Evaluate Kids Schedules FB

Sometimes we find our families running ragged from our busy schedules. As our kids grow, the pressures to have them involved in extra activities outside of school & church is insane! These extra activities can be good for our kids, but at what cost? I’m not at all saying that extracurricular activities are bad or that they won’t occasionally alter your schedules, but I am cautioning against an ongoing pattern of “busyness” that often comes with an incredibly HIGH “cost”. Not everything our child loves is the best for them on an ongoing basis. I mean should they eat ice cream for dinner every night? The key is to be sure that we reevaluate our schedules every few months to be sure that we are being intentional with our time.

It's our job as intentional parents to look at the big picture and parent with the end in mind. When looking at your child's activities, what is the END goal?Click To Tweet

Here’s some questions for yourself & maybe even your kids (if they are old enough to process these tough questions)



Is this an activity that your child can enjoy beyond high school and college? A lifelong skill or hobby that will grow with them?

  • If the answer is YES and they LOVE the activity, then you might consider continuing that activity, but be sure to regularly evaluate the cost to your family
  • If the answer is NO or probably not, then consider if there is in fact another good reason to continue this activity?

Is this activity growing something in them beyond the actual skill? Teamwork, character development, work ethic etc…

  • If the answer is YES and they LOVE the activity, then you might consider continuing that activity, but be sure to regularly evaluate the cost to your family
  • If the answer is NO or probably not, then consider if there is in fact another good reason to continue this activity?

Is this an activity that your child is doing just because their friends are doing it? 

  • This is a TOUGH ONE! Your child may not come out and tell you that’s why they are doing it, but as their parent you need to seek some insight on this one. Do they really LOVE it? They might say yes, but if their actions or attitudes show differently (they complain about going or complain about practicing) then you need to dig a little deeper to find out why they want to continue this activity.
  • I’ve reached this point with each of my kids where they were just doing what their friends were doing, so we quit those activities. A few years later, they look back & are extremely grateful that we helped them evaluate the motivations behind wanting to be involved in certain activities. Quitting those activities took them on a different path toward an activity that they enjoy more & is more in line with who God has created & called them to be, not an activity just chosen based on what their friends enjoy!
    • Is this an activity that your child is doing just to be involved in something? 
      • Be creative here, find what works for your kid. If the “traditional” activities aren’t working for them, ask lots of questions, do the research in your area and find something that truly fits them, even if you have to do it yourself! Sometimes it’s much easier to put your child in “traditional” activities than it is to truly dig in & find what they are passionate about & gifted in. Our family has used YouTube tutorials and online courses through a really cool website called Udemy to learn art and music at home. They have FREE and inexpensive courses for all kinds of things from cooking, drawing, sewing, music and much more!

(Read more about our Udemy experience HERE)

 

  • TOUGHEST QUESTION OF ALL: Is this an activity that your child is involved in because YOU or YOUR SPOUSE wants them to be?
    • Step back and be honest, please I beg you! Don’t keep your child in an activity for any of the following reasons: It’s what his/her friends do. It’s what you/your spouse did growing up. It’s what their sibling did. You or your spouse is the coach… none of these reasons alone is a good enough reason to continue an activity. Try an activity, YES, but continue indefinitely, NO!

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Here’s the HARD reality…We have to periodically evaluate every extra activity in our kids’ lives because they ALWAYS come with a cost!

As a parent, you have to be able to objectively evaluate these activities each semester, season or year to see if the benefits of continuing that activity are worth the “cost” to your family. Not just the financial cost, but all the costs involved.

Evaluate your budget. Is the monetary cost worth the benefits of the activity? This one is hard because it’s not easy to put a “price” on something your child loves to do. But again, remember we can’t give our children everything they want, just because they LOVE it, right?

I also hear this one a lot…”we have to do this because it’s the only way my child can get a scholarship to college”. Again step back, think about the amount of money you will spend over the years on that activity. Could that money be invested in a college fund to grow over time? Just something to think about if scholarship is your main motivation for that activity.

Evaluate your schedule. Is the activity taking away time that could be used for your child to complete school work, get ample sleep, build relationships with family & friends or grow spiritually by being involved in a youth group or another organization such as Young Life?

Evaluate your child. Is your child anxious or stressed? Is your child eating well? Are the friends he/she is hanging out with while doing that activity having a positive influence on your child’s life or a negative one? Is your child truly enjoying all the aspects of this activity?

Evaluate your family life. Are tensions running high? Is everyone always rushed? Is there down time for you & your children? Do you actually engage in conversations & fun times just as a family? Is it impacting your marriage?

This will look different for every family, so don’t feel a need to compare your family’s activities to anyone else’s, but the evaluation is important. I know for my family, we can tell when we are overextended. We can feel it and sometimes we have gone way too long without stepping back to evaluate our schedules. When we do step back, we are reminded how good it feels to be in control of our schedule. Even if we didn’t remove anything from our schedule, having the intentional conversation about how to balance it all in a better way is important. Sometimes, it is just about communication and being on the same page & other times we have to make a hard cut of an activity for the benefit of our entire family!

Some additional things that we have learned on this journey…

  • Give grace to your family and don’t feel guilty! – We take seasons off when we feel it’s too much. We take summers off so we can enjoy time together. We aren’t afraid to call a coach or instructor and say… “we won’t be there today”, no excuses or reasons. Now I don’t recommend making that a habit, but don’t feel guilty if your family needs a night off!
  • Try everything at least for a season. – Our philosophy has been to let them try anything they are interested in (within reason). We started young with this one. If they seemed interested, we tried it, but not all at the same time. We let them try different things until we found what they were naturally drawn to and gifted at. Between my daughter and son, we have tried dance, gymnastics, softball, tennis, soccer, basketball, guitar, piano, drama, art, and golf. They have enjoyed different activities at different times, but we always push them to find the ones they enjoy the most and nurture those. But, we didn’t try to nurture too many of them at the same time, that’s where the chaos ensues. There aren’t enough hours in the day for that.
  • Keep the Focus on the End Goal. –  We personally have made the decision to try as they get older to focus on activities that our kids can enjoy for their whole lifetime or activities that we feel are growing them in areas such as self discipline, teamwork and good work ethic. Those things matter for the long haul.

So here’s how this looks for our family. In her early years, our daughter tried dance, gymnastics and sports, but by middle school decided she didn’t LOVE any of them. She had begun to take more of an interest in art & music. So now, she takes guitar lessons during the school year and has taught herself watercolor painting and piano through YouTube and Udemy. This allows her other times during the week to be actively involved in our youth group and play in a local band that performs around town. She takes the summers off from music lessons to participate with a local performing arts center to help design sets for their summer production. With our son who is still in elementary school, we are still figuring out what “his thing” is! So he plays soccer & basketball, the seasons only overlap by a week so it’s not too stressful. He has also shown an interest in drama and golf, so this summer he was in a production with a local performing arts center & took a weekly golf lesson. For now, it’s soccer in the fall/spring and drama/golf in the summer for him… we’ll reevaluate next year!

Ultimately, you are the parent and you have to direct this ship… our kids do not yet have fully developed brains and they aren’t capable of seeing the big picture. Our job is to guide them and look for what gifting and talent God has placed there. We are to help nurture those things in them, but we are also to protect our family time. This is valuable as we need this to build them up in other areas & cultivate healthy relationships at home as well. It’s a hard balance to find, but it’s worth it to be intentional with our schedules!

 

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What works for your family? Do you have tips for managing a busy schedule or evaluating activities? Share in the comments below!


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