amount of ‘family’ time: those magic hours between five and nine P.M.
- Never underestimate the power and beauty of simply doing nothing. This is what allows time for life to happen, for impromptu walks to the park, to playing checkers, to finding yourself in a discussion with your child about an astounding array of things that matter to them.
Running from soccer, to ballet, to piano, to Mandarin Chinese lessons might seem like a way to prepare kids for the world, but too much of a good thing is still too much.
Character and self esteem are directly related to knowing one’s self, and it is far less possible to know yourself when you’re not quite sure where you’re at, in any given moment.
Evidence shows that kids are happier, more relaxed and well adjusted when they take one thing and do it well, and to the degree that the amount of time spent on it is a pleasure and not a chore.
So as the flyers and invites start rolling in with the start of the school year, practice the fine art of saying “no, maybe next time.” Teach, and learn the valuable lesson of choosing free time over scheduled time, and then embrace the joy those sweet moments of ‘nothingness’ can bring.